Does personality influence biosecurity implementation?

By Rob Hannam

The short answer is yes. The weak link in biosecurity is invariably the human factor. Biosecurity is limited by the compliance level of personnel. While there are not a lot of studies about factors influencing biosecurity compliance, many studies have been done to understand compliance in general and these can be applied to biosecurity.


There are six psychological factors that relate to compliance, and this knowledge can help us with biosecurity implementation.


During a recent webinar1, Dr. Andre Durivage, University of Quebec, spoke about six psychological factors that relate to compliance, and how this knowledge can help us with biosecurity implementation.

1) Personality – It’s possible to pinpoint aspects of personality that relate to compliance. These include responsibility (tendency to be conscientious about what one is doing), complexity (ability to understand the complexity of a situation), and action orientation (ability to solve problems related to biosecurity).

2) Emotional intelligence – This refers to one’s ability to understand themselves and others. People with higher emotional intelligence are more effective in their jobs, show more leadership, have more motivation, better decision-making skills, and better interpersonal relationships. Good emotional intelligence allows someone to understand their environment and others in it, including the impact of their actions on the farm and the animals.

We can influence these two factors by selecting workers more likely to value biosecurity compliance based on their personality. Tests to help assess these aspects are available on Further, adapting tasks to personality types helps to ensure people will be best suited for their roles.

3) Attitude – How favourably does someone perceive a certain behaviour (i.e. do they see the importance of biosecurity?)? Individuals who perceive biosecurity as very important will do what’s required to comply with requirements.

4) Normative belief – How important does the employee think biosecurity is to the others around them (e.g. co-workers, supervisors, management/owner)? If an employee perceives that their co-workers are conscientious about biosecurity and that it is important to their supervisors, they are more likely to take it seriously.

5) Perceived control – To what extent an employee feels they can implement the actions required? When they ask themselves “Do I have the ability to carry through on what I need to do?” can they say yes? Has the employee received the coaching, tools, training and support needed, and do they have access to the materials for them to do their job correctly?

6) Intention – Combining attitude, normative belief and perceived control results in intention. Thousands of studies have shown intention is the best predictor of future behaviour.

So, what can we do about it?

Measure attitude – know where your workers are at in terms of their attitude, and why. This can be done using simple surveys that will help assess employee attitudes towards biosecurity.

Influence normative belief through training, communication, and rewards to show the employee that biosecurity is important to the people who are managing the farm. Set performance standards and measure individual performance. Promote biosecurity through leadership – select and promote not necessarily your best workers, but your best leaders who can bring people on board to implement biosecurity.

Increase employees’ perceived control over their work environment by involving them in decision-making about biosecurity programs. Together, these actions will add up to intention and improved implementation of biosecurity programs.

Farm Health Guardian can help monitor and measure biosecurity, leading to improved compliance.

1Reducing biosecurity risks and improving compliance on farms: considering the human factor. Webinar organized by the World Animal Biosecurity Association.