Personality Type Offers Clues for Adapting Training to a Virtual Environment

Only 5.6 percent of respondents preferring Extraversion and 11.4 percent of those preferring Introversion chose virtual training over other options in a study of 1,632 training participants who completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment as part of their program.

Personality type is used in workplace training to maximize participation, knowledge retention, and many other aspects of learning. To understand how differences in personality type play out in virtual training compared to traditional training, we looked at data collected from 1,632 training participants who completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment as part of their program.

Adapting to a Virtual Environment

We found that distribution of various personality types in virtual vs. in-person settings is about the same. This may be good news, in that it means existing training programs can be modified without necessarily having to be redesigned from start to finish. In virtual environments—which we’re defining here as including real-time online interaction with a facilitator—you’ll likely see a broad distribution of personality types, so the trick is balancing your delivery to appeal to all of them.

The MBTI instrument guides the process of identifying an individual’s preferences along four dichotomous pairs:

  1. Extraversion vs. Introversion
  2. Sensing vs. Intuition
  3. Thinking vs. Feeling
  4. Judging vs. Perceiving

Here is a brief description of what each of these preference pairs mean, and a few things to keep in mind for those preferring:

Extraversion vs. Introversion: Where we get our energy

Introversion. If you put them on the spot without adequate preparation, it can be just as uncomfortable in a virtual environment as it is in a classroom full of peers. Give them the opportunity to ponder the information so they feel comfortable when it’s time to interact.

Extraversion. They need to discuss things in the moment, bounce ideas off peers. Leverage tools such as chat and breakout rooms to provide opportunity for interaction in a way that keeps preferences for Introversion and Extraversion in mind.

Sensing vs. Intuition: How we take in information

Sensing. Leverage experiential exercises to offer practical, real-life examples of how your information is useful.

Intuition. Give them flexibility to explore. Too many rules can make it feel elementary, so give them opportunities to break out for research and other free-form activities.

Thinking vs. Feeling: How we make decisions

Thinking. Give them ample opportunity to pose questions. A chat box can be an effective tool, but keep in mind that some of these questions can be direct, and might be off-putting without the benefit of facial cues. So don’t take it personally, and leverage voice and video features if it helps.

Feeling. They want to feel connected, so with intact teams consider a pre-assignment that allows them to connect to the group. If it’s an open enrollment, consider starting with an ice-breaker.

Judging vs. Perceiving: How we deal with the outer world

Judging. They want to feel that they’re progressing on track, so have an agenda and refer back to it frequently: “Here’s what we plan to accomplish. Here’s where we are.”

Perceiving. They value flexibility, and need to feel their questions won’t be stifled. Include a “parking spot” for questions that may arise, and follow up individually with anyone who has a question so they don’t feel so cut off by the time limits.

Which Is Best—Virtual or In-Person?

Fifty percent of respondents prefer in-person training, and 40 to 50 percent prefer a combination of virtual and in-person training (a small remaining percentage prefer training that is completely virtual). There did appear to be some differences in Introversion vs. Extraversion, with only 5.6 percent of those preferring Extraversion and 11.4 percent of those preferring Introversion choosing virtual training over other options. However, it should be noted that only a small minority in either group prefers a virtual environment. What we’re really finding is that at this point, the decision to use virtual training is more a matter of budget, geography, and time, rather than learning style preference.

Let’s look at how these differences apply to various virtual tools and techniques.

Video. Surprisingly, most people don’t believe having the capability to see each other through video is valuable. We found that a small percentage of people, only 24 percent of those with an Extraversion preference and even fewer with an Introversion preference (15 percent), felt this was very important. With that said, we’ve found in our own experience, video can keep participants more engaged for “intact” teams because it helps them feel more connected to their team members. With groups that don’t share any connection with each other, video has less value.

Group discussion. Those with a preference for Extraversion (70 percent) find group discussion much more useful than those with a preference for Introversion (53 percent). This came as no surprise, and aligns with what we already know about personality type and learning.

Self-paced modules. What was a little more surprising was that there appears to be no difference between the value that those preferring either Sensing or Intuition find in self-paced training modules. There’s a slight difference with those preferring Extraversion (39 percent) vs. those preferring Introversion (29 percent).

In our experience, virtual training can be just as effective as traditional learning when best practices are built into the training design. Contrary to the impression you’d get from the media, there actually is not a tectonic shift from traditional to virtual work yet…so there’s still time to think through virtual learning, and more fully define effective practices.

Rich Thompson is the Divisional Director of Research at CPP, Inc. and manages the Research Team. He earned his Masters and Ph.D. in Psychology, with a minor in management, from Texas Tech University.

Sherrie Haynie is an organizational development consultant for CPP, Inc. She is a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Master Practitioner and serves on the faculty delivering the MBTI Certification program. Haynie is also a coach and performance consultant with expertise in leadership development and performance management. She works with leadership teams across all industries creating and facilitating organizational development initiatives and team improvement interventions.