“Want to reinforce someone else’s behavior? For learning new behaviors, use the fixed-internal and fixed-ratio schedules. (When it comes to maintaining behaviors, the variable-ratio schedule is most effective.)”

What a load of crap!

And that was an expert on a very well-known and popular HR site.

If you are in HR and you hear someone talk to you about how to motivate your employees and they start talking about conditioning and reinforcement theory – RUN FOR THE HILLS.

This type of information is complete garbage.Holiday Inn Express 3

I think sometimes people read popular books and then try to apply that thinking to employee programs. As an example… I’m sure someone read the book Switch and came across this excerpt:

Instead, trainers set a behavioral destination and then use ‘approximations,’ meaning that they reward each tiny step toward the destination. For example, in the first hour of the first day of training, the future skateboarding monkey gets a chunk of mango for not freaking out when the trainer puts the board in his cage. Later, he gets mango for touching the board, then for sitting on it, then for letting the trainer push him back and forth on it. Mango, mango, mango. Hundreds of sessions later, you’ve got a mango-bloated monkey ready to skate a half-pipe.”

From this – with ZERO critical thinking – the reader assumed the same process would work with their employees.

And it’s garbage!

mike habermanTake a listen to the podcast below with Mike Haberman – lead consultant/owner of Omega HR Solutions – and behavioral psychology student/expert. Check his site and follow him on twitter at @MikeHaberman.

Take 20 minutes to listen to us kick the tires on this idea of motivation and “conditioning” employees.

The net-net is that this kind of advice A.) Won’t work and B.) Is a load of hooey designed to make the person sound smart and sell you awards.

As Mike says in the discussion if variable reinforcement is the best way to drive behavior then start paying people on a variable schedule. Pay them this week… wait a few weeks and then pay them again… then wait a day and pay them again… then wait one week and pay them. Based on what the “expert” on the site I quoted at the beginning of this post said this is the BEST way to manage employee behavior.

Go ahead – just try to do that with your employees and then get back to me on how that went for you.

Listen to the podcast and be better educated on the way in which you can reinforce and manage behaviors in a human way – based on REAL motivation and influence information and not on sales talk.

Hit me in the comments if you think differently.

As always – if you can’t see the embedded podcast or the bonus video below – click through to the site and the post here.

Bonus Material: Below is the video from the office with Jim and Dwight I referenced near the end of the podcast.

The Office Classical Conditioning from Susann Stanley on Vimeo.