Initiative, Customer Service, and Your Browser Choice (NOT Election Results)

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Change, Customer Service, Innovation |

chrome-logoWe’ve heard enough about about selecting a president, so I’m writing about selecting a new employee. Have you ever thought of asking what internet browser they use at home?  I wouldn’t have.  But now I might.

What is it we want in employees?  We want people who are productive, loyal, satisfied in their role, can take initiative, right?  I just read an interesting study investigating what might be correlated with all those qualities, and therefore what would be a predictor of the right applicant.

I remember reading about a Met Life survey years ago looking at predictors of success in their agents that found optimism to be a key factor.  But a browser choice???

This research was on over 50,000 customer service and sales agents from many companies, all of whom had taken an online assessment as part of their application process, investigating why some agents stayed in their jobs longer than others.  The research  compared the applicants’ characteristics against data on the subsequent hires, trying to find a pattern for who ended up staying in their jobs the longest.

They looked at expected factors such as a previous history of job hopping, which did not turn out to correlate with staying in the job longer.  They ran the question of internet browser sort of on a whim, since they happened to have had the data.  Paydirt!

firefox-logoIt turned out that those who had used Firefox or Chrome to fill out the online assessment stayed in their jobs 15% longer than those who used Safari or Internet Explorer.  Wondering if it was coincidence, they also looked at performance on sales, customer satisfaction and average call length.  The Firefox and Chrome users again surpassed the others.  They were even 19% less likely to be absent from work.

Why?  Michael Housman, the head of the research team, surmised it might suggest the ability to take initiative.  Safari and Internet Explorer come loaded as the default when you buy your computer.  You have to be an informed consumer and take an extra step to switch to Firefox or Chrome.

So maybe people who will take initiative in one area of their lives will also take initiative in other areas. For example, in the way they help their customers.  Or the way they configure their job or their perspective on their job so that they are more satisfied, rather than accepting the “default.”

It makes me wonder how can we hire for initiative, and also cultivate initiative in our teams.

Adam Grant in his book Originals describes his effort in helping Google design a brief class to teach their non-tech employees strategies to make their jobs better – ways they could take small or larger steps to make their jobs more interesting to them.  This 90 minute class turned out to make a huge difference in both their performance and their satisfaction.  Seems to me, they taught them how to take initiative.

Change rarely happens in huge leaps, it happens in small steps.  Those small steps together become new patterns of behavior, especially when reinforced by leaders and by peers.  By suggesting people could make their jobs better, Google encouraged them to take  a first step in practicing initiative. After all, you won’t change your browser if you don’t even know another exists and that you could change it yourself. You won’t change elements of how you do your job if you don’t see it as possible.

I use Chrome as my browser.  Probably because my kids told me to.  Last month I Googled how to select it as my default when another browser mysteriously appeared on its own. I’ve never thought to ask my clients what they use, but maybe I will from now on.  It might at least start an interesting conversation.

Any thoughts?