The Power of Positive Reinforcement

05/01/2024 4:29 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

"This is part therapy. #validation," typed one participant during last week's Learning Event titled "Strategies for Better Engaging Learners."

She was referring to Dr. Bob Nelson's passion for positive reinforcement and his findings that recognition in the workplace is more important than ever.

"Employees are reporting that they are working harder than before, but feel less valued," Dr. Nelson declared.  He stressed the value of engaged employees, pointing out that they deliver 57% more effort than unengaged employees.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Dr. Nelson defined recognition as "acknowledging and appreciating people for their achievements."  He noted that today, 99.4% of employees expect to be recognized when they do good work, but only 12% of employees feel they are recognized in important ways.  The company picnic and snack box gifts are nice, but they aren't necessarily considered recognition because they aren't in response to specific work performed by a specific employee.

From there, Dr. Nelson shared some examples of powerful positive reinforcement that he had uncovered in his years of research in this field.

"I'm going to try the Thank You note activity," Jason Dreyer said. He believes it will be "a great way to incorporate some gratitude into our meetings. Our leadership team is about 50% newer people, so we're still learning to work with each other. Sharing 'thank yous' would help people feel appreciated and seen for their contributions."

Applying Positive Reinforcement to Training and Development

How can these concepts apply to our role in training and development?  Dr. Nelson shared a few ways to apply positive reinforcement techniques throughout a class.

One example Dr. Nelson shared: “If you break into groups you can have a competition just for the training on who did the activity best and you can have something you can give them and it can be a revolving trophy to move on after that person.” 

This idea sparked a memory from another participant. “When I was a teacher,” he shared in chat. “We had a weekly shout out where people would hand over a bowling pin for who was the "rock star" of the week. Every week the holder of the pin would nominate another "rock star" and so on.”

The end of the session was filled with participant-shared examples of how they have used or experienced positive reinforcement, either in the workplace or in the training rooms.  Which, in itself, was another form of therapy.

“I'm an L&D team of one,” explained Jason Dreyer. “So connecting with other L&D professionals helps me stay connected to my field of choice and see that I'm not alone in what I'm doing.”

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