Comparing the RMP and the CliftonStrengths

Dear Colleagues,
In our continuing series comparing the Reiss Motivation Profile® with other tools, we present this analysis of the RMP and the CliftonStrengths Assessment (formerly Clifton StrengthsFinder).  
What led to the development of each instrument?
The study of motivation is based on the fundamental concept that psychological needs drive human behavior.  Previous motivation theorists attempted to identify these needs through subjective methods such as observing primitive tribes and analyzing common themes in stories told about ambiguous drawings. Recognizing that these prior efforts suffered from the lack of a scientific measure, Professor Steven Reiss developed a standardized test called the Reiss Motivation Profile® for the purpose of providing a scientifically valid assessment of what motivates people – in other words, to identify the universal motives of human nature.  
Donald Clifton believed that psychologists focus too much on weaknesses rather than strengths.  Asking himself, "What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what's wrong with people," he decided to study the attributes that distinguish successful from unsuccessful people.  Thus, the CliftonStrengths Assessment is based on Donald Clifton’s viewpoint that focusing on personal talents rather than weaknesses is central to maximizing one’s potential.  
Test versus Assessment
The RMP is a normative test.  A respondent’s scores are compared to those of other test takers – that is, to a normative group.  The RMP has separate country norms as well as separate gender norms.  For example, the responses of a male test taker in the United States are compared to those of other American males.  Similarly, the responses of a female test taker in Finland are compared to those of other Finnish females.  A normative test like the RMP allows for comparisons among test takers.  Normative testing is the commonly accepted method used to measure personality, intelligence, and achievement.
The CliftonStrengths is an ipsative assessment.  A respondent’s self-identified talents are compared to each other, not to a normative group.  Ipsative assessments like the CliftonStrengths do not permit comparisons among test takers.  The publisher’s 2.0 Technical Report states:  “The CSF is not designed or validated for use in employee selection…. Given that CSF feedback is provided to foster intrapersonal development, comparisons across profiles of individuals is discouraged.”  
What results does each instrument produce?
The RMP measures motivation.  Specifically, the test measures an individual’s intensity of motivation from weak to strong for each of the 16 scales.  The test taker’s responses are compared to norms based on 79,888 respondents in 23 countries across three continents, which produces a standard score for each of the 16 motives.  A standard score that falls in the upper 20 percent of the population is considered to demonstrate a strong need for that basic desire, while a standard score that falls in the lower 20 percent of the population is considered to indicate a weak need for that particular desire.  Thus, the RMP describes an individual’s motivational profile based on how the person compares to others.  If an individual scores as having a strong need for Power, for example, we know his need for achievement and consequently his desire to work hard are greater than 80 percent of the population.
The CliftonStrengths Assessment is designed to evaluate a person’s talents.  It does not measure motivation.  Rather, it provides a rank ordering of an individual’s top five talent themes.  The problem with this approach is that we don’t know if the individual is truly exceptional in those attributes.  For example, if Achiever is one of a test taker’s top five talent themes, all this tells us is that his desire to work hard is a relative strength compared to his other talents.  He may or may not be a hard worker compared to his peers.
What are the applications of each instrument?
The RMP is used in a number of settings including business, schools, sports, and relationship counseling.  For example, the test has been applied to training leaders, developing staff, building effective teams, assessing motivational reasons for academic underachievement, advising students on college and career choices, enabling athletes to achieve peak performance through understanding their tendencies under the stress of competition, and identifying the differences in values that underlie chronic conflicts in relationships.
According to the publisher, the CliftonStrengths is a tool for self-awareness that is intended “to facilitate personal development and growth.”  Suggestions are made to enable the individual to develop his talents into strengths by acquiring skills and knowledge.  Given that it is an ipsative assessment, it cannot be used to compare individuals and thus has limited applications.  For example, the CliftonStrengths is not valid for use in personnel selection, team building, and conflict resolution.
Can the instrument be used globally?
The RMP is available in 19 languages.  The CliftonStrengths Assessment is available in 25 languages.
Who was the developer?
The RMP was developed by Professor Steven Reiss for the purpose of advancing knowledge about human nature, not for commercial reasons.  After receiving his Bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College, he earned a Doctoral degree in psychology from Yale University.  His training also included a fellowship at Harvard University.  Early in his career, Professor Reiss developed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, a test that has been translated into more than 20 languages and that is widely used in the assessment of anxiety disorders.  His work in the field of developmental disabilities was recognized with five national awards, and he gave invited talks in more than ten countries.  Professor Reiss’s obituary was published in the American Psychologist, an honor that is accorded to very few psychologists – only those who are considered to have made significant advances in the field.  
Donald O. Clifton attended the University of Nebraska where he earned a doctoral degree in educational psychology.  After a teaching career at the University of Nebraska, Clifton founded a company to help organizations with employee selection, a company that later acquired Gallup.  As chairman of Gallup, he created the Clifton StrengthsFinder (now called the CliftonStrengths Assessment).  The American Psychological Association honored Clifton with a lifetime achievement award as “the father of strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology.”

In summary, the RMP is the clear choice for clients seeking a normed test of motivation that allows for comparisons among respondents and that has broad application to business, schools, sports, and relationships.
Maggi M. Reiss, President
IDS Publishing Corporation
Copyright © 2020 IDS Publishing Corporation, All rights reserved.

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