If your car engine needed repair, would you hire a mechanic who knew only that the engine needed fuel to produce power, or one who understood the workings of all the engine’s components, what might go wrong, and how to address the causes of failures? Clearly the latter mechanic would be a better choice, even at a higher price. The same approach must be used for managing people, especially given that people are far more complex than components.
In the late 1920’s and 1930’s, researchers from Harvard University studied a group of workers assembling electrical components at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works in Chicago. Their objective was to determine the effects of changes in workplace conditions on productivity.
One of the variables they considered was the lighting on the factory floor. Researchers first increased the level of lighting and observed that productivity improved significantly. They then increased light levels a second and third time. Each time, productivity improved. Finally the study was concluded, and light levels were returned to their original intensity. To the surprise of all, productivity again improved! In fact, productivity began to decline only when the lighting of the work area was decreased to the level of moonlight.
The researchers concluded that it was not light levels at all that effected productivity. Rather, it was the fact that managers were paying attention to the day-to-day activities of the employees that raised their output levels.
Achieving the results we want, then, requires more than simply setting objectives, even if employees agree to them. Rather, paying attention to what people are doing in real time is critically important.
It should be noted that the studies included employee interviews and counseling, in which problems with the job were discussed. This was in sharp contrast to the prevailing top-down management philosophy in practice at the time.
In an environment in which managers are under pressure to deliver results, it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of the factors that drive results. CloudForce HR works with clients to effectively assist them to lift their employee engagement levels, increase productivity and improve the bottom line. Call us for further information or to discuss how we can assist your business.
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