Strategy & Execution

Conscientiousness: A Key Predictor of Success

When you need something done – and done right - you probably know which member of your team to call on. Most business leaders have someone they can tap for help at a moment’s notice – their most conscientious employee.

What exactly is “conscientiousness?” Conscientiousness is defined as “the state of being thorough, careful, or vigilant.” It includes tendencies that favor self-discipline, carefulness, and thoroughness. People who are conscientious display highly developed degrees of organization and industriousness.

Organizational research has found that conscientious people are the most likely to succeed in their careers. Why? They make things happen! They keep teams on track and pay attention to little details that can spell the difference between success and failure for any particular project or endeavor.

Conscientiousness is the one personality trait that consistently leads to success.

How does having conscientious employees benefit your organization?

In the book, Average Is Over, author Tyler Cowen states, “Team production makes the quality of ‘conscientiousness’ a more important quality in [employees.] Managers need workers who are reliable. If you have a team of five, one unreliable worker is wrecking the work of four others. If you have a team of 25, one unreliable worker can negate the work effects of 24 others.”

According to Brent Roberts, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois and the leading researcher on conscientiousness, “Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us.”

Conscientious people are assets to almost every team and essential at all levels of a firm. For example, think of a customer service representative who is meticulous, dependable, calm, and kind after a customer service mix-up.  Or a business development specialist who is more likely to set and commit to goals, leading to higher sales growth.

How should you support a conscientious employee?

  1. Keep track of their projects. Ensure that you are not overwhelming them with extra tasks and assignments just because you know they will take care of them.
  2. Provide them with an organized work environment. Conscientious people need to know that they are meeting your expectations. They prefer to have precise job descriptions. And they want expectations and goals to be spelled out. They work best in an environment where tasks and projects can be measured and followed through to completion. They like to have a process and a consistent routine to follow.
  3. Reward them. Give them time and space to work on projects and tasks. That autonomy and appreciation will strengthen their bond to you and your firm. It will also give you more opportunities to determine where they can make the greatest contribution to your organization.
  4. Never criticize a conscientious employee. Be patient, persistent, and diplomatic when disagreeing with them. Because they take great pride in being accurate and correct, criticism deflates them. Motivate them, instead, with well-informed research. Show them the logic of your position supported by specific facts. Give them clear parameters and instructions for working on and completing projects.
  5. Demonstrate goal-focused leadership. Provide cues to your employees to shape their expectations about work behavior. Conscientious employees will rapidly pick up on your conscientious-valued cues. By demonstrating goal-focused leadership, the conscientious employee will express their natural conscientious personality tendencies…especially when you model achievement, diligence, planning, persistence, and other related behaviors.

In Search of Conscientious Employees

From entry-level to top leadership roles, business leaders place high value on conscientious employees. Is this the number one trait you look for in the hiring process?

Considering the above points, here are recommendations for ascertaining if a prospective employee is conscientious:

  • Ask questions to determine how organized and responsible he or she is.
  • Find out how and if they plan ahead.
  • Notice if they ask for a job description. Conscientious people like to have their job, expectations, and goals laid out in advance.
  • Determine how they react in the face of challenges – conscientious people always work hard and control their impulses.
  • Ask what goals they’ve recently set and what their plans are for the future so that you can ensure that their goals are consistent with that of your firm. Conscientious people set goals and work toward them until they are achieved.
  • See how punctual they are – conscientious people arrive on time and meet deadlines.
  • Ask how they upheld the organization’s standards in a previous job. Conscientious employees have high levels of integrity and stay far away from trouble.
  • Listen carefully to hear if they criticize their previous job or employer. Conscientious people deal with issues and don’t complain.
  • Finally, ascertain how thoughtful they are toward others. Conscientious people are kind and caring toward their colleagues.

You may also like…