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Your 10 Penny Challenge: The Power of Positive Feedback

Motivate employees and transform your workplace culture with just 10 cents.
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A couple of months ago, I got a call from a frustrated client who needed Affinity HR Group’s help.

The previous year, he restructured his customer service team, enacted a new reporting structure, rolled out a new set of performance goals and implemented a new financial incentive plan. He also gave each customer service representative an additional $1 per hour to encourage the behaviors and outcomes he was hoping his new structure would achieve.

Nine months into the new plan his team was not achieving his performance goals or earning the bonus incentives.  

“I just don’t get it,” he said. “The structure is sound and I even gave them an additional buck an hour, but nothing’s working. Actually, performance is worse now than it was before!”

Ah, the old “buck-an-hour” trick.   

You won’t motivate positive behavioral change by throwing a dollar at the problem. For most people, incentivizing behavioral change with cash doesn’t work. At best, you’ll get a little bounce in productivity, which typically only lasts five to six weeks. After that, you’re back to square one.

Trade in your “buck an hour” for 10 pennies instead.

In “Tell Me How I’m Doing – A Fable About the Importance of Giving Feedback” by Richard L. Williams, he describes the four types of feedback:

  • Positive feedback. Designed to encourage a repetition of desirable behavior.
  • Corrective feedback. Designed to correct or change undesirable behavior.
  • Insignificant feedback. Designed to provide support but result in minimal change in behavior.
  • Abusive feedback. Designed to breed contempt and fear.

Williams explains that managers should focus on positive and corrective feedback and discontinue insignificant and abusive feedback as they will have either no effect or will cause harm.

It’s my professional assessment that managers and supervisors are awesome at giving corrective feedback. Here are a few examples:

  • “You’re late again.”
  • “Your skirt is too short.”
  • “You didn’t do what I asked you to.”
  • “Your attitude had better improve or we’re going to put you on a performance improvement plan.”

We’re good at reprimanding employees for an error in their ways, but we are terrible at giving positive feedback. When was the last time you noticed an employee doing exactly what you wanted them to do and gave them praise and recognition for doing their job? Moreover, what if I told you that giving positive feedback is the most important part of your job?

If you dedicate your time to recognizing all the ways your employees are satisfying your expectations, they will work harder to continue to do so—even in areas where they may be falling a bit short. 

In fact, the top contributor to creating an enthusiastic, committed worker is letting them know what you expect and giving them feedback and recognition, according to a Gallup survey.

A company branch manager in Los Angeles had extraordinarily high marks for employee and customer satisfaction. When the corporate office asked the manager the reason behind the outstanding rating, he shared with them his 10 penny rule. 

The manager started every morning with 10 pennies in his right pocket. Every time he gave someone praise or recognition for doing a good job, he moved one penny from his right pocket into his left pocket. At the end of the day, all 10 pennies should have been moved into his left pocket for him to feel that he had done his job well.

Here’s how you can apply this simple rule to get profound results:

1) Dedicate yourself to giving positive feedback each day.

2) Observe someone doing their job according to your wishes.

3) Let the employee know what you observed.

4) Let them know how it makes you feel, such as proud or delighted.

5) Tell them how their behavior contributes to the success of the company.

6) Thank them for their effort.

“What if,” argued one client, “I literally can’t find anything positive to say about an employee?”

I responded that they should either check their expectations or fire the employee.

There should always be something positive to see and something positive to say. Moreover, I believe 90% of our feedback should be positive and only 10% should be corrective. If you have to give corrective feedback, you should start and conclude the conversation by recounting all the ways that the employee is satisfying or exceeding your expectations.

You can completely transform your culture and your workplace by dedicating your time to giving positive feedback. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. 

Forget the “buck-an-hour” incentive. Instead, spend a week with 10 pennies in your pocket and you’ll never doubt the power of positive feedback again.   

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., Big “I” Hires’ affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as Big “I” Hires and their member companies. 

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Recruiting, Hiring & Training