Virgin Atlantic's low-cost solution to motivating staff

Virgin Atlantic's low-cost solution to motivating staff

HR is constantly aiming to optimise staff performance, and in doing so are often looking for ways to change unproductive or inefficient habits.

Virgin Atlantic recently looked in to how to change the habits of their pilots, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions on flights.

In a study conducted by Robert Metcalfe, Greer Gosnell and John List, and printed in the Harvard Business Review, Virgin pilots were tested in three ways in a bid to ascertain the best way to change their patterns of behaviour.

One group were given a monthly summary of their flight performance, with in depth feedback – and told they were being monitored.

The second received the same performance information, as well as a personalised monthly performance target that was 25% above their pre-experiment baseline performance.

The third group received monthly performance information, targets, and an incentive for achieving their targets of £10 donated to the charity of choice per target achieved.

The study found all three groups improved, but those with high targets did best.

“Challenging captains to meet higher performance targets proved to be the most cost-effective intervention,” the study reads.

“Contrary to prior studies that have suggested that prosocial incentives can lead to increased effort, our intervention of offering charitable contributions for meeting targets did not lead to more behaviour change.”

The study concluded that the easiest way to boost staff performance is often completely free.

“Most of the gains came from what we identified as the Hawthorne effect – the sheer awareness of being monitored influenced captains’ fuel efficiency dramatically, whether in the control group or in any of the treatment groups,” the study reads.

“In fact, a vast majority of captains improved on those three fuel-relevant behaviours immediately once the study began.”

Business Grapevine recently reported on Sir Richard Branson's Innovation Challenge he issued to creative customers on LinkedIn.


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