Personality-Factor Approach: What It Is and Why It Matters

Posted by Frederic Lucas-Conwell

Personality-Factor Approach: What It Is and Why It Matters

We are increasingly pressured to understand what motivates people. The pandemic has challenged people to become even more resilient than ever and focus on their wellbeing. The work environment is expected to provide an environment for personal growth as well as the opportunity to achieve.

The personality-factor approach refines the understanding of our behaviors and emotions and provides insight into the conditions for adaptation and change.

When deployed in organizations, the personality-factor approach puts the spotlight on people and helps them rethink work, recruitment, and management. It provides a new lens that is behavioral in nature- practical, objective, and highly effective when put into action.

Where Personality Factors Come From

Personality factors emerged from research into personality in the 1960s - 1990s, a time when personality assessments started being more frequently used in recruitments.

In a workplace context, personality traits vary greatly to describe people and their behaviors: More than 700 traits are generally cited such as leadership, compassion, cooperativeness, confidence, etc.

People express some traits more frequently and intensely than others. The diagram below represents an individual. This is how some personality systems are assessing traits and how they are generally used in management and recruitments, such as when we look for people with “integrity”, “grit” or “leadership”.

traits overlap

But the reality of traits is closer to the following representation, with significant overlaps.

traits overlap

Personality Factors

Factors are quite different. Consider them as a reduced number of dimensions that are very dense and describe traits.

Two factors are represented in the figure below. Our understanding is even greater with more factors in a three or four-dimensional space.

traits overlap

Factors help refine the description and expression of traits, and with them the behaviors, emotions, drive, and motivation. We call them personality factors, behavior factors or simply factors. They:

  • Come in a reduced number. Four factors are more than sufficient, absorbing 95% of the variance expressed by traits.
  • Can be assessed with auto assessment, informing them how one is driven to act and perform.
  • Are more or less intensely expressed
  • Adapt to situations when needed and receive support to do so
  • Remain consistent over time for most of us and are thus predictable
  • Are universal and not related to a specific gender, age, race, or culture
  • Apply to job descriptions, team dynamics, and the behavioral component of a company’s culture.

The Benefits of Personality Factors for Well-being and Resilience

traits overlap

The benefit of using a personality-factor approach is a refined understanding of how people function and what motivates them beyond intuition or ‘gut’. This is simply not possible with the most common approach based on traits.

At an organizational level, factors inform how people learn, adapt, and perform in their job. Factors can tell how people are at flow, their level of resilience, and their state of well-being.

Other aspects of well-being and resilience pertain to the company culture and its management: How will people behave in a team setting? What will this mean for recruitment and onboarding? How to recruit and onboard new candidates? How will those in management positions probably express candor and lead?

Answers to the above “how questions” for each individual, come with the assessment of their personality factors and how they are used by them and their organization.

With the GRI, factors are represented in a visual profile for each individual and help to answer many ‘how’ questions as well as provide insight into their well-being in the workplace.

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