What Makes Employees Want to Work Harder, Faster, and Smarter? -

What Makes Employees Want to Work Harder, Faster, and Smarter?


By Stephen Alfano

It’s simple: Positive reinforcement. According to Dictionary.com, positive reinforcement is, “the offering of desirable effects or consequences for behavior with the intention of increasing the chance of that behavior being repeated in the future.” In other words, it’s rewarding good behavior to encourage getting similar good behavior again and again. In essence, it’s a form of conditioning.

Positive reinforcement is often a capstone to an employee engagement strategy that consists of uplifting communication, rewarding accomplishment, and skill-building empowerment. Better still, positive reinforcement is often at the heart of a scalable, measurable, and successful organizational change management plan.

Here is a simple reference guide on positive reinforcement best practices in the workplace:

  • Avoid cliché or trendy catch phrases when giving out compliments. After all, when was the last time you were motivated by a dated platitude like, “Thanks for giving 110%!”?
  • Give out the reward as soon as possible after the good behavior to keep people engaged.
  • Provide specific feedback about what the reward recipient did to deserve the reward.
  • Make sure the reward is relevant and proportional to the accomplishment. For example, a gift certificate for dinner out is a thoughtful and commensurate reward for the recipient who volunteered to work late.
  • Be mindful that some individuals may feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. So, get the reward recipient’s permission before you share the news of their accomplishment with other employees.

For more information on positive reinforcement at work, check out the following links:

Why Is Positive Reinforcement Important in the Workplace?, by Chris Joseph, studioD via Houston Chronicle

Using Positive Reinforcement in Employee Motivation, by Dr. Seidenfeld via Advantage Business Media

Coaching and the Power of Positive Reinforcement, by Don Levonius via Association for Talent Development (ATD)

What type of positive reinforcement do you find most motivating as an employee?

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Development Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 25 years of experience leading and managing internal and external marketing initiatives for both private and government sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and support services to California State Departments and nonprofit organizations.

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