It's (Not) All About the Jacksons: Testing Different Types of Short-Term Bonuses in the Field

The use of short-term bonuses to motivate employees has become an organizational regularity, but a thorough understanding of the relationship between these incentives and actual performance is lacking. We aim to advance this understanding by examining how three types of bonuses (cash, family meal voucher, and verbal reward) affect employees’ productivity in a field experiment conducted in a high-tech manufacturing factory. While all types of bonuses increased performance by over 5%, nonmonetary short-term bonuses had a slight advantage over monetary bonuses. In addition, the removal of the bonuses led to decreased productivity for monetary bonuses but not for the verbal reward. However, this negative effect of monetary short-term bonuses diminishes when a cash bonus is chosen by employees rather than granted by default. Theoretical implications about the effect of short-term bonuses on intrinsic motivation and reciprocity, as well as practical applications of short-term bonus plans that stem from our findings, are discussed.

Policy implications 
Incentives can play a key role in improving individual productivity, reducing absenteeism, and organisational performance. When designing incentives, the length of incentives and their impact on both job satisfaction and productivity need to be considered.
Bareket-Bojmel, L., Hochman, G., & Ariely, D., 2014. 'It’s (Not) All About the Jacksons Testing Different Types of Short-Term Bonuses in the Field'. Journal of Management, 0149206314535441.