How positive reinforcement can benefit your business by Alessandro des Dorides

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“You’ve got to use a powerful tool to make your business boom,” says global business consultant Alessandro des Dorides. Here’s why he claims it’s time to jump on board the positive reinforcement wagon and influence employees’ behaviour to the max.

Associate behaviour with reward

Who? B.F Skinner was a psychologist back in the 1930s who came up with a theory about learning through reward and punishment.

Skinner placed a hungry rat in a ‘Skinner box’. The box contained a lever. When the rat moved around and accidentally knocked the lever, a food pellet would drop next to the lever.

The rat quickly learned to go straight to the lever after a few times of being put in the box. The consequence of receiving food if they pressed the lever ensured that they would repeat the action over and over.

Skinner called this ‘conditioning’ – individuals make an association between a certain behaviour and a consequence.

For example, rewarding a sales rep for hitting his targets means they will continue trying to strive for them.

Use incentives for staff

One way of using positive reinforcement is incentives.

To incentivise is to motivate and to motivate is to create action – and after all, what is business all about?

What do employees want most? Probably a promotion or a salary rise. These serve two purposes, acting as a positive reinforcement for the employee and an incentive for others who see it.

Rewarding behaviour and instilling the expectation of rewards is a powerful tool when managing employees. This can be as simple as acknowledgment in the company weekly newsletter of how well someone has met their targets and simply, encouragement. This could be a verbal ‘well done’ in the morning meeting.

After all, no one likes working their backside off for something and getting zero reward for it. Feedback that is positive, and preferably in front of others, is always a good place to start.

Encourage customers back

What can you do to incentivise the most important people to your business?

Here are a few things to try to keep those one-time users of your business coming back for more.

You could try offering discounts when they place a second order with you. This will encourage them to use you rather than a rival when they need a similar product or service.

Who doesn’t like freebies? This is a great way to positively reinforce the message for customers. You’re not trying to trick them but more, to make them think about your business next time.

Limited stock? Really? Or are you using it as a tactic? Quite often using words like limited stock or sale ends tomorrow often encourages immediate action.

Avoid negative reinforcement

If you want to change someone’s behaviour, rewarding the new behaviour is more effective than punishing the behaviour you don’t want. After all, no one likes being nagged.

Punishment only makes staff feel aggrieved or alienated, which ultimately makes the desired behavioural change unlikely. If you want to succeed with your employees, you’ve got to use reward and positive reinforcement. Reward leaves employees feeling proud.

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