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Determining the Right Behavior to Positively Reinforce

The world of work has been much safer in the past 10 years thanks in part to a process called “Behavior-Based Safety. ”We know that unsafe behavior is the root-cause of most accidents and injuries; behavior-based safety (BBS) specifically pinpoints the unsafe behaviors that lead to injuries and the safe behaviors that prevent injuries.

For instance, we know that lifting injuries are one of the most common injuries in the workplace. We are all guilty of unsafe lifting behavior at one time or another, and improper lifting technique will eventually lead to an injury. Unsafe lifting, like most unsafe behavior is caused by the natural reinforcement embedded in the behavior. Proper body positioning, putting on protective equipment, placing tools in the proper position—safe behavior usually takes more time, is more inconvenient, and more uncomfortable for the employee; it requires focus and attention.

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Positively Reinforcing the Highly Motivated Employee

Most American companies are competing to attract and retain talent. Specific management, reward and compensation strategies are directed toward “high performers.” There has been some confusion expressed in management literature about the best way to manage highly motivated people. It is generally accepted that micromanagement constrains their performance potential and thwarts their discretionary initiative.

Surveys and interviews with high performers reveal that most of these employees are internally driven to achieve, and that the developmental conditions and experiences that create their profile can not be duplicated in the work environment.It is clear that contingent compensation, pay-for-performance, and other performance based rewards fit their performance capabilities and incent them to reach their performance potential.

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Supervisory Self-Development: Making Positive Reinforcement a Natural Habit

Most supervisors want to be well-liked by their employees. Many of us don't have a likable personality; we are not well suited to be supervisors. We either don't have the social skills or we are too impatient or we are too perfectionistic. But, we have the job and we're doing our best.

We're told supervisors who get the highest levels of performance from their employees use positive reinforcement (R+). The problems is, positive reinforcement does not work--your efforts to R+ someone are not effective--if you have a poor relationship with the person you are trying to R+. Your relationship with an employee does not improve just because you try to positively reinforce them.

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Positive Reinforcement--It's a Relationship

Companies that have institutionalized positive reinforcement (R+) as a value outperform their competitors. It is not easy; most companies have reward and recognition programs in place, but that does not ensure that leaders, supervisors and managers know how to deliver positive reinforcement--that they know how to actually reinforce employees for value added behavior.

If the company has incentives, contingent compensation, bonuses, rewards, recognition, plaques and awards then what’s the big deal about R+. Aren’t all these things positive reinforcement? No, not really. The value of R+--the reason you want your leaders, managers and supervisors to understand what it is and how to practice it—is because R+ is a "real-time," management.If done properly, it is delivered almost immediately--in real time.It captures employee behavior—best practices, critical new ways of doing things—that may be lost if not identified and mentioned.

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