Shape Up Your Staff

You know that some of the best ideas for improving your small business come from your own employees. But what if you have one who never volunteers any ideas at staff meetings? One way to get them to speak up is to use reinforcement theory. The idea behind it is this: when a behavior gets rewarded, it will get repeated. So catch an employee doing something right and reinforce the specific action. They’ll do it again. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.

  • Take Small Steps – You didn’t just hop on a bike one day and take off. You learned gradually, maybe with training wheels first. The same is true for employees. For the silent staff member problem, try asking for ideas in a one-on-one meeting first. Then when the employee is successful, move on to soliciting ideas in a staff meeting.
  • Make It Meaningful – To be effective, reinforcement has to be meaningful to the employee. For some it might be a compliment, for others it’s being recognized in front of a group. Still others respond to tangible rewards like a cash bonus. In our example, you could reward the employee with a coffee gift card for submitting an idea. Then follow up with an announcement at a staff meeting once the idea is successfully implemented.
  • Connect the Dots – Employees need to make a connection between what they did and the reward they receive. One way to do that is to give the reward as soon as possible after the behavior. In the example, it can be as simple as a thank you note expressing your appreciation for the idea (with the gift card attached).

Smart business owners know that employees are among their most valuable assets. That’s why it’s important to develop your staff so they can perform at their best. Reinforcement theory helps you shape the positive behavior you need to achieve your business goals.

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