Daily Dispatch

Re­search shows a com­pli­ment can achieve more than a tip


The re­sults of a study car­ried out among for­mal and in­for­mal traders in East London sell­ing “slap” chips and ice-cream bring a small ray of hope to fi­nan­cially stretched small busi­ness own­ers.

Re­search by Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity eco­nomics pro­fes­sor Syden Mishi and Univer­sity of Fort Hare Mas­ter’s can­di­date Kelvin Tantsi shows that small busi­ness own­ers can use meth­ods other than money to boost em­ployee pro­duc­tiv­ity.

The study com­pared the ef­fects of giv­ing a cash tip and a com­pli­ment on por­tion sizes at fast-food out­lets — and found that a com­pli­ment given with a smile led to a big­ger help­ing.

“It was done mainly on small for­mal busi­nesses, and a food car­a­van at the end of the street,” Mishi said of the re­search con­ducted at four Buf­falo City eater­ies.

“One of our aims was to show how to mo­ti­vate com­pa­nies, given that they are mainly small busi­nesses who may not be able to pay staff more in wages.”

The Busi­ness & Eco­nomic Sci­ences as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor, who started this Na­tional Re­search Foun­da­tion-funded re­search while at the Univer­sity of Fort Hare in 2018, said the ex­per­i­ment had par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance now.

“We are in lock­down, and there is no doubt this will neg­a­tively af­fect busi­ness, es­pe­cially the small to medium and mi­cro en­ter­prises which are al­ready strug­gling, and to which the gov­ern­ment has pledged sup­port.

“How­ever, our find­ings bring a ray of hope to the in­for­mal sec­tor and to the broader busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“Firms can do bet­ter by com­pli­ment­ing their work force on how they sol­diered on since the first case of Covid-19 in SA, for ex­am­ple, and let them know what it means to the firm for them to be safe and stay healthy.

“Tell them the crit­i­cal role each em­ployee plays in the re­cov­ery path of the firm, and if at all pos­si­ble, as­sure them they will re­ceive full pay dur­ing April and be­yond amid work dis­rup­tions.”

Tantsi, 32, said six stu­dents un­der­took the re­search on the streets of East London, but he had stepped in per­son­ally as well.

The Fac­ulty of Busi­ness and Eco­nomic Sci­ences re­sults specif­i­cally showed that: com­pli­ments in­crease ef­fort as mea­sured by the weight of a prod­uct a shop­per would re­ceive, for ex­am­ple a larger scoop of fried chips, chicken liv­ers or ice­cream; com­pli­ments bring out more ef­fort than a mon­e­tary re­ward or tip; and not com­pli­ment­ing or giv­ing a tip pro­duces the least ef­fort.

Be­havioural in­sights like this are key to un­lock­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and growth in SA, said Mishi.

“Take care of your em­ploy­ees now, and they will be there to help you rebuild your busi­ness and recover from the Covid-19 ef­fects and gen­er­ally de­press­ing macroe­co­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.”

One of our aims was to show how to mo­ti­vate com­pa­nies, given that they are mainly small busi­nesses who may not be able to pay staff more in wages

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