A Publication of WTVP

One of the cornerstones of work motivation is the manner in which employees are rewarded for their performance. Organizations that reward their employees in accordance with performance typically experience fewer problems than organizations that do not.

The effectiveness of a reward on improving employee performance depends on its timing. In other words, how effective a reward will be is determined in part by the schedule used to disseminate the reward. Supervisors should be familiar with the two basic types of reward schedules.

Under the continuous reward schedule, every time a worker emits a desired work behavior, they receive a reward. With this schedule, the desired work behavior is learned quickly, but when the reward is removed, the behavior decreases rapidly. Such a reward schedule is recommended during training (formal or on-the-job) to maximize the speed of learning a task. However, unless the organization adopts a piece-rate system, permanent use of this schedule is highly impractical. Supervisors do not have time to observe and reward every desired behavior of every subordinate, nor can the company afford to do so financially.

Neither is it practical to give every desired behavior psychological rewards such as praise. Consequently, supervisors should consider partial reward schedules when administering either financial or nonfinancial rewards.

A partial reward schedule does not give a reward after every desired work behavior. Although such a behavior may take longer to master using this schedule, it will be more permanent. A partial reward schedule is also frequently more practical than the continuous reward schedule. There are four kinds of partial reward schedules—two are based on time intervals, and two on the number of times an employee engages in a desired work behavior.

Psychologists found of all the reward (reinforcement) schedules, the variable ratio schedule is the most effective in sustaining a response. This reward schedule is also practical since the supervisor does not have to notice and reward every desired work behavior for every subordinate.

The manager must impress on the subordinate that, regardless of which reward is used, the reward is granted for engaging in desired behavior or for performance to which the behavior leads. The supervisor must make every effort to convince the employee of the connection between reward and desired behavior that leads to good performance.

Reward programs can be designed to fit the culture of any organization. The key is making sure it fits yours. IBI