Pizza motivated workplace
A new study shows ‘trivial’ incentives like free pizza can work better than cash when motivating staff

Pay us in pizza! How a few slices can motivate an entire team

2 Sep 2016

What actually motivates your staff? A slice of pizza and a thank you, not some extra cash. That’s according to a new, novel piece of research.

Faced with the option of a bit of extra cash, a pat on the back or some pizza, what would make you work harder? If you’re anything like those tested at Intel, then some pizza and a compliment are the clear winners.

An experiment at the company’s Israeli facility saw staff divided into four groups. Each group received either the promise of cash, a compliment, pizza or nothing at all for increased productivity.

Pizza motivated workplace

A slice of success

As reported by New York Magazine, said test produced some surprising results. From day one, pizza led as the best motivator, with those offered cash (the equivalent of around €30) performing the worst.

Productivity initially increased 6.7pc for the pizza lovers, with those looking for recognition up by 6.6pc and the cash-hungry only improving by 4.9pc. From there, the margins widened, with those expecting money as a reward performing 13.2pc worse on one of the days than those promised nothing whatsoever.

By the end of the test, the pizza and compliment groups had gradually reverted to productivity levels closer to those offered nothing at all, though both promises still acted as effective motivators. Those who would be receiving cash performed 6.5pc below their usual standards.

The study, detailed in Dan Ariely’s Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, may be trivial, but it reveals much about what we perceive to be important carrots in the workplace.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems

Similar results emerged in a 2009 study undertaken by the London School of Economics and Political Science, which looked at dozens of experimental studies.

“We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness,” said Bernd Irlenbusch at the time.

“As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

It’s not just performance that’s a worry. Keeping staff tuned in is also the best way to keep staff in general.

Speaking at Inspirefest earlier this year, the founder of Hatch Analytics, Monica Parker detailed how best to create a motivated workforce.

In a Hatch Analytics survey of 40,000 workers, it emerged that a sense of purpose was key. “94pc of the 40,000 people we asked said the more meaning their job has means the more likely they are to be engaged,” she said.

Staying the course

Releasing some control into the hands of staff, allowing quiet time for reflection and encouraging employees to develop real friendships with each other are three key ways companies can build a motivated workforce, too.

“If you let go of the reigns, you will have a healthier business and healthier humans who work in the business,” she said. “If you have a best work friend, you will stay in the job.”

A recent survey conducted by Aon found that more than half of workers are open to leaving their current job.

The survey was conducted by Aon’s recruitment and retirement business, Aon Hewitt, among 2,000 US employees, with the aim of discovering what life is like in the modern workplace.

52pc of those surveyed have at least one eye on the job market for a potential move. Of that number 44pc are actively searching.

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Main pizza image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon Hunt joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. He spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet is the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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