Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Employee motivation tip: Keep it simple

In a recent experiment at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, two psychologists decided to investigate the idea that the simplicity of how a task is described and processed affects our attitude toward the task and our willingness to try it.

The two psychologists wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. All of the students were given a set of instructions for a regular exercise routine.

Some students in the group received a set of instructions printed in Arial typeface, an easy-to read plain font. Other students received instructions printed in Brush typeface, a font that resembles hand-written script with a Japanese paintbrush, something that was unfamiliar and harder to read.

After the students had a chance to read over the instructions, the psychologists asked them a series of questions regarding the exercise routine: how long would it take, would it be boring or exciting, how likely would they be to make the exercise plan a part of their daily routine, and so on.

The findings

The psychologists found that the students who received the easy-to-read instructions were much more open to the idea of fitting the exercise routine into their daily schedule. They thought the regimen wouldn’t take up much of their time and would feel easy.

Those who had to read through the unfamiliar Japanese brushstrokes wanted nothing to do with the gym. Trying to decipher what was said in the instructions was enough exercise for one day.

To double-check their findings, the psychologists set up another experiment where a group of people were asked to prepare food. Again, some were given the easy-to-read instructions and others were given the difficult set.

The second experiment backed-up their findings from the first study. People who read the “more digestible” instructions were more likely to attempt preparing Japanese sushi. Those who read the harder to read instructions did not want to try it themselves.

Keep it simple

Whether you’re training employees on the correct way to wear personal protective equipment or how to put together a sales report, explaining the process in a simple format will increase the likelihood that they’ll want to try it.

Employee motivation tip of the day: Don’t make something sound or look harder than it is. Keep it short, sweet and simple.

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