Michael Norton, Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School recently set out to empirically prove the well known adage: “doing well by doing good.” His central question, which should be of interest to all business owners, was whether or not companies can really make money – more money – by doing more good, not just in the world at large, but also much closer to home.
Norton’s experiments revealed three important findings. First, prosocial spending (money given to employees to spend on other employees), increased a team’s monthly performance levels over and beyond a team that received individual bonuses, i.e. money to spend on themselves. Second, employees who were given “charity vouchers” to give to any charity they desired, not the corporate flagship charity, reported feeling happier and enjoying a greater level of job satisfaction. Third, employees who had a genuine conceptualization of a beneficiary in mind, or better yet, had met the person who benefits from their work, demonstrated increases in both productivity and performance output.
Norton concludes that by changing the definition of success from simple number crunching to an appreciation of the positive impact one is having on the lives of others, whether that be one’s co-workers, a preferred charity, or a known beneficiary client, the team will benefit by experiencing more positive work experiences and the company as a whole will benefit by seeing positive changes in its bottom line.
Despite all the measures taken to dehumanize work, to remove the emotion for the sake of efficiency, to compartmentalize tasks, and divide labour into minute tasks – it turns out, what drives people most powerfully are still other people. When managing your team, consider how you can share and bring home the good they are doing, in whatever capacity they are working. While intra-group competition may foster some stand out talent; cooperation and team-building will ultimately lead to greater success, and a much happier team.