Boosting productivity without additional capital

November 02, 2010

Employers are constantly looking for innovative ways to motivate their workforce. "Self-efficacy," a typical technique, involves improving employees' confidence in their abilities so that they expect greater success. This motivates them to exert greater effort and leads to better performance.

But according to organizational psychologist Prof. Dov Eden of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management, this is only part of the motivational package. Employees must feel confident not only in their own abilities, but also with the tools available to them to accomplish their task, whether those tools are computer software, particular office products or even their co-workers. He calls his new concept "means efficacy," and it can significantly impact workers' motivation and the effort they exert to complete the task at hand.

His approach was presented as a chapter in the book Work Motivation in the Context of a Globalizing Economy (Lawrence Erlbaum).

The best of the best

To put means efficacy into action, says Prof. Eden, you need to convince the target group that they have the best tools available. To test the effectiveness of the concept, he and his fellow researchers conducted two controlled experiments.

In the first experiment, Prof. Eden introduced the same computer system to two groups in a large governmental organization in Israel. For one group, the new computer system was put into effect without commentary. The second group, on the other hand, was given positive information about their system ― they were told it was the best system available, tested in the U.S. and improved for their benefit.

The second experiment took place in a university setting, in which half a class of several hundred physics students were told they had access to the best possible course site ― the same course site as the other half, which received no such characterization.

The results, notes Prof. Eden, were outstanding. In the governmental organization, the experimental group, which believed they had a superior computer system, increased their information processing time by fifty percent compared to the control group, which did not increase their processing time at all. The physics students showed an increase as well ― those who were told they had a superior course site scored 5% higher as a final grade for their course.

Stamping out the negatives

A good manager, says Prof. Eden, knows how to get out and talk to his workers. He should be able to talk to employees about the tools of the workplace and encourage enthusiasm. Workers should be encouraged to believe in the efficacy of the tools.

Moreover, he says, a manager should never give in to negativity from his team. "If you hear anybody say something negative about the tools they have at the office, workplace or any other environment, counter it! Find the positives." All in all, notes Prof. Eden, motivating workers with means efficacy is an opportunity to display good leadership.
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American Friends of Tel Aviv University (www.aftau.org) supports Israel's leading, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning. Independently ranked 94th among the world's top universities for the impact of its research, TAU's innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 10 other universities.

Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship, Tel Aviv University consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

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