A Psych 101 Lesson For Managing Staff

If you took Psych 101 in college, you've probably heard of the Hawthorne Experiments, and their important discovery in employee motivation.

Researchers studied the output of workers at the Western Electric factory outside of Chicago from 1924 to 1932. The initial study sought to determine if changes in the environment would lead to changes in productivity. Changes in lighting were initially tested; then tests of break times, work hours, the length of the workday, and more. To generalize the results: whenever a change was made, productivity improved. Even when the original environmental factors were restored, productivity improved.

OK. Something beyond "environmental factors" had to be at play here. The workers in the study were separated from others, had input in selecting co-workers for the study, and received feedback from the researchers on their performance throughout. The conclusion: it wasn't the environment that led to improvement, but rather the research itself. It was the interest in and engagement of the employees, coupled with communication of progress and results, which led to performance improvement.

The lesson is still powerful for management today: that which is measured-and communicated-tends to improve.

Whatever you are measuring communicates focus and the desired attention of your team. Whatever you are not measuring similarly communicates a lack of importance.

Two lessons emerge.

1) Use measurements (e.g., member surveys to trend the member experience, or awareness surveys to assess product knowledge) as they communicate where attention should be focused.

Evaluate what you are currently measuring to insure it is communicating the right focus.

Finally, share results. It's not enough just to measure through research. You also have to share it. If staff doesn't see member survey results, or awareness survey findings, or brand perception results, they won't have the added motivation to be focused or engaged. Without doing and sharing the results of ongoing research with staff, you lose the potential benefit of the "Hawthorne Effect"-the benefits that can result from team focus and shared vision.

Research: do it...share it. As that which is measured...and communicated...tends to improve.

Mike Anstead is SVP with Member Research, a national CU market research firm. He can be reached at (949) 833-6901 or by email at manstead@memberresearch.com.