Behavior modification is the application of reinforcement concepts to individuals in the work setting. It is based on the principles of operant conditioning.

It uses positive reinforcement to get desired behaviors. Its purpose is to improve performance. Behavior modification consists of five steps:


                                                           Figure: Steps in Behavior modification

Steps in Behavior modification

1. Identification of critical behaviors:

Actions that make significant impact on performance outcomes are critical behaviors. Generally, 10 percent behaviors account for 70 percent of performance. The methods of identification of critical behaviors can be;

  1. The supervisor or job holder identifies critical behaviors.
  2. A behavior audit is conducted to analyze each job in question. Job analysis techniques are used.

Only direct performance behaviors are included. They should significantly impact performance outcomes.

2. Develop baseline data:

The baseline performance data is developed about critical behaviors. It can be obtained by determining the number of times the identified behavior is occurring under present conditions. This step makes the baseline measure of existing performance.

3. Analyze behavioral consequences:

A functional analysis of identified critical behaviors is performed. It identifies existing consequences of performance. ABC analysis is performed for functional analysis.                                     

A= The antecedent cues emit the behaviors

B= The performance behavior is the target critical behaviors identified

C= The contingent consequences maintain current behavior.

4. Develop and implement intervention strategy:

This is the action step. The intervention strategy is used to strengthen desirable performance behaviors and weaken undesirable behaviors. It can entail changing of performance-reward linkage to make high level performance more rewarding. This change can be in structure, process, technology and task, etc. A positive reinforcement strategy is used to accelerate critical performance behaviors.

5. Evaluate performance improvement:

Evaluation is done to ensure that the intervention strategy does lead to performance improvement. The impact of behavior modification on performance is also evaluated.

The applications of behavior modification in OB focus on:

  1. Employee productivity
  2. Absenteeism and lateness
  3. Safety and accident prevention
  4. Employee discipline
  5. Developing training programs