February 28, 2010 in History of Motivation
Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) discovered that workers were not just concerned with pay but were also motivated by having social needs met at work. Mayo conducted a study on worker productivity at Western Electric, at the time one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities employing 29,000 workers producing equipment for AT&T.
He started out by trying to identify the relationship between productivity and working conditions. Mayo played around with lighting in the work place to see if changing the lighting conditions impacted productivity. To his surprise, both more and less light created higher productivity levels. Mayo realized that the workers chosen for the experimented were accorded higher status by their co-workers. The increased performance was due to their increased motivation. Productivity was related to social effects, not the level of lightning. Mayo called such social behaviour the ‘Hawthorne Effect’. Mayo concluded that the workplace was above all, a social system of interdependent actors in which workers are influenced more by the social demands of the work place, by their need for recognition, security and a sense of belonging, than by their physical working environment. It was starting to become clear that motivation was a complex topic with no one sliver bullet that employers could shoot to keep their employees constantly motivated.
Mayo also concluded that:
- job satisfaction leads to higher job productivity;
- pay alone is a relatively low motivator;
- management is only one factor affecting behavior;
- The informal group exerts a strong influence on motivation.