Five Keys to Positive Reinforcement

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Aubrey Daniels International, a leader in Organizational Behavior Management, brings us an illustrative infographic on how leaders can effectively deliver positive reinforcement to their staff.

These tips will be useful to virtually anyone as the vast majority of us work as part of an organization, be it an ABA service provider, school district, Fortune 500 company, etc…

Let’s walk through the five points one by one:

1) Make it Personal: Reinforcement must mean something to the person receiving it.  I know, I know, some of you are getting all worked up over the loose language here, but “meaning” refers to the conditions under which a reinforcer is given.  For example, providing immediate praise for a staff member after he/she dealt with a customer issue in an exceptional way is much more personal than providing feedback to all of your staff once a year in a mandatory performance review.

2) Make it Immediate: The longer you wait the less effective it is.  In other words, waiting for that annual performance review to provide encouraging words might not have the same performance-enhancing effect as catching your staff in the act of doing something exceptionally well.

3) Make it Frequent: If you’re reinforcing correctly it will never be too much.  In other words, if your reinforcers are reinforcing then they will not become aversive…if they do, then you should take a look at what you are doing.  Remember, a reinforcer is only so if it increases performance.

4) Make it Social: Any interaction without the use of gifts that lets the performer know they are valued.  In other words, building rapport and good working relationships is a key factor in success.  Sending a “thank you” card in the mail with no interpersonal interaction might not be as effective as saying it in person.

5) Make it Earned: It must be contingent on some accomplishment.  Noncontingent Reinforcement (NCR) is a popular intervention technique used in behavior plans — but it is based on a fixed-time schedule independent of what the person is doing.  NCR is also typically used to reduce a problematic behavior.  However, Aubrey Daniels is talking about increasing performance that benefits the organization.  The only way to do that is by connecting reinforcement to that performance.

Do you find these five points beneficial in your organization?  Let us know in the comments below!  Also consider subscribing to bSci21 via email to receive new articles directly to your inbox!


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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