AGE-OLD STUDY OF UNDERSTANDING
PROVIDING consumers with what they want is key to success in the service industry and a new trend has organisations hiring anthropologists to find solutions.
Sociology and anthropology have been identified as among the top five most sought-after skills of 2030 in research commissioned for global learning company Pearson, which also lists the importance of social perceptiveness and psychology.
Anthropologists gather and analyse information on social and cultural behaviour, studying the origin, development and function of human societies and cultures as they exist now, or have existed in history.
Aside from historical preservation or understanding of various cultures, anthropology can be used for humancentred design, from building new railway platforms to providing clean drinking water.
People’s Choice Credit Union is one white-collar organisation employing anthropologists to help ensure the services it delivers will meet customers’ needs.
Deputy chief executive Darlene Mattiske-Wood says its operation has a strong member-focused approach and needs to provide contemporary services which also prove to be money well spent. “We knew that we needed to invest in technology to ensure we delivered our services to members in a way that they expected,” she says. “The pace of technology adoption is growing faster than ever. We were looking at not just how we design something and seeking feedback about it.
“Human-centred design is a process that anthropologists use, where they observe human behaviour (and incorporate that) from inception and design, all the way to how we implement something, to deliver a service or a product combining the psychology of human behaviour and technology. We need to make sure what we do spend our money on does hit the mark with our members and make sure we don’t lose the trust of our members.”
She says, for example, $1 million was saved by not proceeding with technology which it decided members would not want to use.
Few workers, however, have anthropological qualifications or backgrounds, despite the demand for skilled staff.
Member design specialist Sonia Masciantonio (pictured) holds a PhD in Anthropology and also completed honours study. She had worked in government in user-centred design before taking up a role at People’s Choice.
“My role is about understanding members and designing products that meet their needs,” she says. “We explore what’s important to people, we don’t just go in and try to resolve an issue. We are really bringing them along on the journey.
“What I love about this role is it gives me an opportunity to understand what is really meaningful and what our members need.”