Gains in Productivity

November 10, 2017 | Companies put employees first, enhance work life Rowena Crosbie, President, Tero international,

Millennials expect different things from the workplace than the generations that preceded them. They are largely unimpressed with the corner office or the usual trappings that communicate status and rank. They prefer an open work environment that fosters collaboration and provides access to decision-makers. Other appealing features of the workspace include common areas where they can enjoy informal conversations and meetings with co-workers. They also expect up-to-date technology.

In 1924, researchers in the Western Electric Hawthorne plant near Chicago were attempting to determine the effect that lighting and working conditions had on productivity. The researchers adjusted the lighting in a variety of ways and measured the impact on output. Each time the lighting was adjusted, productivity increased. The employees’ working conditions were also changed (e.g., hours, breaks), and productivity improved with each change. Interestingly, by the time the working conditions and lighting were returned to their original levels, absenteeism had plummeted and productivity was at its highest level.

When the researchers couldn’t determine a pattern to the lighting or working conditions, they began to look elsewhere and realized that the productivity increase could be attributed to the attention the researchers were paying to the workers and not to the environmental effect at all. This discovery would greatly influence the social sciences in the decades that followed. The result is called the Hawthorne Effect or the Observer Effect. Individuals positively modify their behavior in response to being observed.

There are many things leaders can do to create an environment that allows people to work at their inventive and productive best. Perhaps the most important thing is also one of the simplest. Paying attention to someone doesn’t require a financial investment. It’s an energetic investment.

When you pay attention to people, they respond.

Rowena Crosbie is president of Tero International, co-author of “Your Invisible Toolbox: The Technological Ups and Interpersonal Downs of the Millennial Generation” and co-host of the show “Your Invisible Toolbox.” Since 1993, Tero has earned a distinguished reputation as a premier research and corporate training company. Tero has been voted among the Best Training and Development Companies by readers of the Des Moines Business Record every year since the category was introduced in 2007.