Reinforcement Case Study
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Reinforcement theory is the process of shaping behavior by controlling the consequences of the behavior (Helms, 2006). It is one of the older approaches to motivation; derived from B.F. Skinner's (1969) work (Redmond, 2010). With the use of rewards and punishments, desired behaviors can be reinforced, while unwanted behaviors can be extinguished. Reinforcement can be implemented into many different situations where individuals are trying to motivate others, as well as meet a variety of different needs. These different reinforcement systems deal with responses to stimuli, and their consequences. Behavior is punished or reinforced in positive or negative ways. After Skinner published his findings on the reinforcement theory in 1969, application of theory concepts in an industrial setting have been extensively studied. These studies have proven that reinforcement theory and behavior modification can help management significantly with employee motivation. "Reinforcement theory suggests to managers that they can improve employees' performance by a process of behavior modification in which they reinforce desired behaviors and punish undesired behaviors (Barnet, 2011)." Application of this theory in the workplace is evidenced in a case study regarding a Sears Department Store in Altoona, Pennsylvania. In 2006, a manager at this store was having trouble getting his employees to encourage customers to apply for a Sears credit card. Employees were not promoting credit card applications because customers often said no, and the credit card applications did not benefit the employees in any way. The manager developed a plan to use reinforcement to raise the number of credit card applications. This case study examines how the use of reinforcement increased credit card applications in the Altoona store. Details of Case
Initially, an Altoona, PA branch manager of Sears, Roebuck and Co., held a meeting for all employees of his branch to explain the importance of opening new credit card accounts. He focused only on how the company benefits from store credit, and he expressed that he wanted to be the number one store for credit card applications. Credit card applications went up slightly after the meeting, but soon went down to the normal low. The manager held another meeting for all employees to once again discuss this issue. This time he directed his attention away from the company benefits and focused on the employees. The boss announced a revised job description at this meeting. He developed a new set of questions employees had to ask every customer: “Do you have a Sears credit card with us... Would you like to open a Sears credit card today to save ten dollars off of your purchase?” By offering customers ten dollars off on their current purchase, he thought credit card applications would go up. He began offering all employees an extra two dollars on their pay check for each credit card application. The employees still received two dollars even if the customer was declined credit. In order to receive two dollars per application, the employees had to have five applications per month. Without at least five, the employees would get paid nothing. Every ninety days, the applications would be counted, and the person with the highest amount would be recognized by having his/her picture hung on the bulletin board in the staff lounge; his/her name was announced at the morning meetings, and he/she received a twenty five dollar Sears gift card.
On the other hand, if an employee did not receive five applications each month for ninety days, the employee was required to complete training to help raise his/her credit card...
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