Employee Engagement Lessons from Pizza

Today is National Pizza Day. A day to celebrate one of America’s favorite foods. And – for some people – a very effective way to boost employee engagement.

Pizza? Employee Engagement? Hasn’t research proven that perks don’t work for boosting engagement?

For the most part this is true. But studies show that strategic rewards and recognition (even in the form of pizza) boost employee engagement.

employee engagement

The Employee Engagement Pizza Study

In the book Payoff, the Hidden Logic that Shapes our Motivations, researcher Dan Ariely details a study of semiconductor workers in Israel. The workers were broken into four groups:

  1. The control group – which got no rewards. It was business as usual.
  2. The compliment group – which got verbal recognition for their work.
  3. The pizza group – who got a voucher for a free pizza if they met their weekly goal.
  4. The cash group – who got an approximately $30 bonus for meeting a goal.

The surprise? The group getting a cash bonus performed worse than the control group. In the end, it cost the company more to do a cash bonus than the return they got out of the employees.

On the other hand, the pizza group performed better. And the compliment group performed the best overall.

His conclusion? Giving people what they really want at work motivates them to engage with their jobs more than an impersonal cash bonus. This group of people happened to like pizza – and compliments.

Employee Engagement Tips

How do you implement these employee engagement lessons into your company’s approach?

Offer rewards and recognition that build the four pillars of the employee experience. Our research in the Employee Experience Quantified shows that employees engage more when they have a daily experience full of the four pillars of Impact, Connection, Meaning, and Appreciation.

Here are three tips for doing just that:

    • Make recognition part of your daily culture. Specific, timely, authentic recognition shows employees that their work is appreciated – and can show the Impact and Meaning of their work. And the stats show that recognition works. Glassdoor has shown that 81% of employees say they will work harder for an appreciative boss.
    • Tie rewards to recognition. Sometimes, rewards on their own can be demotivating. Working just for the reward makes the reward less meaningful over time and can lead employees to behavior that doesn’t move a company forward. On the other hand, having a reward spontaneously attached to a piece of recognition boosts the impact of both the reward and the recognition.
    • Let employees choose the rewards that matter to them. Meaningful rewards matter. Some employees find pizza meaningful. Others might prefer a gift card. Still others may prefer to get a reward that they can donate to a charity. Offering a variety of rewards that speak to employees ensures that the rewards stay motivating


For more tips on rewards and recognition that build employee engagement, see our guide: Rewards and Recognition that works.

About Kazoo

Kazoo is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, Kazoo grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact, and appreciation. To request a demo, visit info.kazoohr.com/demo-request.