Why do many organizations fail with cultural change and introduction of positive appreciation?

The short answer is too little positive reinforcement to the people who engage, but also that we give positive reinforcement to the one who DON’T engage!

We put more and more effort in caring for our employees, and we have realized it’s not about after work parties, conferences or cozy chairs in strange colors that seems to be collected from the kiddy corner. We realize that culture matters. And we know that something that has a big impact on culture is how we appreciate each other.

So it’s not surprising that we see more and more technical solutions to share appreciation, peer-to-peer. LinkedIn launched a #Kudos function back in 2018, you can give Praise in MS Teams, yet another solution allows you to High five a colleague (I’m still trying to figure out how you High five a person who is not prepared), etc. So, we’re all set? Unfortunately not. We can often see that these initiatives fade out – you don’t get the engagement you want. The outcome is too often that we have replaced the manager’s mail that says “Good job!” with a post in a digital channel that hopefully is read. True, a few people more than just the bosses has started to engage, but the crowd is reduced steadily.

What is missing? Why don’t we get to a lift-off? The answer is the same as often before, it’s about behavior!

What is the consequence of my behavior? If I engage and show my colleagues Kudos, what do I get back? A cheerleader that doesn’t get a response will soon be quiet. But with response, the cheers will roar during the whole game, and long after. Then there is a very important, but often overlooked, question. What is the consequence of LACK OF behavior? If I don’t engage, but still receive the great feeling of being appreciated all the time, why shall I care to show my own appreciation.

The key is actually already know within the behavior science – positive reinforcement. If you positively reinforce the a behavior of “I don’t engage”, then you will have a challenge with your cultural journey.

Ending with my advice – look for a solution that reinforces your desired behavior, at the same time as you avoid reinforcing the lack thereof.