Behavioural Reinforcement

Posted on February 11, 2022

Frankie Reinforcement

Recently our dog Frankie successfully trained us to provide him with pats upon request. A touch of his left paw, upon our leg or arm, means “please pat on left shoulder” and similarly, right paw means “right shoulder”. If we stop patting before he’s done, he simply repeats the action until he’s had enough. We’ve reinforced his “paw-touch” behaviour with pats.

A reinforcer is simply something that occurs following a behaviour that increases the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again in the future. Here, patting behaviours have become highly mutually reinforcing, and a fun way of communicating.

Using reinforcement effectively at work takes a little thought. There are generally many behaviours management needs from their people that could be strengthened using positive reinforcement.

One person I coached, for example, was struggling in their role; his work output was inefficient and he lacked enthusiasm for the job. We clarified the desirable behaviours needed along with optimal timing. Then I provided one form of reinforcement— intermittent verbal praise—for successful work to the new criteria. One of the major outcomes was a 62% reduction in "where are you calls" due to people no longer needing to chase him about work not being done or not being done properly. The highlight for me though was to see new inspiration, motivation, and an overall happier employee.

Using positive reinforcement to strengthen wanted behaviours is a positive way to help people achieve consistent and solid outcomes, and be happy at work. Maintaining positive reinforcement over time also builds trust and forms a wonderful basis for ongoing healthy communication.

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