The following paper will delve into the (textbook) case study, Howe 2 Ski Stores. Theories and concepts of both organizational behaviour and human resource management will be presented to give a full portrayal of the questions outlined in the case study, and lend to recommendations for the issues that Maria Howe has encountered.The case concerns a chain of three ski and windsurfing shops situated in the suburbs of a large western coastal city. Since the first store opened, the proprietor, Maria Howe, has implemented a differentiation strategy of state-of-the-art equipment for skiers of all levels, employees who possess expert knowledge of the industry and products, and the ability to respond quickly to customers’ needs in order to accommodate the last-minute shopper. She has also pursued and created a market for the ski stores by offering lessons, sponsoring seminars, and adding windsurfing equipment to accommodate the lower sales in the off-season. Her efforts have been rewarding, yielding sufficient business to enable the expansion of two other stores, and maintain a fluctuating but consistent profit. However, as the business has expanded to three stores, there is growing evidence of low productivity—late orders, damaged equipment, lost rentals, lack of responsiveness to customers, etc.The case study outlines how a poor understanding of learning principles can cause problems in an organization. In particular, it shows how the lack of positive reinforcement in an environment that does not reinforce desired behaviours can lead to undesirable behaviours and outcomes that threaten the reputation and success of a business. Identification of Key Issues Q1 – What are the main problems occurring in the Howe 2 Ski Stores? To what extent are the problems due to personality and characteristics of the work environment?Maria has noticed signs that employee productivity has begun to diminish. For example, there were eight occasions where expensive ski orders were not delivered in time for a customer’s ski vacation, which led to Maria having to over-compensate with additional expenses to retain the customers. This was not only costly, these incidents had the potential to damage the store’s reputation. Furthermore, at least fifteen percent of all ski orders were delivered more than two days late. After Maria had implemented the merit performance system for the moulders, in order to address the productivity issue of orders being delivered late, an array of discontent popped up throughout the stores because the moulders felt that their merit ratings were inaccurate, and their work was being interrupted by other employees asking for help. Another issue was the complaints coming from the employees who were not given the opportunity for merit pay.Additionally, productivity problems were occurring in other areas of the store. Customer service complaints rose twenty percent. A record number of “as is” skis were sold at the end of the season because they were damaged. In addition, twenty percent of the rental equipment had been misplaced or extremely damaged, and could not be charged to the renters due to poorly maintained record. Fewer comments were being placed in the suggestion boxes. These issues were not just isolated to the skiing season, similar problems were occurring in the windsurfing season. Given that the problems seem to be occurring throughout the stores and across all employees and jobs, it is likely that they are due to the work environment and not to the personalities of some of the employees. There could be an argument that the employees are not high on conscientiousness, but this would not explain why these problems have only recently begun. Correspondingly, there is no indication that Maria has changed her procedures for hiring or that she is hiring a different kind of employee. Q2 – What behaviours need to be maintained or increased and what behaviours should be reduced or eliminated?It is clear from the case that there are behaviours that need to be increased and others that need to be reduced or eliminated. The behaviours that need to be reduced or eliminated include: delivering equipment late; clerks talking to each other while customers were in the store and waiting for assistance; damaging equipment; lost or damaged rental equipment not being charged to renters; poorly maintained records of equipment rentals. The behaviours that need to be maintained or increased include: delivering ski orders on time; excellent customer service (e.g., assisting customers when they need help); proper handling of equipment in the store and warehouse to avoid damaging it; maintaining accurate and up to date records of renters; charging renters for damaged or lost equipment; comments for suggestion boxes.Analysis of Key Issues Q3 – What do you think of Maria Howe’s attempt to respond to the difficulties in the stores? Use operant learning theory and social cognitive theory to explain the effects of her merit performance system. Why wasn’t it more effective?In an attempt to respond to the difficulties in the stores, Maria instituted a merit performance system for the moulders. Although productivity seemed to increase for a while, waves of discontent popped up all over the stores in part because the moulders did not believe that the merit ratings were accurate and because store managers could not observe them working much of the time. The moulders also complained that their performance levels were being hampered by other employees who were interrupting them. As well, other employees complained because they were not given the opportunity for merit pay. In terms of operant learning theory, it is not clear exactly what behaviour is being reinforced other than the performance of the moulders. But even if this was clear to them, the case shows some of the errors involved in using reinforcement. For example, the merit pay (reward) is not really contingent on the specific behaviour of the moulders. This is due in part because the merit pay is based on ratings made by managers that the moulders feel are inaccurate and because the managers are not able to observe the moulders very often. Thus, there is clearly a problem with the merit pay being contingent on the desired performance. As for the merit pay as a reinforcer, it would seem that pay is an important source of reinforcement for these workers although it is possible that there may be differences in preferences for reinforcers. It would also be a good idea to include other important sources of reinforcement such as performance feedback and social recognition. But overall, in terms of operant learning theory, it would seem that the main problem is confusing rewards with reinforcers because the reward is not being made contingent on specific behaviours. In terms of social cognitive theory, we can consider each of the main components. For example, there might not be any models whose behaviour results in consequences that the moulders can imitate. In terms of self-efficacy, given that the moulders were hired for their expertise and the fact that they have performed the job successfully in the past, they probably have high self-efficacy for their job. As for self-regulation, perhaps the moulders can set goals for their own performance and then observe and reward themselves. However, the real problem here seems to be an environment that just does not reinforce the desired behaviours.Q4 – What do you think Maria Howe should do to respond to the difficulties in the stores? Refer to operant learning theory and social cognitive theory in answering this question.Maria has to implement a system in which she clearly indicates the desired behaviours for all employees (not just the moulders) and provides rewards that will be desirable to employees. This might