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Factors of the Big Five

How do the factors of the Big Five relate to the scales and factors of the Work-related Personality Inventory?

The Work-related Personality Inventory (WPI) is partially based on the Big Five theory. The factors of the WPI differ from those of the Big Five because it was specifically designed for practical application in advice and selection processes that are part of Human Resources Management. We are often asked to outline the relationship between the Work-related Personality Inventory and the Big Five, and I am happy to do so below.

Conscientiousness is split into two Work-related Personality Inventory factors: ‘Structure’ and ‘Enthusiasm’

One remarkable distinction between the Work-related Personality Inventory and the Big Five is the disintegration of the Conscientiousness factor. Conscientiousness is known to be one of the most important predictors of professional success. Conscientiousness is quite a broad term and comprises the following elements:

  • A meticulous and attentive way of working;
  • Self discipline, thoroughness;
  • Well organised, careful;
  • Hardworking and reliable;
  • Focused on performance, target oriented, success driven.

This Big Five factor fell apart into two factors – ‘Structure’ and ‘Enthusiasm’ – during the WPI factor analysis. Analysis also demonstrated that these two factors are independent (please refer to the WPI manual). We think this is the case because we have only researched work-related situations and because we incorporated a number of scales that assessment psychologists consider important.

I am also pleased with this division, because you often meet successful managers and salesmen who are highly driven but not so exact. You come across low scores for ‘Structure’ and high scores for ‘Enthusiasm’. Research among a group of account managers demonstrated that a little more reflection is favourable (well considered), but too well considered is to the detriment of the willingness to take action. Sten scores of 1 and 2 indicate too much action orientation, and account managers who score between the 3 and 5 show better performance. This distinction is useful during assessment, or so we hear from clients.

Extraversion and Altruism merge to form Sociability

The two largest Big Five factors – Extraversion and Altruism – have been amalgamated in the WPI factor called ‘Sociability’, with the exception of the ‘dominance’ scale that belongs to the Extraversion B5 factor. Dominance has been incorporated in the WPI factor we call ‘Influence’, to which I will return shortly.

The three scales of the WPI factor Sociability mentioned above – need for contact, socially at ease and self-disclosure – can be seen together in the B5 factor known as Extraversion – but without the dominance scale. High scores identify socially oriented people who feel relaxed in the company of others, seek contact and are open to what’s going on within. The three lowest scales (Trust, Friendliness and Attentiveness) are a reflection of the Altruism B5 factor (Agreeableness). The factor analyses of the WPI data does not show a separate factor for Altruism.

The Work-related Personality Inventory Influence factor

The B5 Dominance scale has uncoupled itself from Extraversion and has joined forces with a number of other work-related traits in ‘Influence’ – a component part of the Work-related Personality Inventory. It is again a fact that this data has been assimilated from the working population.

It is also noteworthy that this is an important factor with regard to ‘Enthusiasm’. The Influence factor would appear to be focused on measurement with others, in various ways.

Openness to experience

‘Openess to experience’ as a B5 factor was not located as a separate factor in the WPI data. There were three scales of the Enthusiasm factor of the WPI factor that indicated a certain ‘Openness’. These were, to be specific: Innovation, Originality and Independence. It should be mentioned in this respect that innovation is expressed as the need for new experiences rather than innovation itself, which is covered in the ‘Originality’ scale.

B5 Neuroticism is Stability in the WPI

Let us draw to a conclusion with something that has remained unchanged: the B5 Neuroticism factor is the same as the ‘Stability’ factor in the Work-related Personality Inventory (‘Emotional Stability’.) In other words, higher scores indicate greater stability. We preferred to say to people that they were less stable than that somebody was neurotic in the context of their work.

In conclusion

The relationship between the Work-related Personality Inventory and the Big Five factors is relatively easy to indicate. Some aspects are put under the magnifying glass, such as the split at Conscientiousness. Moreover, an additional factor known as Influence has made its presence felt. This implies that three of the five factors have a direct relationship with the way that people manifest themselves in working situations. We discovered for example that the Influence factor of account managers had a much greater impact on the sociability scale. that would normally belong to extraversion.
Openess and Altruism cannot be seen as separate factors. They can however be identified in different scales. We believe that this fact makes the Work-related Personality Inventory more useful in this context than in the traditional Big Five questionnaires. Advisors who are well accustomed to the Big Five can quite easily find their way within the Work-related Personality Inventory.