Positive Reinforcement In Online Training: What eLearning Professionals Should Know
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What eLearning Professionals Should Know About Positive Reinforcement In Online Training

According to the operant conditioning theory, when reinforcement, whether positive or negative, and punishment are applied in a learning environment they can modify behavior. Especially positive reinforcement, such as encouragement and rewarding, can strengthen a behavior and shape skill performance in a desired manner.

In a corporate environment, positive reinforcement is often used to enhance employees’ motivation, decrease absenteeism, and increase productivity. It sounds ideal for enhancing the effectiveness of your online training courses, but how exactly can you use this powerful technique as an eLearning professional? In this article, I'll show you 5 effective tips to achieve the best results possible; but first, let's have a look at how using positive reinforcement benefits online training.

4 Benefits Of Using Positive Reinforcement In Online Training

Positive reinforcement helps your employees feel more comfortable and more confident about their abilities. But this is not the only advantage of using it:

  1. It boosts performance. 
    Lack of positive feedback often leads to dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction leads to poor performance. On the contrary, as praise makes it more likely for a desired behavior to reoccur in the future, positively reinforcing an employee who has learned a new technique during online training increases the chances of good performance happening again.
  2. It increases productivity.
    Feeling confident produces more ideas, more innovation, and more creativity; when your employees receive recognition, they become eager to learn more in order to accept more responsibility and, consequently, this increases their job commitment and productivity levels.
  3. It fosters a positive work atmosphere.
    When your employees feel that their efforts are appreciated, work morale is improved. This creates a positive atmosphere in the workplace, which encourages effective teamwork and collaboration.
  4. It creates a sense of worth.
    When your employees have doubts about their online training performance, they also have little faith in their abilities in general. Positive reinforcement reassures them that their learning efforts are recognized and this makes them feel good about themselves, increasing their sense of self-worth.

5 Tips To Use Positive Reinforcement In Online Training

It is clear by now that positive reinforcement is an essential element of successful online training. Here are 5 ways to use it effectively:

  1. Set clear eLearning objectives and goals.
    To determine desired behavior you need to set clear eLearning objectives; when your employees know exactly what is expected of them, it is more likely that they will succeed. Unclear expectations and learning goals frustrate employees, as they don’t have enough information about making the necessary changes. To reinforce successfully, you need to be specific; only then you will be able to increase your employees’ tendency to attempt the expected behavior and achieve results.
  2. Implement praise to stimulate intrinsic motivation.
    You may already know that intrinsic motivation is one of the most powerful human drives; it inspires people to explore and actualize their potentials and is able to convert any online training course into a rewarding eLearning experience. In order to stimulate your employees’ intrinsic motivation, consider following this simple technique: First, determine the desired behavior using clear learning objectives, as mentioned above; second, allow employees to practice behaviors; and finally, recognize the desired behavior. This final step will increase both positive reaction and intrinsic motivation, as feeling positively about doing something (i.e. learning and performing well) increases the chances to keep doing it. Positive reinforcement when your employees engage in  desired actions, such as higher performance, will help them understand that achieving results will make them feel good about themselves, and thus they will become motivated to keep trying and have their efforts be recognized again.
  3. Offer positive, constructive feedback.
    When positive feedback is exaggerated, the tendency to attempt the desired behavior is reduced. Effective positive reinforcement means genuine positive reinforcement; if you treat your employees like children, praising them over insignificant achievements, they will feel dissatisfied and thus demotivated to “please” you. This is why you need to always provide positive, but sincere feedback. Find ways to build in opportunities for recognition that reflects true effort, and make clear that participating in online training will contribute to your employees’ professional development. Reinforce positive actions by offering specific information about what is done right, and show genuine appreciation for real achievements.
  4. Make sure that your online training course is relevant to your audience.
    When your employees take online training courses that are irrelevant to their real work situation, it makes them feel that they are wasting their time; thus, it is only natural that they lose interest and their motivation levels decrease. Positive reinforcement only works when it has meaning; how would you feel if you were praised for reaching a goal that didn’t really make any difference to your personal and professional life? This is why you need to always find ways to establish relevance in your online training programs. Consider customizing your online training course to create an emotional connection between their employees and their online training, as well as to motivate them improve their performance. Offer stories and eLearning scenarios with real world benefits and help your audience understand that what they are learning is important to both them and the organization. When employees see that their online training is vital to their success, positive reinforcement when they achieve results has much more value.
  5. Time your positive reinforcement carefully.
    Finally, to encourage positive behavior and increase the chances of your employees repeating it, you need to make sure that the timing of encouragement is right. Ensure that your positive reinforcement is:

    • Immediate.
      Praising your employees immediately after they achieved, for example, strong teamwork or quality production motivates them to stay engaged in doing good work and makes it more likely for them to repeat it in the future.
    • Gradual.
      Reinforcement should follow performance improvement, which is, more often than not, gradual.
    • Proportional.
      Again, exaggerated positive reinforcement leads to decreased motivation.
    • Frequent, but unpredictable.
      Random positive reinforcement is more effective, as when your employees are expecting to be regularly praised they lose interest. Make them feel that the bar can be raised at any moment and keep them alert.

Appreciating desirable employee behavior is critical to increasing your workforce’s motivation in order to boost their performance. Follow these tips and make sure that your employees not only turn desired behaviors into a habit, but also feel recognized, valued, and inspired.

Now that you know the benefits of positive reinforcement and how to use it in your online training program, you may be interested in learning more about motivating your employees in a positive way. Read the article 11 Tips To Encourage Positive Attitude In eLearning and find out how encouraging positive attitude sets the right tone for an eLearning course that greatly increases the hope, engagement, and motivation levels of your corporate audience.

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