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Product Insight: Milkshakes bringing Harvard researchers to the yard

Posted by Lino Jimenez on June 7, 2016

Milkshake.jpgHarvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and his team of researchers intercepted customers leaving a fast food restaurant at 6:30 in the morning. These customers walked out with a milkshake in hand and drove off. Why?

A major fast food chain hired Christensen because they wanted to increase sales of their milkshakes. They first tried a traditional market research approach with focus groups, and target market segmentation. They implemented changes, but sales didn’t budge.

It took one of Christensen’s colleagues to notice a trend in milkshake buying behaviors. The company sold half of their milkshakes in the morning. So, they asked these early morning customers about their purchase. They asked a specific question “Could you please tell me what job you were needing to get done for yourself when you came here to hire that milkshake?”

I don’t want a quarter-inch drill

Christensen’s “Jobs to be Done” (JTBD) framework posits that people ‘hire’ products to do a job for them. A ‘job’, in this context, stands for a problem that a customer has in a particular situation.

Suppose you work in construction, and you need to make quarter inch holes across the length of a wood beam. You can choose amongst many products to get that job done. For example, you can “hire” a quarter-inch hole drill. You can hire a drill with removable drill bits. You might know of a technique to punch a hole in the beam by hand. Regardless, you as a construction worker need a problem solved - a job needs to get done. And you want to pick the product that does the job right.

The Product team at Hireology has done similar research with you, our customers. We know that you hire our product to get applicants all in one place. You don’t want to track down documents across emails and folders. You also want to spend time on the floor working to drive revenue, and not occupied with conducting background checks and reference checks. So, we offer these tools to free up your time so you can get back to work.

Jobs to be done in your workplace

With your open role, the JTBD framework applies to you, literally. If you have hiring needs, you will have an open role, and the person who fills that role will have a problem that they need to address for your business. That job could be changing oil, or scooping ice cream, or walking your customer’s dogs.

What if you took the framework and applied it to the perspective of your employees? Do you meet the outcomes they expect of you as an employer? Have you met their JTBD as their employer? Do you care?

If you do, you would know which attributes of your workplace  you could improve that would make your employees  continue to choose to work for you. You could leverage that knowledge to increase employee retention and engagement.

What happened with the milkshakes?

Christensen and his team of researchers found that customers needed something to do during their boring morning commute, so they hired a milkshake to keep them engaged. The milkshake cut down on spillage compared to coffee.  The milkshake kept them full compared to a piece of fruit. The milkshake cut down on the mess that doughnuts would make.

Once you’ve identified the attributes that matter to your customer or your employee for the job that they need to do, you can change your product approach.

Some questions for your business:

  • What job are your customers hiring your product or service to get done?
  • Have you identified what the JTBD your new hires have hired you as an employer?
  • How can you apply JTBD to improve your product or service?

To learn more about this framework and product insight, please click on the following links below: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f84LymEs67Y

http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/finding-the-right-job-for-your-product/

For other tips and insights from Hireology, such as writing effective job descriptions, click on the link below!

Hiring Hireology ebook free guide hire job descriptions employees

product insight


Lino Jimenez

About the Author

Lino works as Hireology’s Product Manager for Selection Content. When he’s not helping improve customers’ hiring decisions, he’s deep in the research of selection theory and other I/O psychology topics. He graduated with a Master of Arts degree from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He also dabbles in programming.