Many of you have heard about B.F. Skinner and his experiments with pigeons. For those of you who haven’t, Skinner was a researcher within the field of experimental and behavioral psychology. His research on how to shape positive and negative behavior using pigeons demonstrated what he called operant conditioning as a way of learning. The pigeon’s actions were effected by the consequences the act would have. But instead of using punishment, Skinner discovered the power of reinforcement.
Punishment would not reduce the specific behavior, it would just make one try to avoid the punishment in the future. A more successful way to help people change their behavior is by implementing positive and negative reinforcements. And such knowledge can be applied to employees.
Focusing on positive reinforcement, I want to show you how this can be used as employee motivation. For example, if you observe an employee doing a good job, you should reward this behavior in order to strengthen it. You’ll actually increase the chances of the good behavior to be repeated over again.
Consider these suggestions:
- Praise the employee immediately after the wanted behavior. By doing this, the employee will connect the good feelings of getting praise with the recent behavior. The behavior, which now is connected to the feeling of achievement, are most likely to be repeated. Also, you should give specific information about what he or she did right if you want it to continue. Remember to be genuine in your compliments. Who haven´t been praised by someone who didn´t seem to mean it by heart? It didn´t feel real, did it? So make sure your employee feels that you really mean what you say.
- A way of making praise more reliable is to give it when it´s not expected.
- Reinforcing on regular basis, on the other hand, will only make it predictable, as if it was a part of your routine. You don´t want to do that.
- Last, don´t wait for something great to happen. Even though you want to make your praise somewhat exclusive, you still want to let the employees know they´re heading the right direction. Reward may therefore be given even at small improvements, but if you want to keep it genuine, the reinforcements should be proportionate to the importance of the behavior.
Positive reinforcement promotes good behavior because it communicates what is expected. Without any feedback, the employee won’t be able to know what he or she is doing that’s right. Also, showing appreciation will help increase the employee’s job commitment. And can you easily implement this in your job? The answer is YES. You’ll soon discover the pleasure of praising others.