Reward behavior to retain employees, don’t condone bad behavior

Pet food industry leaders are familiar with dogs, cats and other pets. Both managers and employees are animals, too, and many of the same reinforcement and positive feedback strategies work for people and pets. Keeping a pet happy and doing the right things have a lot in common with helping employees succeed, said Mary Kelly, founder of Productive Leaders, during a May 3 presentation at the Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Reward good behavior when you see it just like you would with your pets,” she said. “When you train a horse or a dog and they do the right thing, you let them know. Let your people know the same, because you get what you reward. Whether it’s your customers or your employees or your suppliers. Statistics show that the best motivation is if you are at the top of your organization and telling people they are doing a great job means a lot. The next level of appreciation comes from your colleagues. So help your colleagues know when they’ve done a good job.”

Reward specific behaviors

Make recognition and rewards very specific. General praise does not reinforce specific behaviors.

“If you’re going to reward people, make sure you do it for specific actions,” he said. “No, ‘thanks everyone for participating in the Petfood forum, it was great.’ No, exactly, great job on the setup, making sure the booth looks great, making sure we have a consistent system. I appreciate all your attention to detail.”

However, this praise should not be at the expense of another employee. Shaming Peter to praise Paul does not work.

Don’t reinforce negative behavior

At the same time, pet food managers must not allow bad behavior to continue. Like a German Shepard puppy that chews on a toe, if that dog grows up thinking that biting people is okay, the pet owner is in for serious trouble.

“If it was good today, it should be good tomorrow,” he said. “Otherwise you’re wasting resources.”

The actions that the leader will reward should be specified, as should the unacceptable behavior be specifically identified.

“Be clear about what you expect from people,” he said. “What people want and need is good quality products. They want their interactions with people to be pleasant, and they want the buying process and the entire working relationship process to be easy.

“Because after all, folks, we’re just like your dogs,” he said. “We all respond to stimuli.”

Homo sapiens respond to the same teaching methods as canis familiar or Felis catus.

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