This Valentine’s Give Them Pizza and Say Thanks

Stickman Valentine Pizza.png

This Valentine’s Give Them Pizza and Say Thanks

It’s Valentine’s Day. Every year we dedicate this day, with tons of candy and flowers, to showing people that we love them. Maybe we should be using pizza.

We love our employees. We all have a statement somewhere claiming they are our greatest asset. We pay people just to attract other people. We study and design programs to keep them motivated. We plan years ahead just to retain them. And we are constantly on the prowl to find new and better ways to engage them. A new study, from Dan Ariely, of “Predictably Irrational” fame suggests that very short-term cash incentives may not be doing what we think they are doing.  They may be doing the opposite.

Ariely’s new book is “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations.” He recently discussed one of the studies covered in the book. Researchers created four cohorts of employees at a company that makes computer chips. One group was offered money, another compliments, a third pizza and the last was a control group that wasn’t told about the study.

As you may have guessed, the Pizza Group killed it! The outperformed the control by 6.7%. There is no mention of the type of pizza, but we assume that Hawaiian-style was not offered. The Complimented Group outperformed by 6.6%. Not shabby for simply being nice to people. The Money group outperformed the control, but by only 4.9%. It was only $30 bucks, but unless that pizza was by Wolfgang Puck, the money was the most expensive incentive of the three and resulted in the lowest improvement.

By now you should be calling the local pizza parlor and ordering a few pies, but wait, there’s more! The Money group basically collapsed. Within a week they were actually underperforming the Pizza and Compliment groups. Again, there is no mention if the Money group had to smell that delicious pizza or watch their peers getting glorious accolades, but let’s just assume they had to experience both (it’s more fun that way.)

One takeaway is that people love pizza. Duh! Another is that people like to hear that they are valued. Again, DUH! Lastly, we now know that some people aren’t inspired by $30. As a test of this last theory please give your significant other a twenty and two fives instead of a card and flowers. Let me know in the comments how that works out for you.

Of course, we can all agree that this was a pretty lame incentive plan design. The metrics and leveraging were all wrong. The communication was nowhere near what a great compensation professional would have done. The measurement periods were too short and on and on. But we can probably also agree that many of our own incentive programs may be no more effective or impactful than a slice and a high five.

It’s Valentine’s Day don’t forget the flowers and card or pizza and thanks, cash is a fairly touchy way to show your love.

The link to the Inc. article that inspired this post can be found here.

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