New York magazine details a study conducted by Duke University Professor Dan Ariely involving employees at an Intel semiconductor factory in Israel.
Participants were sent one of three messages at the start of the week, each offering a different reward for hitting chip-assembling targets. One was a cash bonus of 100 Israeli shekels ($27), another a rare compliment from their boss and another some pizza.
A separate group, who received no such promises, acted as a control sample.
Pizza won, but only in the initial stages of the experiment and only just.
After the first day, the number of chips produced by the pizza group was 6.7% greater than the control group, just beating the manager compliment group at 6.6% and trouncing the cash bonus group at 4.9%.
By the end of the week the cash bonus group had actually produced 6.5% less chips than the control group. The performance of the pizza and compliments groups had by then only marginally outperformed the control group, with compliments just edging out pizza.
Ariely told New York magazine that he suspects pizza would have won the week if his original suggestion to deliver pies all the way to workers’ homes had occurred.
While a fun experiment, Ariely’s work demonstrates that motivating staff isn’t all about money.
A recent study by consultancy TinyPulse indicated staff also value encouragement, camaraderie and a sense of purpose. Another by the London School of Economics found cash bonuses could have a negative impact on overall performance.
Two top fund mangers in the UK have recently said they’re scrapping staff bonuses because they apparently don’t work.
And it’s Friday. The perfect time for a round of pizza.