I am in a class on Economic Psychology this semester and was assigned the book, The Upside of Irrationality, by Dan Ariely. I have read this book before as well as one of his other books, Predictably Irrational. Dan is a professor at MIT and has been fascinated with why people do the things that they do. In a study that he and some of his graduate students conducted, they recruited people that wanted to build legos. Many of us have fond memories of building with legos when we were younger, so the process of finding people who were willing to get paid to build with legos was fairly easy.
In the experiment/research, he set it up where a person would get paid $2 for the first lego-bot that they built, following the instructions given. After that, if they wished to continue, they would get $.11 less for each lego-bot until it got down to being paid nothing. With the first group of people, they simply acknowledged the person for each bot built and placed the bots in a box underneath the table. For the second group of people, they disassembled the bots in front of them and placed the pieces back in the box for them to put back together should they wish to continue. What was interesting to me was that a simple nod from the researcher was enough motivation (small m) for the person to feel some level of validation. The people that did not get a nod and that had their work destroyed in front of them, produced 40% less work.
The sad part to all of this is that most economist, as well as consultants would conclude that you needed to pay on an increasing scale instead of a decreasing scale in order to maintain motivation for work. The truth is, however, that it is not the pay. Instead, it is the acknowledgement that matters. A simply act of acknowledging the work of another person will help them to feel that their work matters. It is the relationship that drives them forward and the "feeling" of belonging to a team that is producing results.
Ariely has done several research projects that reinforced that it is motivation (small m) and Motivation (capital M) in its various facets that yield the production of great work and satisfying work rather than pay. In fact, tomorrow, I will explain how large bonuses and if-then rewards actually reduce both retention and motivation. If you are trying to retain your people, motivate your people, and produce positive results in the workplace, you must focus on the atmosphere you are creating rather than the act of work itself. People are continuously looking for validation that their work matters. Something as simple as a nod in recognition of work completed can make a huge difference in performance output.
Jody is a writer, motivational speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He has been the keynote speaker at over 250 events around the world. Jody speaks more than 150 times per year at different programs, and he has given more than 10,000 speeches during his career.