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Corporate charitable giving boosts worker productivity

Bonuses and stock options can improve performance. But employees don't have to receive money directly to get a jump-start on the job.
Working to benefit a good cause can increase productivity by up to 30 percent, according to a new study by the University of Southampton.
When workers were given a social incentive — such as a charitable donation — linked to job performance, productivity jumped by 13 percent on average and up to 30 percent from those who were initially least productive.
"Our results provide empirical support for the growing recognition that some workers are also motivated by advancing social causes through their efforts," University of Southampton economist Dr. Mirco Tonin, lead author of the study, told Science Daily.
The study research went like this: Subjects completed four one-hour online data-entry sessions over the course of a week for £20 (about $30), and productivity was measured by the number of entries and their accuracy.
Researchers broke the subjects into groups and plied them with various incentives. Some were given performance incentives for the number of entries they made, while others were given social incentives — from a lump-sum donation when they finished tasks to donations for each entry.
Both forms of social incentives — lump-sum and performance — improved the number of entries without compromising accuracy.
Still, financial rewards were slightly more effective in motivating workers. "But the difference is not as large as one might have expected," said Dr. Michael Vlassopoulos, co-author of the study.
Social incentives can be as effective as financial rewards when coupled with other motivators such as tax breaks, said Vlassopoulos.
Subjects had the highest productivity when they got to choose how much they gave their charity. On average, workers gave 20 percent of their entry rate, with women being more generous than men.
This means that companies considering corporate giving programs might want to let employees "opt in," said the study authors.
Some companies, like Apple, match employee charitable donations. Apple announced it will start "paying" employees to volunteer, by donating $25 to a charity for each hour an employee donates.
There's no telling yet whether this improves productivity, but showing interest in the charities that employees choose has intangible benefits, said Denise Young Smith, Apple's vice president of human resources.
"Apple believes deeply in leaving the world better than we found it. ... We're inspired by our employees' generosity and take great pride in supporting the causes they're passionate about," Smith told the San Jose Mercury News.
Apple has paid out $50 million in matching donations so far. Other companies, such as Google, match employee donations, and Dow Chemical requires that executives donate a certain percentage of their pay every year.
"The social purpose aids their business," Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor of philanthropy at Indiana University, told the Mercury News. "Companies do well by doing good."
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