Offering workers a bonus that they can give to charities or their co-workers may increase job satisfaction and team sales, according to a new study.
In one experiment, some employees at a bank were given a $25 (R250) or $50 (R500) voucher to donate to the charity of their choice on behalf of the company. Those who donated the larger amount reported higher levels of happiness and job satisfaction than those who donated the smaller amount or did not donate.
In other experiments, the researchers measured the performance of 11 sports teams in Canada and 14 drug-sales teams in Belgium after a third of the people on each team were given $20 to spend either on themselves or on their teammates.
When participants spent their bonuses on teammates, the whole team performed much better than when participants spent their bonuses on themselves, according to Lalin Anik, of the School of Business at Duke University, and colleagues.
The researchers said the boost in team performance might increase earnings as a whole. For example, every $10 given to a person on a drug-sales team to spend on their colleagues led to a $52 increase in sales.
The study was published on 18 September in the journal PLoS One.
Although the study found associations between giving away bonus money and increased worker satisfaction or better team performance, it did not establish cause-and-effect relationships.
"[The findings] suggest that a minor adjustment to employee bonuses – shifting the focus from the self to others – can create a more altruistic, satisfying and productive workplace," Anik said in a journal news release.
HRVoice.org outlines ways to increase employee satisfaction.