With Myers-Briggs, Hallmark Creates 'Steppingstones' to Enhance Careers

This is part of a special advertising section highlighting case studies featuring successful strategies in HR technology.

Monday, November 1, 2010
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Hallmark Cards Inc. has helped people celebrate life events, commemorate important occasions and express their most intimate feelings for almost 100 years. Underlying its core mission is a belief in the best of human nature, including people's ability to accomplish great things and find deep meaning in relationships.

The Challenge

Although Hallmark's mission and philosophy have not wavered, the market, workplace and competitive landscape have become more dynamic, global and diverse. In response, Hallmark's leadership has set a goal to evolve with the times by changing its mind-set from one of a manufacturing organization to one of a consumer-centric company that fully engages key audiences. The new vision includes developing leaders who inspire the hearts and minds of employees and instill confidence, and an organization capable of efficiently implementing the right ideas at the right time.

The Solution

Mary Beth Ebmeyer, HR manager of corporate development, and Michelle Hibbs, senior HR specialist, are among those responsible for guiding the company through this shift. Under their direction, Hallmark employs a program called Steppingstones, designed to open the organization's lines of communication by giving mid- and upper-level managers greater self-understanding and insight into how their actions and communications are perceived by others. One of its central features is the use of an instrument designed to shed light on how personality shapes thought and behavior -- the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.

The Myers-Briggs instrument is based on Carl Jung's theory, which holds that we each have an innate, fundamental personality type that, while not controlling behavior, shapes and influences the way we understand the world, process information and socialize. The assessment helps individuals determine which one of the 16 personality types fits them best, a discovery process that can uncover an abundance of information, including factors directly related to work habits, interpersonal relationships and other elements affecting workplace cohesion. The 16 four-letter types are based on preferences for Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E), Sensing (S) or Intuition (I), Thinking (T) or Feeling (F), and Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

One of the main goals of Steppingstones is to align the individual perspective of managers with overall company perspective. Participants take the Myers-Briggs assessment, which gives them a foundational understanding of their personality that comes into play throughout the program. A series of activities are designed for the participants to show them how they tend to interact and operate within a team.

"We use the Myers-Briggs instrument to dig deeper into conversations and determine the real intent of the persons engaged," says Ebmeyer.

The Myers-Briggs assessment results shed light on how individuals may be perceived by others, helping participants understand how personality type affects communication style, and providing tools to improve co-worker interactions by expressing and discerning intent with more clarity.

Particularly noteworthy for Hallmark is the contrast between "feeling" preferences predominantly expressed in top leadership, and "thinking" preferences in mid- and upper-level management.

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Knowledge of personality type helps bridge this gap as managers learn the value of perspectives that might not come naturally to people whose preferences are not the same as theirs. It also gives top management the tools needed to effectively communicate the reasons for its "feeling" policies to its "thinking" management staff.

The Results

More than 1,000 managers have attended Steppingstones to date and its emphasis on the Myers-Briggs assessment have yielded positive results for Hallmark, contributing to the company's overall efficiency. Decisions are being reached faster and thoughts are delivered with increased clarity. Hibbs and Ebmeyer notice a major improvement in diversity of thought, as people with different personality types become more comfortable speaking their minds and learn how to communicate in ways that appeal to people of other types.

The ability of staff members to connect has improved, positively affecting cohesion, motivation and other items related to interpersonal communication.

"We're moving toward becoming a company that understands it's really all about helping people stay connected." says Ebmeyer, "and meeting the needs of the human spirit."


Organization: Hallmark Cards Inc.

Headquarters: Kansas City, Mo.

Primary Business: For 100 years, Hallmark Cards Inc. has helped people connect with one another and give voice to their feelings.

HR Technology Challenge: Changing company mind-set from a manufacturing organization to one of a consumer-centric company that fully engages key audiences. It includes developing leaders, team building, organizational communication and enhanced efficiency.

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