The beneficial impact on staff workrate and morale of an active, personal interest being shown by management. The term derives from Mayo’s researches into workplace behaviour at a factory at Hawthorne, USA between 1927 and 1932.
Mayo was a follower of F W Taylor’s methods and was attempting to measure the impact on productivity of improving the lighting conditions within the factory. He followed Taylor’s scientific principles by testing the changes against a control, a section of the factory with unchanged lighting. Although productivity rose where the lighting was improved, Mayo was surprised to find a similar benefit where no physical changes had taken place.
This led him to conduct a series of further experiments which cast serious doubts on Taylor’s assumptions about the absolute importance of money in motivation. The phrase ‘the Hawthorne effect’ remains in use worldwide as an example of the importance of human relations in business.