A new study provides support to the belief that successful job performance is a product of technical knowledge and appropriate personality traits.
Although universities and other institutions have been very good at examining the technical side of individuals’ jobs through IQ tests and functional test batteries, educators and employers are beginning to recognize that competencies in the nontechnical side — the “softer, interpersonal” side — are critical for employment success.
An analysis of personality traits discovers conscientious people are more likely to provide good customer service, say researchers from Rice University.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, examines the link between personality traits and effective behavior in customer service situations.
Researchers found that individuals who are identified through tests as highly conscientious are more likely to be aware of how good interpersonal interactions positively impact customer service and are more likely to behave this way.
Stephan Motowidlo, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, said that while technical knowledge of a position is an important factor in successful job performance, it is only one part of the performance equation.
“Performance in a professional service capacity is not just knowing about what the product is and how it works, but how to sell and talk about it,” Motowidlo said.
“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,” Motowidlo said.
“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 was conducted in two parts. Part one included a group of 99 participants who were undergraduates enrolled in a psychology course at a small, private Southwestern university.
Part two included a group of approximately 80 participants who were employees at a community service volunteer agency.
In both parts of the study, participants completed a questionnaire ranking 50 customer-service encounters as effective or ineffective.
Both parts of the study revealed that people who were accurate in judging the effectiveness of customer-service activities behaved more effectively and displayed higher levels of conscientiousness.
Motowidlo said he hopes the study will encourage future research about how personality helps individuals acquire the knowledge they need to perform their jobs effectively.
Source: Rice University