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Comparing CliftonStrengths and the Hogan Assessment®

Comparing CliftonStrengths and the Hogan Assessment®

by Adam Hickman and Mary Claire Evans

Workplaces and individuals face a variety of options when choosing the best development tools to improve performance. From personality tests to leadership assessments, there is no shortage of tools to evaluate us. We will dive into a comparison of two well-known tools -- Hogan Development Survey and the CliftonStrengths assessment -- weighing out the differences and providing a little history, too.

Hogan Development Survey

The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) was constructed by Dr. Robert Hogan and Joyce Hogan in 1997 for Hogan Assessment Systems, Inc. The purpose of the instrument is to assess an individual's capacity to engage in dysfunctional and maladaptive behaviors at work. More specifically, the HDS aims to predict said behaviors by identifying the dysfunctional dispositions that belie them.

The survey can be used for selection, developmental, and team-building purposes by projecting future work performance, as well as identifying potential areas for current employees to improve. Hogan products such as "Insight Series" use the Hogan Development Survey, Hogan Personality Inventory, and the Hogan Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory to deliver the Insight Series Reports.

Altogether, the survey identifies 11 "personality syndromes" that are claimed to be related to a host of dysfunctional behaviors. The authors drew inspiration in their formulation of the syndromes from Karen Horney's research on the aversive early childhood and adolescent experiences that underlie dysfunctional interpersonal behaviors. Horney reasoned that these deviant interpersonal behaviors were primarily motivated by a person's attempt to cope with these experiences through their need to control, form alliances with or avoid others.

Therefore, the collection of dysfunctional behaviors that describe the various personality syndromes do not exist within a vacuum. Certain aspects of the social situation as well as the broader organizational context (culture) can perpetuate both the occurrence and strength of the dysfunctional behaviors. In turn, these person-situation circumstances can lead to several detrimental organizational outcomes, ranging from employee stress and burnout to lowered productivity and reduced job satisfaction.

HDS Personality Syndromes

View on Hogan's website

Hogan Development Survey Design

The HDS survey is conducted through Hogan's web-based platform and takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. Item responses while taking the HDS are not timed. Therefore, participants can move through the assessment at their own pace and even save the survey and come back to finish it at a later time. The survey measures the 11 scales listed above and 33 subscales, with each scale consisting of 14 items, totaling 154.

For each item, participants indicate whether they "agree" or "disagree" with the statement. The item responses are coded as 0 (for disagree) and 1 for (agree). Upon completion, items for each scale are added together, with scores ranging from 0-14. Particularly high or low scores indicate more dysfunctional behavioral tendencies. Altogether, the subscales form three global measures based on Horney's taxonomy of needs that include:

  1. Moving Away -- managing one's insecurities by avoiding others.
  2. Moving Against -- managing one's self-doubts by dominating and intimidating others.
  3. Moving Toward -- managing one's insecurities by building alliances to minimize the threat of criticism.

Upon finishing the assessment, the participants' results are not shown to them but are sent to their respective organizations, which are given the option to share or not share the findings of the report with the respective employee.

CliftonStrengths Overview

The CliftonStrengths assessment was researched and developed by Don Clifton, who is often considered to be the "father of strengths psychology." The assessment aims to measure the particular ways in which an individual tends to approach their work. It does this by examining a person's talent, which encompasses their personality and attitudes, as well as their knowledge, skills and abilities. The results can then be used for developmental purposes by providing a lens for understanding who that person is.

The assessment itself consists of 177 sets of paired statements in which the individual indicates the extent to which the statement describes them. Upon completion, the assessment rank-orders a person's talent themes (i.e., strengths) from 1 to 34, with 1 indicating your top strength and 34 your bottom strength. The 34 talent themes fall into one of four categories that include: strategic thinking, executing, influencing, and relationship building. Overall, the assessment provides up to 278,256 combinations of Top 5 themes.

Clifton Strengths defines 34 talent themes sorted into four domains:

Haven't discovered your CliftonStrengths yet? Take the assessment and get your personalized CliftonStrengths 34 report today.

The Assessments' Goals and Respective Theories Contrast With Each Other

The CliftonStrengths and HDS are grounded in two contrasting theoretical perspectives. The CliftonStrengths survey draws inspiration from positive psychology, which focuses on what is right with people. The HDS drew on work by early psychodynamic theorists, such as Freud and Horney, regarding the reasons why and how people cope; this particular branch of personality psychology focuses on what is wrong with and how to "fix" people. Hogan Assessments refer to the HDS as "The Dark Side of Personality." Additionally, the creators of the HDS looked to socioanalytic theory to investigate how individuals interact in groups.

Conversely, the CliftonStrengths assessment is meant to identify an individual's natural way of thinking, feeling and behaving that remains in any role, situation or interaction. Thus, the differing theoretical bodies of work from which each measure is drawn are reflected in what each of these measures aims to accomplish (identifying strengths vs. dysfunction). Finally, the HDS assessment has potential uses for employee selection and talent management uses. CliftonStrengths is meant solely for talent management.

Bottom Line

The HDS may have some value as a selection instrument, though its internal consistency and reliability among each of its subscales are of concern. Though individuals tend to score consistently over time on the HDS' items, what those items are measuring and why their scores are not well-correlated within each scale is an important empirical question that should be addressed. On the other hand, researchers routinely subject the CliftonStrengths assessment to psychometric examinations.

The HDS is measuring dysfunctional interpersonal competencies, which are likened to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The 11 syndromes are even described as being long-term, enduring qualities of a person. Thus, it doesn't seem likely that simple awareness of the issues highlighted by the survey is enough to lead to a genuine change in the form or the degree of the problem behavior(s) unless it is accompanied by some kind of intervention.

CliftonStrengths' focus on an individual's strengths is also meant to come with coaching. However, after an individual takes the assessment and sees their results, they are given a report that immediately allows them to begin to develop their strengths and understand their natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. By highlighting the positives instead of the negatives, the focus is on allowing the takers to turn their natural talents into strengths.

Another difference between the two assessments is their intended uses and the owner of the personality data. HDS is both used for prehire, or selection, and posthire individual and team coaching. While a selection instrument is often used by a company to test potential new hires, the results become a resource for companies and are not seen by the individual. This can also be the case with Hogan's post-hire uses -- Hogan allows companies to pick if and when the individual taker gets to see their results. CliftonStrengths allows the taker to own their own data and use their results for team-building and leadership development. We see the individual as the owner of their own data.

In conclusion, HDS's utility as a selection instrument is inhibited by the empirical finding that one of its three global measures does not predict behaviors that are associated with the diligent and dutiful interpersonal competencies. However, HDS can have utility as a team-building instrument, and organizations can use it to yield a conversation about personality and traits. Hogan and CliftonStrengths both have useful applications for senior executives with a lot of responsibility, where managing the risks of the negative parts of personality becomes more important.

Generally, the executives should have the wherewithal to manage the positive and negative feedback from both assessments and appreciate the extra scrutiny. When a coach uses CliftonStrengths, they can see their natural talents, the strengths of their higher themes, and the blind spots that come with each strength, as well as their lesser themes that they rely on less heavily. Any personality assessment can be useful when coaching with a focus on development as a shared language; CliftonStrengths hopes to add even more insight for coaches with a clear message to focus on strengths, understand that each strength has blind spots and manage around lesser themes.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Adam Hickman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Command, Analytical, Competition and Individualization.

Mary Claire Evans' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Achiever, Learner, Responsibility and Connectedness.

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