In his upcoming book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, New York Times bestselling author and professor, Dan Ariely dives deep into what motivates us all. For employees, oddly enough, it could be as simple as some pizza and compliments.
Ever wonder how effective those company pizza parties are? For me, they’re very effective. However, I also list Casey’s Cheese Pizza as my favorite culinary indulgence and might be a bit skewed when it comes to what motivates me.
But what about your employees? What motivates them? Does the endless parade of ice cream socials, luncheons, “team dinners”, and yes, even pizza parties effectively motivate your team to be more productive?
Do cash bonuses work?
Or can recognition alone motivate employees effectively?
Envision this scenario; It’s Tuesday morning. You just got to work and have 3 emails awaiting you. Each message promises a different reward for accomplishing 3 different tasks that day. One message says you’ll get a cash bonus. Another says your manager or boss will give you some much needed recognition. A third says you’ll get a voucher for free pizza.
Which one of these options would motivate you to get the tasks done?
It was just this sort of study that Ariely did for his book.
The study involved employees at a semiconductor factory at Intel in Israel. Workers got one of those three messages at the start of their week. Another group, about a quarter of them served as his control group by being offered no message or bonus.
Measuring output is also easy in this scenario because a majority of the workers are responsible for their output of semiconductors alone.
After the first day, pizza proved to be the top motivator, increasing productivity by 6.7 percent over the control group. Pizza also beat out recognition although just barely (in the form of a text message from the boss that said “Well done!”).
Employees in the recognition group improved their productivity by 6.6 percent as compared to the control group.
And the cash bonus as a motivator? Much to the company’s surprise, the bonus only increased productivity by 4.9 percent as compared to the control group. Now, it wasn’t a big cash bonus (equivalent to about $30 USD) but what happened on the subsequent days was even more surprising.
The cash bonus group’s productivity fell by 13.2 percent after the second day of work. This began to even out for the week but overall, the bonus group ended performing more poorly resulting in a 6.5 percent drop in productivity which equates to an even greater cash loss when you factor in the cost of providing these employees bonuses.
As for pizza and recognition? As the week progressed, recognition proved to be the best motivator. with both group (Pizza and Compliments) coming closer to the productivity levels of the control group.
Although Ariely admits that if the pizza would’ve been delivered to family (therefore providing food to those the employees care most for) might have fared the best.
What does all this say about motivating employees in the workplace? For one, it says that bonuses aren’t as effective in motivating employees like most business leaders would assume. In fact, it becomes a losing endeavor.
We see it all the time, leaders have been giving the sales team cash bonuses or gift cards for years but the sales numbers even out or even decline after time. What happens? Oftentimes the leader decides to increase the size of the bonus thinking this will lead to greater output.
We know from experience on our platform, recognition ALONE is a solid motivator and predictor of not only an employees productivity but also factors like willingness to stay, happiness at work and an overall sense of well-being.
As for the pizza party? Don’t stop them. They’re an effective part of the employee engageement puzzel.
Just invite us next time.
FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS BLOG POST, THE SPECIFICS OF THE STUDY WERE SUMMARIZED FROM THIS ARTICLE BY MELISSA DAHL of NYMAG.COM. For more on this and for more information on Ariely’s new book, see here.