Using Positive Reinforcement to Motivate Employees

You want your team to perform their best. So, what can you do to encourage them? Here’s how to use positive reinforcement to motivate employees.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement seeks to promote desired behaviors by rewarding them. This concept is popular in parenting. Rather than yelling at kids for doing something wrong, parents praise their children when they “catch them being good.” However, keep in mind, positive reinforcement can backfire too. Let’s say a child spends twenty minutes whining for a snack before dinner, and the exasperated parent finally gives in. In this case, the parent positively reinforced a negative behavior – excessive whining.

Examples of positive reinforcement in business could include:

  • A supervisor thanking an employee for helping a coworker;
  • A manager giving his team a day off after they finish a major project on time;
  • A boss was promoting a dedicated worker to a higher-paying position.

Positive Reinforcement Motivates Employees By…

  • Clarifying Expectations
    Positive reinforcement makes expectations more concrete and, thus, easy to follow. Desired behaviors aren’t simply hypothetic. Instead, managers actively encourage employees to act in certain ways with direct and ongoing feedback.
  • Increasing Self Confidence
    Who doesn’t like a pat on the back? Earning an award, a shout out or even a simple thank you, helps people feel better about themselves. And this boost of confidence often translates into a stronger work ethic as well as higher levels of innovation.

Tips for Using Positive Reinforcement

  • Be Specific
    Positive reinforcement requires details. A statement like “good work” doesn’t explain what an employee did right. Therefore, a better choice would be, “I’m impressed with you handled that customer. You kept your cool and quickly found the solution to her problem.”
  • Don’t Delay
    Thanking an employee for something they did three weeks ago is confusing and ineffective. In fact, they may not even remember what you are talking about. Provide feedback ASAP.
  • Reward Frequently and Spontaneously
    Rewarding your team once a year isn’t enough, but saying, “Thank you,” every Friday afternoon quickly becomes predictable and meaningless. Thus, you’ll need to find a balance. Ultimately, positive reinforcement should be authentic (not scheduled) and frequent enough to make a difference.
  • Notice Small Improvements
    Achieving something noteworthy involves lots of small steps. As a result, please don’t wait until an employee reaches a major milestone to praise them. Instead, inspire them with positive reinforcement along the way.
  • Match Rewards to Behaviors
    Giving someone a $100 gift card for picking up a piece of trash doesn’t make sense. Impactful rewards and praise need to match both the behavior and the person. Giving someone a $100 gift card to their favorite store after they finished an important assignment would be more appropriate.

Are You Looking for More Strategies to Motivate Your Employees?

Halpin Staffing Services publishes posts ranging from Creating a Reliable Team with Better Training to Leveraging Your Employees’ Strongest Skills. In addition, if you’re looking to hire motivated people, we can assist with that too! Our recruiters place skilled trades workers, administrative staff, and other professionals throughout Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois. Create a more positive recruiting process by contacting Halpin today!

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