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How can I motivate my staff to do more work when I cannot offer them raises, vacation, or any other formal compensation?


You don't always need to dangle more dough or days off or any other traditional "carrot" to increase productivity. Sometimes, all you need to supply more of is attention.

That was the unexpected lesson of Western Electric Co.'s groundbreaking experiment from 1924 to 1932 at its Hawthorne Works plant. Originally testing workers to see if changes in lighting affected their output, the researchers discovered that any change - such as clearing obstacles off the floor or cleaning workstations - that convinced workers management was paying more attention to them resulted in a hike in production. Almost 80 years later, companies still follow the lessons of what's called the "Hawthorne effect."

For you, the Hawthorne effect means you can motivate your staff with simple, consistent approaches that are more about giving them consideration than cash. For example, you might try bringing in treats. While you and your crew enjoy the snacks together, take a moment to thank them for their hard work and support, acknowledging specific achievements. Additionally, every so often offer modest "thank-you" awards such as $5 or $10 gift cards. Both approaches, if carried out regularly, should help supply enough attention to convince your staff that you recognize their toil. In return, you'll find out how productive consideration can be.


Dan Lumpkin is an organizational psychologist and president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. E-mail your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com
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