Poor performers impact the bottom line. They can drive away customers, reduce product quality; they can bring down an entire work group. As a result, it’s critical to address poor performance as soon as it occurs.
Using classical conditioning to modify behavior can make the process a piece of cake.
Think about the famous experiment with Pavlov’s dogs. The dogs salivated when they saw their food.
Pavlov rang a bell each time he fed them to teach the dogs to associate the bell with food. He successfully modified their behavior to where they would salivate at the sound of the bell whether or not food was present. Two unrelated items were paired to create an association and change behavior – classical conditioning.
Think of your employees like those dogs. Your task is to create positive associations to bring the poor performers up to an acceptable level.
For example, Mary continually arrives to work late. In order to get her to come to work on time, reward her with $50 each time she’s punctual. Once she learns to associate timeliness with the reward, the behavior will be established and the reward can be withdrawn. It’s just like salivating at a ringing bell.
Using rewards to modify behavior can be done in any context. The secrets are using a meaningful reward and pairing it with the new behavior.
Most employees are smarter than dogs, so you might want to take a direct approach and tell them what you’re doing. It could save you weeks of waiting for the employee to make the association.
Improving work performance is likely to improve employee engagement, too, which comes with a number of benefits. Research shows that companies with higher employee engagement have better customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. 
As you’re looking at your employees tomorrow, I hope the bell goes off in your head and you start salivating over your soon-to-be high performing team.