It’s a business no-brainer that happy employees make happy customers. But how do you get happy employees that deliver the best possible customer service? It requires employees to move beyond simple compliance of workplace rules and become truly committed to the jobs they do. And moving people to commitment requires positive reinforcement in the leadership system.
Employee engagement has been identified by as a key driver of your company’s profitability and human performance. Sadly, only 15 percent of employees say they are “actively engaged” at work.
So, how precisely do you shift your workplace culture from “I have to do it or I’ll be in trouble” to “I want to do it because I believe in it”? And how do you get more positive reinforcement in your management system?
If you are a leader, your success in business will depend on your ability to deliver positive reinforcement, something that is rarely used by today’s managers and leaders. And, let's be clear: we not talking about steak dinners and handing out T-shirts for lagging indicators.
That’s not an example of positive reinforcement. In fact, those types of “one size fits all” reinforcement actually erode commitment and encourage non-compliance. In short, they breed mediocrity.
When we reward everyone the same, regardless of their level of effort, we are introducing a system that says it doesn’t matter how hard we all work, we’re all going to get the same thing.
True positive reinforcement needs to be individualized and delivered immediately after an employee does something right. That way, the employee will be more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. If an employee demonstrates stellar customer service work, or goes above and beyond to make a guest or client happy, they should be recognized for that. Yes, they are doing their job and that’s what they’re paid to do, but studies show that a paycheck is not as big a motivator as feeling like you are making a difference at work.
Bosses who think they don’t need to tell their employees they are doing a good job are not fully engaging them.
When it comes to engagement, every company has just three kinds of workers: Non-Compliant, Compliant, and Committed. Here’s what each looks like:
Non-Compliant: “I will not follow your rules because I am convinced the only way to get high production is to take risks and shortcuts.”
Compliant: “I will follow your rules as long as someone (a manager, a supervisor, or a peer observer) is standing there watching me. But when that person leaves, I’ll take more risks and shortcuts.”
Committed: “I will follow the rules, when nobody is watching. This is who I am…..”
That ultimate level of employee engagement is commitment. And yet, not many employees are truly committed to the job. Why? Because the management method most bosses use is the classic “Leave Alone/Zap.”
Simply put, it means that we leave employees alone and say nothing when they do something right (giving no positive feedback), but we are quick to “Zap” (punish and negatively reinforce them) when they make a mistake. The problem with “Leave Alone/Zap” management is that it doesn’t get you to the highest level of performance, engagement and commitment. It only gets you a temporary change in behavior which lasts as long as it takes you and your big stick to leave the room.
Without positive reinforcement, you are getting less performance from your team than you could be and your workplace culture will suffer. But if you use positive reinforcement to cultivate engaged, committed employees, all aspects of their work, including customer service, will improve.
Bill Sims, Jr. is president of The Bill Sims Company, Inc. For nearly 30 years, Sims has created behavior-based recognition programs that have helped large and small firms deliver positive reinforcement to inspire better performance from employees and increase bottom line profits.