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March 22, 2011
Keep Employees Happy: Focus on Positive Aspects of Employee Performance

How many aspects of your company’s personnel policies and practices focus on negative performance rather than the positive? For example, do you measure employee absenteeism or attendance? Discipline or commendations? Errors or things done correctly? Why not focus on the positive aspects of performance rather than the negative? Changing the focus can help make the workplace a more positive and enjoyable environment to come to each day.

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Strategy
People are much more motivated by positive reinforcement than by punishment. By focusing on the positive aspects of the employees in your organization rather than the negative, you can more effectively reinforce desired behaviors. Overall, this can have a very motivational affect on the organization. Look for ways to change your focus on performance to a more positive one. You probably will be surprised, even shocked, to see just how many of your policies are negatively based.

A good example of changing from a negative focus to a positive one is how attendance is measured. Typically, an organization will measure absentee rates with certain discipline levels assigned to amounts of time missed by employees. What if instead of focusing your approach on how much time an employee missed you instead focused on how much time they worked, with reinforcement for reaching various levels of attendance?

“Most [employee] evaluation processes hurt rather than help, says Todd Dewett, Ph.D., a business consultant and a professor of management. “They are formal, infrequent and often tied during a specific meeting to discussions of money, all of which make having a real give and take, a real dialogue about performance extremely difficult.” Dewett suggests “daily performance coaching,” in the article "Performance Improvement Should Be an Everyday Occurrence."

Results
Research has shown that reinforcement for desired behaviors is a much greater motivator than punishment as a deterrent for undesired behaviors. Punishment, at best, only stops behavior from occurring. Reinforcement instead creates greater levels of performance. This is not to say that punishment doesn’t still have its place in your policies or in the workplace—just that you shouldn’t be completely focused on these negative aspects of behavior. By creating more positively focused policies, you will find that you are paying attention to a greater percentage of your employees, not just those that are the biggest problems.

Related HR news article:

Keep Employees Motivated: Give Performance Feedback More Often than Once a Year
Should You Automate Talent Management?


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