Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Applied Behaviour Analysis in HR management

Working in human resource management is often regarded as one of the most important roles within an organisation, focusing on the heart of any business, the employees. Duties can range from employee engagement and performance to selection of new candidates and training practices. Those lucky souls in HR management are responsible for adding value to the business, whether it be increasing sales or overall employee performance, or disciplining those who are not following the "rules" of the workplace. Applied behaviour analysis can be used to increase desired behaviours and decrease undesired behaviours, which can be particularly relevant to the profession of HR management. 

Positive reinforcement can be put in to practice in a number of ways, perhaps simply verbal praise to increase the likelihood of good performance again. This could be taken a step further, perhaps with the use of monetary incentives which are particularly relevant in a sales driven business. Cynthia (1988), discovered that monetary incentives increased the performance and self-efficacy of employees working in telephone soliciting. Alternatively, organisations could emphasise the opportunities for progression within their employment structure, not just making employees increasingly motivated to earn more, but perhaps feel more valued by their employer and the organisation as a whole. Human resource managers could implement these schemes within their HR practices, demonstrating that the company is one team working together to progress. Within these schemes it is vital to identify exactly what behaviours the company are looking to promote and in turn, reward. 

However, at times, human resources professionals are required to intervene with disciplinary issues. For example if a particular employee is constantly late to work or repeatedly tries to leave work early without a specific reason, reprimands may need to be issued in order to decrease the rate of these behaviours. These reprimands may potentially be part of a set of escalating punishments, perhaps with verbal warnings initially, building up to professional warnings and disciplinary proceedings such as meetings with the employee and management to address the root of the problem. 

Ford (1981) conducted a study where employees with relatively high levels of absenteeism were informed of the repercussions of their absence and its impact on the business' productivity. This procedure led to decreased levels of absenteeism in this specific organisation. This is an example of a type of verbal warning in combination with educating employees on the consequences of their actions in order to decrease their undesired behaviour. It is integral for HR professionals to clearly outline undesirable behaviours to employees to ensure there is no ambiguity surrounding these matters. 

These are just a few of the ways applied behaviour analysis could be applied to HR management and management as a whole. 


Cynthia, L. (1988). The effects of goal setting and monetary incentives on self-efficacy and performance. Journal of Business and Psychology, 2, 366-372. 

Ford, J. E. (1981). A simple punishment procedure for controlling employee absenteeism. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 3, 71-79.

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