Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working and virtual employment have been on the rise. Employees around the world have developed a preference for virtual employment, leading some businesses to adopt hybrid or completely virtual employment models. However, as businesses transition to a more virtual employment model, employers are increasingly concerned about the personality traits that indicate success for remote work employees. This insight article aims to answer two questions: what traits do businesses need to look for as they hire new virtual employees? And, what personality traits are most likely to succeed with virtual employment?
Below you will find our scientific research analysis of the The Big Five’s personality traits and how they influence the performance of virtual employees. Along with the research analysis of each trait, you will find three questions to consider if you are an executive coach working with executives or a business leader seeking to hire new virtual employees. Join us as we develop our understanding of the personality traits that are most successful in virtual employment and how you can use these principles in your business today.
The Big Five Personality Traits Model
The Big Five Personality Traits Model is considered to be the most “widely accepted personality theory held by psychologists today” (Lim, 2020). It focuses on five distinct categories of traits:
Openness: willingness to try new experiences
Conscientiousness: ability to be self-disciplined
Extraversion: desiring the company of others
Agreeableness: level of cooperativeness and compassion
Neuroticism: prone to anxiety or other negative emotions (Lim, 2020 & Boundless, n.d.)
This model of personality traits measures the presence of these five categories on a “spectrum.” For example, an individual could score moderately high for openness, meaning that they prefer spontaneous action most of the time, while another individual could score very low for openness and prefer a strict routine or schedule. Consider the graphic below as an example of a potential Big Five Model score.
Support for the Big Five Model
Due to the intricate nature of personality and the varying differences between cultures and individuals, the Big Five Model has been questioned in regards to its ability to measure the entire span of an individual’s personality (Lim, 2020).
When hiring new employees or assessing the traits of executives, employers and executive coaches often focus on the traits that are most correlated with corporate success; not the intricate details of the applicant’s personality. Because of this, the Big Five Model is a valuable tool when assessing what characteristics are most important for virtual employment success.
The Big Five Model has been used in various research articles to predict the future success of individuals. For example, research has identified correlations between Big Five Traits such as conscientiousness and agreeableness with career success “across many jobs” (Sackett & Walmsley, 2014, Nießen et al., 2020).
The following sections dissect each trait’s relationship to virtual employment with supporting research.
Personality traits to look for when hiring remote employees
Trait #1: high levels of openness (a willingness to try new things)
As companies further develop their virtual employment strategies, it is important to consider the traits of those who are most likely to accept virtual employment readily. Research shows that those with more openness to experience were more open to virtual employment (Luse et al, 2013).
Researchers also state that “open individuals may perceive virtual team environments as a way to explore new ideas within a nontraditional team environment” increasing the ease of transition from traditional employment to virtual employment (Luse et al., 2013).
This is an important trait to consider when creating virtual employment strategies within a corporation. When employers select which employees to transition to virtual or hybrid employment versus traditional employment, it is important to consider how “open” these employees might be to the transition.
A lack of openness to virtual employment or returning to the traditional workforce can make the transition challenging for employees and the employer. If disgruntled enough, employees can seek other opportunities for employment, ultimately affecting the productivity of a corporation.
Executive coaches should also consider their client’s openness to virtual employment management. If the executive of a corporation isn’t open to virtual employment, coaches can then begin the process of identifying how this could impact an executive’s business with their client.
When hiring new virtual employees, it is important to analyze their openness to experience because this also addresses their ability to adapt to change. Because the virtual employment policies of many corporations are adapting and changing as new research and knowledge become available, employees must be open to adjusting their duties as needed.
Questions to consider when addressing openness
How do you feel when corporate policies that affect your job change?
Are you open to trying new communication platforms or programs?
How well do you adapt to new technology?
Trait #2: high levels of conscientiousness (self-disciplined character)
Conscientiousness has been iden