Monday, February 19, 2018

Hawthorne Effect and Productivity

The Hawthorne effect is named after a series of experiments that changed the way we think about work and productivity. While previous studies had already focused on individuals and how their performance could be improved, the Hawthorne experiments placed the individual in a social context for the first time.

The experiments, which took place at Western Electric’s Hawthorne factory (a suburb of Chicago) between mid 1920s and early 1930s, showed that workers are influenced by their surroundings more than they are by their individual abilities.

Because the experiments originally sought out to study the effects of physical conditions on productivity, the researchers began the experiments by increasing the lighting in the work area of a group of workers. Another group of workers, whose lighting was not changed, served as a control group. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the productivity of the workers who got more light increased much more than that of the control group. After all, you can assume that a better lit work area is more conducive to productivity. 

But the twist came when the researchers noticed that no matter what changes they’re implementing, the workers’ productivity continued to go up.

Not only did the researchers change other working conditions, like working hours, rest breaks, and so on. They even dimmed the lights back down to the initial level. Productivity improved in each and every situation – even when the lights were dimmed!

By the time all the changes were reverted to their initial state, productivity was at its highest level, and absenteeism had plummeted.

So the researchers concluded that it wasn’t the actual changes in the working conditions that increased productivity. The workers increased output simply because they were aware that they were under observation from researchers and supervisors.

The Hawthorne Effect is largely about managing employees so they feel more like an integral part of your business. Encouraging employee input into workplace decisions and operational decisions tends to make employees feel more like part of a cohesive team striving to achieve the common goal of making the business more profitable.

The most effective changes are likely to be those that result from employee input. Boosting productivity from your employees is as simple as paying more attention to them and their needs and concerns. Making employees feel more appreciated encourages them to improve their performance.

If companies make an effort to invest in their workers' happiness and well being, they will improve productivity. Investing in better benefits, increased employee support, and improved workplace conditions rather than simply handing out raises yields a bigger return on investment, because time and time again, studies prove that happy employees are more productive employees.

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