Ice cream sundaes, staying up past our bedtimes, shiny new toys – these are some of the things that parents utilize to incentivize their children.From a young age, we’ve grown accustomed to being praised for good behavior or hard work. Adults are just like kids; they want those ice cream sundaes for their hard work too.
In training and development workshops, managers are always looking for ways to motivate their employees and in turn produce better results. There’s a couple different ways to do this, which include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and behavior modification. One of the best ways to motivate employees or a team is through positive reinforcement.
What is positive reinforcement? Positive reinforcement is when the learner gets a pleasurable outcome for increasing his/her behavior. Rewarding your employees when they do a good job leads to conditioning them into doing well all the time.
Of course, there are times when trainers need to utilize a more assertive approach, point out unacceptable behavior, and provide constructive feedback. But most of the time, it’s much more powerful to redirect employees’ focus and inspire them to move in a better direction.
Naturally, people are drawn to being positively recognized. Empowering employees with recognition that reflects what works best, leads to the stuff that doesn’t work being eliminated.
In The Office, Andy implements a point program for the employees to motivate them to achieve the best sales numbers they’ve ever seen. The basic rewards system allows people to get points fordoing good work and eventually redeeming their points for prizes.
Andy explained the system by saying “you do your job better, you get points.”
At first, Andy gave prize options that didn’t meet his employees’ needs, like teddy bears and maternity clothes. By giving prizes that have little to no meaning to the employees, there is no motivation for them to change their work habits. With that said, managers have to make sure that positive reinforcement aligns with what their employees want. Also, positive reinforcement doesn’t always have to be done on a large scale, giving someone a thank you note also works as an everyday form of positive reinforcement.
Jim asks Andy what would happen if he got 500 points and so on. Andy, clearly not thinking his awards system through, says that it’s unlikely that people will get to 500 points, since the number is so big. However, he still implements prize options for these high numbers, which include tattooing his butt for 5,000 points.
Another tactic that Andy used was allowing employees to pull their points together, which not only made a more cohesive unit, but also motivated them to work more.
Positive reinforcement has the ability to change the atmosphere in the workplace.There wasa clear mood shift at the office, as everyone wanted to see him tattoo his butt and it only took one day to reach their goal of 5,000.
In the example from The Office, the idea was there, but Andy’s execution was insufficient. He knew that positive reinforcement could work to his benefit and motivate everyone in the office. However, his execution faltered when he utilized weak reinforcement methods, as well as only thinking about the short term.
To be successful, Andy,and managers alike, should come up with a positive reinforcement plan that is both long term and well thought out to meet the needs of the people they are trying to motivate.