- Google’s former HR head, Laszlo Bock, along with two other ex-Googlers, recently launched a startup called Humu.
- The company’s goal is to make work better for people in a range of industries.
- Bock said that, when hiring, Humu looks for people who display conscientiousness and altruism.
- Research suggests that both traits are important predictors of job performance.
Laszlo Bock made a name for himself as a leading thinker on how to make people happier and more productive at work. Until 2016, he was the senior vice president of people operations at Google; during that time, he published the bestseller “Work Rules,” in which he distilled lessons from Google into actionable insights for anyone.
Last year, Bock and two other ex-Googlers launched Humu, a startup dedicated to making work better for people in a range of industries.
Humu, which is the brainchild of Bock, Wayne Crosby, and Jessie Wisdom, has just raised over $US40 million in funding. The company’s goal is to use behavioural change technology to make people happier in their jobs, thereby increasing productivity and decreasing attrition. Humu’s strategies are based on new innovations in machine learning as well as on decades of scientific research into human behaviour.
Business Insider recently spoke with Bock and Crosby, who runs product and engineering at Humu and was the director of engineering at Google.
Humu currently has just over 20 employees; Bock and Crosby said the company is growing quickly. When they interview candidates, they look for two personalty traits in particular: conscientiousness and altruism.
Bock explained that conscientiousness – generally defined as being organised and hardworking – is a strong predictor of job performance. A growing body of research backs him up.
One 2009 study, published in the European Journal of Personality, found that emotionally stable and conscientious people reported earning higher incomes and liking their jobs more. As some of the first researchers to study the role of conscientiousness in job performance stated: “Those individuals who exhibit a strong sense of purpose, obligation, and persistence generally perform better than those who do not.”
It might come down to conscientious people’s approach to goals: As University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts previously told Business Insider, conscientiousness people are better at setting goals, working toward them, and overcoming obstacles on the way there.
Humu asks job candidates to talk about instances when they displayed conscientiousness and altruism
As for the link between altruism and job performance, Bock explained that it comes down to how likely the candidate is to help a suffering person. That, in turn, translates to how sympathetic the person will be to Humu’s clients, and how adept at finding out their specific issues.
Bock’s remarks recall the observations of Wharton psychologist Adam Grant, author of “Give and Take.” Grant argues that those who are willing to help others are more likely to succeed in business than those who use others as stepping-stones.
Humu generally doesn’t use any trickery to figure out whether a candidate is conscientious or altruistic. According to Bock, they might ask the candidate simply to talk about a time they displayed either conscientiousness or altruism. Or, they might ask to hear about a time when the candidate solved a tough problem.
What Humu really wants to know is whether and how the person followed through. Bock said: “Did they go the extra mile? Did they worry about somebody who wasn’t in their own swim lane? Did they act like an owner rather than an employee?”
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