In 1905, a huge factory complex called Hawthorne Works was built along the outskirts of Chicago for more than 40,000 workers. Motivating employees then was a big challenge, so in 1924, the company commissioned a study to see whether changing the light levels inside the factory would affect worker productivity.

When they increased the level of light, productivity skyrocketed.

They also found, however, that worker productivity increased when the level of light was decreased. What’s going on?

The Hawthorne Effect

It turns out that it’s not the amount of light that motivates employees to work — it’s the awareness that they are being watched and that the management is interested in their welfare that motivates them.

Start paying attention to your people today, because the mere act of showing them that you’re concerned about them, their job, and their welfare will most likely spur them to display better job performance. Workers are more motivated by emotional than economic factors — or by being involved and feeling important, rather than by improving their workplace conditions.

That’s the Hawthorne Effect.

Applying the Hawthorne Effect

Let’s say you’ve taken a group of employees and gave them specialized training and seminars. Without saying a word, you just gave these employees the feeling that they are so valuable to the company that you’re willing to spend time and money to develop their skills. They feel that they are on the ladder to the top, and that motivates them to work harder and better. That’s the Hawthorne Effect at work.

Employees Become Happier, More Confident

The researchers of the Hawthorne Studies reinforced the power of the social setting and peer group dynamics later in the research.

The employees formed a social group that also included an observer. They talked and shared jokes, and started meeting socially outside of work. When the group was singled out from the rest of the employees, it raised their self-esteem. They felt happier at work and felt like part of the team, and the employer secured their cooperation and loyalty.

Put the Hawthorne effect to use by providing your team with a series of training and seminars. While you’re at it, look for a speaker that’s doesn’t present a canned program, but rather a custom one that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats.

I’m Brad Montgomery — an author, a blogger, a business owner — and I have a message that you and your employees would all love to hear. I hope to hear from you soon!