include pay it can also include other things, perhaps equipment and other gifts desired by the employees. In addition, she should also consider other sources of reinforcement such as performance feedback and social recognition. Performance feedback is especially important as the employees need to know how they are doing and what they need to do to improve. Social recognition can also be used as an important but inexpensive reinforcer. She will need to train the managers on how to provide performance feedback and to give social recognition. And finally, she will have to make sure that rewards are made contingent on desired behaviours. Some of the desired behaviours as indicated in the answer to question #2 include delivering ski orders on time; excellent customer service (e.g., assisting customers when they need help); proper handling of equipment in store and warehouse to avoid damage; maintaining accurate and up to date records of renters; charging renters for damaged or lost equipment; comments for suggestion boxes. She might also consider increased sales as well as this is a desired behaviour that some of the employees can influence. She might provide some form of reward for any suggestion made by an employee that is implemented. Rewards can be made contingent on ski orders being delivered on time, a decrease in customer complaints or a given low percentage of complaints, up to date and accurate maintenance of rental records, sales, etc. Note that these behaviours can and should be measured as part of a performance feedback system. For social cognitive theory, Maria needs to make sure that employees’ self-efficacy is high for doing the things she is asking them to (e.g., deliver equipment on time, excellent customer service, increasing sales, etc.). She might also instruct employees on how to self-regulate their behaviour (set goals, monitor behaviour, self-reward, etc.) and she might identify those employees whose performance is exceptional and who can be role models for other employees.Recommendations (25%):Q5 – What organizational learning practices might be effective for changing employee behaviours? Consider the potential of organizational behaviour modification, employee recognition programs, and training and development programs. Explain how you would implement each of these and their potential effectiveness.All three of these learning practices can be used to change employee behaviours and to increase the probability of the desired behaviours. To be clear, what Maria needs to focus on is making sure that ski orders are delivered on time; excellent customer service and a reduction in customer complaints; more careful handling of equipment so that it does not get damaged in the store or warehouse (focus on amount of damaged equipment); and that any rental equipment that is not returned or comes back damaged is charged to the renter (this also requires up to date and accurate maintenance of records). To reinforce these behaviours, she should implement an OB Mod program in which the desired behaviours are reinforced through various means (monetary and non-monetary rewards such as gifts, performance feedback and social recognition). Managers need to be included in the implementation of the program and instructed on how and when to provide feedback and social recognition for the desired behaviour (e.g., when a sales clerk is observed providing excellent customer service or when there are no customer complaints; when a moulder delivers equipment on time). The key is to clearly spell out the desired behaviour and make sure that rewards are made contingent on the desired behaviour. This must include all employees and focus on the relevant and desired behaviour for each job. An employee recognition program would seem to be especially worth implementing as long as it follows the guidelines indicated in the text to be effective. In other words, the program must specify (a) how a person will be recognized, (b) the type of behaviour being encouraged, (c) the manner of the public acknowledgement, and (d) a token or icon of the event for the recipient. Employees can be recognized for providing excellent customer service, delivering equipment on time, making a suggestion that was implemented, increased sales, etc. It would also be a good idea to consider a peer recognition program in which the employees can nominate each other and vote for co-workers who deserve to be recognized for their behaviour and performance. Finally, training might also be necessary to ensure that employees know what they have to do to provide excellent customer service, ensure that that equipment is properly handled and stored so it is not damaged, etc. Training can also be useful for increasing the self-efficacy of employees for performing their jobs. Thus, all three of the learning practices can be used by Maria to increase the desired behaviours. An employee recognition program would probably be the easiest and least expensive to implement.Q6 – What advice would give Maria Howe on how to address the problems in her stores? Should she pay more attention to the personalities of the people she hires and/or should she make changes to the work environment? What employees and what behaviours should she focus on? Explain your answer.The main problem in Maria’s stores is that there is no reward or reinforcement system in place. It does not matter what employees do or do not do as they are not rewarded for it and this is why there are performance problems. Maria needs to clearly indicate to employees what is expected of them and what will happen when they perform as expected. She needs to reinforce the desired behaviours and she needs to make sure that the rewards are made contingent on the desired behaviour. If she wants equipment to be delivered on time then she has to reinforce this behaviour by recognizing and rewarding employees who do this. There is no indication that the problem has anything to do with the personality of certain employees. This is a problem in the work environment and it is a work environment that does not reward and reinforce the desired behaviours. Maria should consider implementing a performance feedback system accompanied with social recognition and implement a formal employee recognition program that includes peer recognition. She needs to focus on the behaviours that are most desired as already indicated (e.g., delivering equipment on time, excellent customer service, etc.) and reinforce them. That being said, it might be worth considering a change in the hiring of mainly part-time employees with skiing expertise. Given that such expertise can probably be taught, Maria might consider hiring some full-time employees who might have a greater commitment to the store and its customers and train them on what they need to know about skiing and windsurfing. After all, part-time employees who do not plan to stay around very long might be experts when it comes to skiing, but not the best employees when it comes to doing what is in the best interests of the store and its customers. The hiring of full-time employees might also provide examples/models of behaviour that the part-time employees can learn from. This also makes sense given the increased competition and the potential for continued expansion. A mix of full time and part time employees might be a better strategy than just hiring part-time employees who don’t seem to notice or care about Maria’s problems. Conclusions (10%):Concisely wraps up key argumentsIncludes consideration of relevant factors that might influence implementation of recommendationsThe case provides a good example of the importance of clearly identifying the desired behaviours that need to be reinforced and ensuring that rewards are made contingent on the desired behaviour.