A large applied research study sought to examine important organizational outcomes from various psychologically-based workplace interventions. In all, they examined the effects of eleven different types of interventions, defined below:
- Selection and Placement: For the purpose of this research, this simply includes the use of realistic job previews
- Training: Enhancing employee performance through learning
- Appraisal and Feedback: Giving employees more extensive and frequent performance feedback
- Management By Objectives (MBO): Engaging employees to set goals with management, being held accountable for objectives, and participating in the review of their work objectives
- Goal Setting: In this research, goal setting is defined as “the specification of difficult but attainable goals for limited but important aspects of job performance.” In this instance, it does not require employee involvement
- Financial Compensation: Tying monetary rewards to individual, team, or organizational performance
- Work Redesign: This involves enhancing jobs with specific qualities that are tied with the employee’s specific interests and motivations
- Decision Making Strategies: Programs for enhancing the decision-making skills of leadership within an organization
- Supervisory Methods: This includes programs designed to change the central roles of supervision, to include things such as increased participation for example
- Work Rescheduling: Switching to “flex-time” or rescheduling the work week (e.g., four 10’s)
- Organization Development (OD): Long term and systematic interventions, based on behavioral psychology, that focus on effective change through the management of organizational culture and social/technological dynamics
In this large-scale research, conclusions were drawn using nearly 100 previous studies (and over 37,000 individual measurements of worker productivity!). Therefore, you can expect that the results here are much more accurate than any individual study; which may just look at one of the above interventions within a single organization. Rather, these researchers looked at a range of interventions across numerous types of organizations to come to the conclusions which will be described below.
Overall effect: Combined, the above interventions led to an increase in employee productivity by 15%! This difference is considered to be a large enough to be visible “to the naked eye.” Or, in other words, the increase in employee productivity is clearly visible through simple observation.
Individual effects: Of course, specific interventions were more effective than others at increasing productivity. Training, Goal Setting, and Organization Development had the greatest impact on productivity. These were followed by (in decreasing order): Decision-Making Strategies, Financial Incentives, Work Redesign, Appraisal and Feedback, Work Rescheduling, Supervisory Methods, and Management By Objectives. The only intervention not found to have a distinguishable positive effect was the use of Realistic Job Previews (Selection and Placement). The study found that specific interventions had the ability to have a much greater effect on productivity than the 15% figure stated above. For example, the top interventions led to productivity increases of around 25%!
Types of performance: In all, 3 measures of employee productivity were used in this study, and each were found to be affected differently by the interventions. The measures included: output (quantity, quality, and cost-effectiveness), withdrawal (turnover and absenteeism), and disruption (accidents, strikes, or other costly disturbances). Of these three, interventions had the greatest ability to improve output and the lowest impact on withdrawal.
Combinations of interventions: In many cases, organizations implemented multiple interventions at the same time. The combined effect of applying multiple interventions was less than the sum of each intervention implemented on its own. The results suggest that organizations focus on one type of intervention at a time.
Size and type of organization: The study also looked at the kind of organization and the category of employee of which productivity improvements were desired. Concerning size, small organizations (less than 100 people) benefited the most from interventions. Concerning type, governmental organizations benefited the most while non-profit and for-profit organizations benefited equally from interventions.
Type of employee: Concerning employees themselves, professional and managerial employees showed the greatest improvements in productivity. This was followed by: sales, blue-collar, and clerical.
Overall, the study found that some interventions were better in certain circumstances than others. The findings described above are general in nature, and to describe the rank of each intervention on each type of organization or category of performance would take much more time and energy than you are likely willing to exert. However, that type of knowledge is out there, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask! The results of this study are positive- they indicate that a well-chosen workplace intervention can have an extremely significant result on the effectiveness of your workforce!
–Peter Scontrino, Ph.D.