Welcome to The Metropreneur’s newest series: Business Briefs. The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.
Praise Wisely and Late
This summer, Leadership Quarterly published a collection of experiments that investigated employee motivation. More precisely, the experiments looked at how employees responded to financial incentives along with how they responded to different types of messaging.
In the experiments, workers were paid to transcribe sections from an obscure ancient Latin text. In one scenario involving 2,700 subjects, some workers were paid a base rate, others were paid a base rate with productivity incentives of varying sizes. Researchers found that monetary incentives increased productivity…BUT the actual amount of the incentive had little impact on output. That is, any amount of monetary incentive, large or small, will increase productivity.
The team also tested the efficacy of encouragement at the onset of the task. Before beginning work, some employees were given instructions, others were given instructions and praise. The employees who were praised before beginning ended up being less productive than the employees who received only instructions.
Another part of the study involved 1,800 participants. It further investigated the impact of providing employees with different types of messages before work. Some employees got basic instructions, some got encouraging instructions, some got instructions with a defined goal, and some got defined-goals and encouraging instructions. In general, the sets of instructions with defined goals were associated with the strongest employee performance.
Takeaways? Money is motivating, and save praises for after the job is complete.
How (not) to Motivate Online Workers: Two Controlled Field Experiments on Leadership in the Gig Economy – Sebastian Fest, Ola Kvaløy, Petra Nieken, & Anja Schöttner, The Leadership Quarterly
The Ephemeral is Eternal
Ephemeral is a term you don’t see a whole lot. It’s an adjective that means something like “fleeting.” It’s also a way to describe social media posts that use SnapChat or the Stories feature on Instagram. Posts appear…and they disappear: that’s ephemeral.
And while repetition has long been the name of the game in advertising, there is something promising about ephemeral opportunities.
Consider a series of studies that included 81,504 Instagram users, as well as participants recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Researchers found that recall on ephemeral adds was actually better than recall on traditional fixed advertising. The findings are aligned with general psychological principles that, if we know information is fleeting, we pay closer attention. The researchers suggest that there may be more bang for the advertising buck in advertising on ephemeral media.
The researchers added an additional offhand observation about the impact of the ephemeral. It may apply to products as well. Consider the arguable charms of the McRib or Starbucks Unicorn? Are they really that great? Or is an ephemeral nature truly their biggest asset?
Fleeting, But Not Forgotten: Ephemerality as a Means to Increase Recall of Advertising – Colin Campbell, Sean Sands, Emily Treen, & Brent McFerran, Journal of Interactive Marketing
DeBunking, Prebunking and Autonomy
Even the best businesses can be negatively affected by deliberately destructive sabotage efforts. In an age of social media, anyone can distort a story or create a rumor, and the spicier the story, the more likely it will travel far and wide.
A research project at the University of Alabama set out to determine the best sort of defense for these sorts of events. While we might be familiar with debunking (that is, dispelling a myth), prebunking is also an option, that is, taking steps before a disinformation attack goes viral.
The experiment involved 965 participants, and used material derived from actual disinformation attacks against the Humane Society. Based on participant responses, a few recommendations for businesses and PR professionals evolved. The best approach is to incorporate elements of each of the following in messaging:
- PreBunking: “Sometimes, we are attacked with malicious falsehoods…”
- Autonomy reminders: “You will have to choose who to believe…”
- And finally, explicit, transparent details that distinguish truth from falsehood.
The worst approach? Ignoring the problem. Ignoring the damaging disinformation created conditions in which it was more likely to be spread and shared. It’s always best to squash it directly.
Examining Characteristics of Prebunking Strategies to Overcome PR Disinformation Attacks – Courtney D.Boman, Public Relations Review