Praise and the Brain:

Posted in: July 11, 2021 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Improve Employee Performance with Praise

The more that we learn about the human brain, the more that we are astounded by its complexity. One of the brain’s interesting factors is how social interaction affects physical functions and overall attitudes. Research has shown that the power of praise creates a positive response that extends to enhanced feelings of competence, improved motor skill performance, and increases motivation. These reactions transcends all age groups and genders. Research results demonstrate that when you add praise to employees in a work environment, there is a defined improvement in general attitude, which translates to better customer service.

Science Shows Humans Love Praise

A recent study measured the brain scans of participants who received compliments. The results showed that the praise activated the same areas of the brain that create positive feelings when someone receives a physical reward such as the gift of money. Examples of this often happen when individuals do “good deeds” for others and receive compliments and praise while refusing any monetary reward.  

Praise Helps to Improves Skills

Compliments in the workplace can go farther than most might think. Enhanced learning and improved performance can occur when encouragement and praise is given to co-workers. Something as simple as a compliment can bring a positive outlook that the brain not only wants, but remembers. For example, a 2012 study showed that those who received praise when trying out a new skill allowed the brain to remember the skill and accomplish it better. Since learning occurs during sleep, the compliments of “skill consolidation” during the striatum activation resulted in improvements in the activity. 

Happy Employees Can Mean Better Customer Service

Although we still have a lot more to find out about the mysteries of the human brain, positive reinforcement can raise the level of employee fulfillment carries great importance. Establishing a company environment that involves staff recognition by praise and compliments can spread to improved customer interaction. In today’s competitive world, customer service excellence has become a high-level priority. Organizations that demonstrate a positive approach to their clients are also achieving the most success.  A Gallup poll title of “Engage Your Employees to See High Performance and Innovation” validates the concept of praise and content employees. The results of the poll show a 147% earnings per share increase over competitors for companies that have happier staff. 

Customer Service Rules

A PWC survey indicated that 80% of customers stated that a company’s agents have the most significant impact on the customer experience. Those surveyed said that areas such as knowledgeable, fast help, and friendly representatives rated as some of the most critical factors. Another survey done by Salesforce showed that 91% of customers said good service would make them more likely to purchase from a company again. Yet another survey done by Gartner was so crutial that they entitled the report “Customer Experience is the New Battlefield.” This survey showed that 89% of business competition is now based on the level of service delivered to customers and not just on the services and products offered. 

Valuing Employees

Just as the job landscape has made some dramatic shifts over the last few years, so has the approach to maintaining customer service excellence. While it might sound like common sense that compliments would result in more content employees, managers have often overlooked this one simple way to “light up the brain.” In a business environment, words do matter, and with a small amount of praise, a company can witness improved motivation and attitudes. A Harvard studyshowed that managers that focused on employee strengths had over double the worker engagement as those businesses that paid more attention to employee weaknesses. When compliments are combined with requests for feedback (rather than criticism) staff feel that they are more valued. 

Psychotherapist and relationship expert Rachel Sussman indicates that compliments are a universal human need: “People just want to be recognized and appreciated for the good that they do. It makes them feel really good about that person who complimented and about themselves.” This philosophy carries over into all aspects of life and is especially important in the work environment.