Yes, you really did read that title correctly: pizza leads to productivity, according to a study presented in the book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations. The author, behavioral economist Dan Ariely, conducted an experiment to see what would prompt workers to complete their tasks more efficiently. He divided employees at an Israeli Intel semiconductor factory into four groups and incentivized each one with a different reward. Members of one group would be given pizza if they performed well, members of another would attain a $30 cash bonus, members of the third would receive a complimentary text message from the boss, and a control group received no added benefits.
At the beginning of the study, pizza took the lead, increasing employee productivity by 6.7%. Positive text messages followed closely behind, raising productivity by 6.6%, and the group receiving cash only became 4.9% more productive. One week into the study, the pizza group and the compliments group continued to become more productive, but the workers in the cash bonus group became 6.5% less productive than before. At the end of the study, the employees receiving compliments had shown the greatest increase in efficiency, but only by a slim margin–the pizza-eating workers were a very close second. Therefore, according to scientific research, pizza is a more effective motivator than money.
This may sound kind of strange, but actually makes sense based on previous research conducted on worker productivity. A research study from the London School of Economics demonstrated that financial incentives can actually backfire. Employees can be prompted to work by intrinsic or extrinsic motivators and while they may provide a small boost in the short run, extrinsic motivators do not effectively increase long-term productivity. If a boss gives an employee a raise or a new title, that might be exciting for a moment, but the employee will probably feel entitled to these benefits for the work they have already done rather than take it as an opportunity to work harder.
Intrinsic motivators, on the other hand, come from within an employee and have proven time and time again to provide better results. A previous survey conducted by journalist Janice Kaplan showed that 8% of Americans said they would put in more effort at work for an appreciative boss than for one who demonstrated no gratitude.
According to Kaplan, 70% said that if a boss regularly thanked them, they would feel more self-confident and feel better about their efforts. Another study that was conducted at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania provided similar results; of two groups soliciting alumni donations, the one who received a pep talk from their director collectively made 50% more fundraising calls than the group that did not. Making workers feel that their work is worthwhile and that their dedication is appreciated will prompt them to continue to work hard. When employees feel good about themselves and about their work, they will do a better job. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
If you have employees, make sure to give them a compliment every now and then because a little bit of acknowledgment can go a long way. And if you’re an employee yourself, maybe send this link along to your boss as a subtle hint that you might perform better if you’re given free pizza. Hey, you never know!