By Mark Travers
RAWPIXEL / PXHERE
Personality psychologists tend to divide personality into five core dimensions: openness to experiences, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.
Any guesses as to which dimension might be most predictive of occupational performance? If you guessed extraversion, you’d be wrong. If you guessed emotional stability, you’d be wrong again.
The truth is that 100+ years of psychological research has shown conscientiousness – that is, the tendency toward self-efficacy, orderliness, achievement, and self-discipline – to be the best predictor of job performance. New research forthcoming in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers an in-depth examination of why this is the case, and when it might not be true.
A team of scientists led by Michael Wilmot of the University of Toronto conducted a meta-analysis of 92 studies to explore the relationship between conscientiousness and various occupational variables (for example, on-the-job competence, procrastination, leadership, organizational commitment, adaptability, job satisfaction, and burnout, to name a few).
Across variables, the researchers found strong evidence to support the view that conscientiousness is highly predictive of job performance.
“Conscientiousness refers to individual differences in the tendency to be hard- working, orderly, responsible to others, self-controlled, and rule abiding,” state Wilmot and his team. “We present the most comprehensive, quantitative review and synthesis of the occupational effects of conscientiousness available in the literature. Results show conscientiousness has effects in a desirable direction for 98% of variables […], indicative of a potent, pervasive influence across occupational variables.”
Although the relationship between conscientiousness and job performance is robust, the researchers identified some interesting caveats and boundary conditions. For example, they found that conscientiousness is a weaker predictor of job performance in “high-complexity” occupations (think, for instance, of professions that require a high degree of brain power such as an analyst or lawyer). It is the low- to moderate-complexity occupations – for example, customer service jobs – that are particularly well suited to the conscientious personality.
Furthermore, the researchers found that individuals high in conscientiousness do better in Health Care than, say, Law Enforcement (although conscientious individuals show above average job performance in both occupational sectors). The graph below reveals the job sectors in which conscientious individuals are most likely to excel, with Health Care leading the pack.
“Summary of meta-analyses of conscientiousness and occupational performance […]. Diamonds… WILMOT & ONES (2019)
The researchers suggest that organizations should do more to harness conscientious workers’ aptitudes and motivations. According to their analysis, conscientious individuals are motivated by status, acceptance, and predictability. Building organizational frameworks that allow conscientious individuals to pursue these needs is critical to maximizing their occupational potential.
The authors conclude, “Few individual differences variables have occupational effects as potent and pervasive as conscientiousness. Based on evidence from more than a century of occupational research, the vast treasure trove of findings […] should motivate every individual, organizational, and societal decision maker to better understand, develop, and apply the valuable human capital resource that is conscientiousness.”
Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine