The answer? Give employees more meaningful work. This is according to economists Susanne eckermann, Xiaolan Yang, and Michael Kosfeld, whose study is published on economics commentary site VoxEU.
A survey of 413 students in Hangzhou, China found that study participants increased their productivity when they were told their work was crucial to an important research project. Another group was told their work probably wouldn’t be used, and their productivity was ranked about 15% lower than the group who believed their work mattered.
In addition to giving employees more meaningful work, providing public recognition can also make a big difference in productivity. However, interestingly, while public recognition increased performance in the group whose work was said to have little meaning – it did not seem to affect the performance of those who believed their work mattered.
While money will always be an obvious and reliable motivator, companies can benefit from understanding what really motivates employees, and taking steps to ensure the proper incentives are in place. As the study reveals, many of these motivators cost nothing.
For that matter, employees ought to take heed to the study as well, and consider ultimately looking for a career doing something they truly believe in.