A month ago I looked at research into the affect conscientiousness had on social behaviours, and in particular the willingness to venture ones opinions on workplace matters. The research explored how employees satisfied their personal needs whilst also looking after the needs of the group. They showed that employees whose primary concern was that of the group were likely to see speaking up as part of their role. By contrast, those for whom personal achievement was their focus were more likely to see speaking up as outside of their job description.
A second paper, published recently in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, also explored the work benefits of being conscientious. The paper focused specifically on the ability to deliver good customer service, but I think it could equally apply inside the enterprise. After all, customer service is at its essence about helping people, just as good collaboration is.
The research saw participants complete a questionnaire where they were asked to rate 50 customer service encounters as either effective or ineffective. It emerged that people who had rated highly in terms of conscientiousness were better able to identify successful customer service than their lower rated peers.
The paper, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, found that individuals who are identified through tests as highly conscientious are more likely to be aware of how good interpersonal interactions positively affect customer service—and are more likely to behave this way.
“Much like intelligence impacts knowledge acquisition—driving what you learn and how much you know—personality traits impact how interpersonal skills are learned and used,” the researcher says.
“People who know more about what kinds of actions are successful in dealing with interpersonal service encounters—such as listening carefully, engaging warmly, and countering questions effectively—handle them more effectively, and their understanding of successful customer service is shaped by underlying personality characteristics.”
The research concludes by saying that whilst companies have traditionally been very good at identifying technical skills, they have done considerably worse at identifying softer skills that are increasingly important in our social world.
The people lever is critical in producing the kind of culture that encourages social behaviours such as collaboration. The kind of people you recruit is clearly central to this, but also things such as the on-boarding process. Research has recently shown for instance that when new recruits are given extensive support from their peers, it imbues them with the sense that collaboration is something expected and valued.