When most of us think of applications of behaviour analysis, we think of ways in which the principles can be be applied to enhance educational outcomes, particularly for children with special needs. However, behavioural principles can also by applied in business to help people to perform better, to do their jobs more safely and feel more appreciated and satisfied at work.
In every business there are jobs that need to be done for business to get done. The better employees do those jobs, the better the business does. Behavioral consultants seek to find ways to enhance employee performance. Most companies think that they incentivise good performance, but too often employees perform well in spite of the way the company is set up rather than because of it. Behavioural consultants typically begin by doing detailed behavioural surveys to objectively measure behavior. Performance issues are diagnosed and attributed to physical environmental problems, training issues or motivational issues, so that effective treatment plans can be designed.
Doing our work safely is an ethical priority. Some work by its very nature exposes employees to personal risks and we must do our best to keep our employees safe. Behavioral safety is quite often a focus of behavior change plans developed by organizational behavior analysts. From a behavioral perspective, most of the time that people take risks, they do so because they prospect of something bad happening seems very unlikely. In such cases, low probability of the danger means that the employee may ignore it. This happens to all of us – we tend to discount the importance of unlikely events. In addition, in a work setting, there are sometimes benefits in doing something risky such as doing a job more quickly or more easily. Behavioral safety specialists also investigate environmental issues, training issue and motivational issues, usually in an attempt to make dangerous risk more obvious to employees and to reduce any pressure on them to take risks.
Sometimes, taking a behavioral approach to work can seem like it focuses on tangible outcomes such as pay and not on other important motivations such as worker satisfaction. Given the scientific language used, it can sometimes seem that way. However, worker satisfation is the most important feature of an effective behavioral intervention. It is the best predictor of the long-term change in an organization. For this reason, behavioral consultant alway focus first on designing a workplace in which employees are recognised and respected and feel that they themselves can gain by doing what the company needs from them. A situation in which we feel that work because we want something or we will gain from it, is typical of positive reinforcement. Workplaces that provide effective positive reinforcement tend to have increased employee creativity, increased discretionary effort and increased employee loyalty.
Usually, in the long-term, the employee’s job is dependent on the company achieving their objectives, and sometimes this means that employees feel that work because they ‘have to’; that they will lose something if they don’t do what’s expected. This experience is typical of a predominantly negative reinforcement environment. Workplaces that depend on negative reinforcement will tend to have reduced employee morale, increased employee aggression (sometime indirectly through theft and other methods) and high employee turnover.
Aubrey Daniels on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-zfwdlmysA
Examples of Behavioral Consultancy companies