You’ve probably learned about positive reinforcement in psychology classes. Did you know this concept can apply to workplace interactions?

Positive reinforcement involves adding a “reinforcing stimulus” after a specific behavior to make it more likely that the behavior will occur more in the future. If the reinforcing stimulus is a positive or favorable one, people are more likely to commit to that behavior over and over.

It’s a mutually beneficial psychology tactic that works for the sake of a healthy workplace environment. It can make employees communicate better, work more efficiently, and strive towards common goals. But how can one implement positive reinforcement?

In this little guide, we’ll be looking at different examples of positive reinforcement in the workplace and how positive reinforcement in the workplace makes a difference in business outcomes. Let’s take a look.

Some of these examples of positive reinforcement in the workplace may surprise you!

1. Give regular feedback for high-quality work.

Businesses that don’t bother with giving feedback leave their employees in a very stressful position. When will they know if they are doing something right? Is their job security at stake? Is there no way to improve?

Regular feedback on a weekly basis that is very personal to that specific employee is not only good for the mental health of that employee, but it also gives you a resource to look into when considering a promotion or termination.

2. Make sure you’re offering opportunities to advance.

Nobody likes a dead-end job. Nobody likes a job that’s unclear about their advancement opportunities, either.

In the interviewing stage, make it clear how likely the employee is to make a promotion during their stay with the company. Also, consider how difficult or easy you’re currently making it for your employees to advance-- are you providing them with opportunities to grow?

3. Offer performance bonuses.

Performance bonuses are awarded to employees who go above and beyond expectations and reach tangible goals. Performance bonuses offer an incentive to work more diligently and productively, and they also facilitate some healthy competition between employees. Make sure your bonuses are worthwhile and tantalizing-- a weak bonus won’t do much for incentive at all.

4. Offer a competitive salary.

The most basic form of positive reinforcement in the workplace comes down to an employee offering their skills and a business paying them money. The cycle goes on for the lifetime of the business relationship.

Offering a competitive salary is a basic but very effective way to implement positive reinforcement in the workplace. Make it clear why your business is worth considering over the competition.

5. Offer retreats, staff parties, travel opportunities, etc.

Bells and whistles could be a great way to improve positive reinforcement within your business. Offering opportunities to get outside of the office or actually have fun at the workplace on more lax days will encourage productive behavior. If this position involves occasional opportunities to relax and get to know one’s coworkers, why not keep the job and work to advance?

6. Use individualized reinforcement tactics.

All people are unique and no two employees are the same. Every human being has different desires, needs, and wants. As a result, we are all reinforced by different things. Make sure the specific reward you are using for positive reinforcement is having a tangible effect on a specific employee.

For example, some people find monetary gains to be highly reinforcing. Some people may find community and retreats to be more attractive.

7. Avoid connecting reinforcement with punishment.

When rewards and punishment are applied to a reinforcement attempt, they actually both lose their independent impact. For example, a manager could hold weekly meetings to hand out rewards and reward productive employees. Unfortunately, they also hold weekly meetings to punish employees who are doing less than well. This, unfortunately, will remove the reinforcing effect and no one will benefit from the meeting, whether they are doing well or not.

Positive reinforcement can work on a digital platform as well as in “real life.” If you use collaborative software such as Slack for your team, you can use digital incentives to produce positive reinforcement.

KudosBot lets you send kudos to employees who are doing particularly well. You can also invest in digital goal-trackers or visual graph aids for positive reinforcement online.

9. Give your employees opportunities to voice opinions

Sometimes positive reinforcement can be as simple as giving your employees a platform to speak their opinions on different work-related subjects. It’s true that the management and leaders within the company have an amplified voice and get to make more tangible and highly important decisions. However, your team members outside of management aren’t just little workhorses with no input-- your team has insight into parts of your company, a project, or a product that you and your management members simply don’t have.

Give your employees a chance to voice opinions and thoughts on different parts of a project, and go out of your way to ask for it.

10. Offer vacation days.

Knowing that you’ve worked hard and earned a week of vacation can be incentive enough for some employees. And for the employees that aren’t so excited about taking a vacation, offering PTO simply says that your company is worth working for and has valuable assets.