What is Nudge Theory?
Popularized by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge Theory suggests people can be influenced to make certain decisions without limiting their freedom of choice. This is done through subtle cues or “nudges” which guide people towards preferred actions and behaviors.
Nudges can be used in the workplace to encourage employees to partake in positive behaviors. It could be reminders to save for retirement or to schedule an annual physical with their doctor. You can also discourage negative behaviors such as procrastination.
How HR Pros Can Use Nudge Theory
Utilizing nudges can be especially beneficial in the context of Human Resources. You can influence employee behavior and, in turn, improve company performance. Here are some of the ways you can implement Nudge Theory into your HR practices:
1. Promote wellness
There are many ways you can nudge employees to promote wellness, both overtly and subtly. Create wellness challenges that cover various aspects of wellbeing. This may include physical, emotional, financial wellbeing and beyond. Send email reminders and incentivize participation. A less obvious way you can promote wellness would be easy access to healthy food options on site and placing healthier foods at eye level.
2. Track goal progress
Nudges can help employees focus and keep them on track with their goals. Set weekly reminders for goals so they remain top of mind. Check in frequently with a regular one-on-one cadence and ask them to share any blockers. You can also track progress towards team or company goals with visual representations in common spaces for all to see and be inspired by. Celebrate the big and little milestones along the way!
3. Encourage engagement and recognition
If you have a recognition platform, enable notifications so employees are aware of upcoming team member milestones, stay up-to-date on daily wins, and remember to give out their points before buckets refill. Send daily or weekly reminders to leaders to hold them accountable for recognizing their team members. The more recognition is top of mind, the more it will become a habit. Front-line employees and leaders alike will stay engaged and be empowered to give out praise on a regular basis. The result: Desired behaviors are further reinforced.
4. Enhance compliance
Use nudges to help you increase compliance with company policies and procedures. Make them easily accessible on your organization’s intranet. Then provide reminders annually for employees to review policies and sign documents. Reviewing policies and procedures should be an ongoing process beyond onboarding so they stick.
5. Foster belonging
Ensure workspaces (both in person and virtual) are set up in a way that cause frequent collisions. In office, have designated spaces where employees can eat together or gather in a non-professional manner. Virtually, have a channel on your chat app where remote employees can connect on a fun, personal level. As employees connect with one another socially, they will feel like they belong.
Influencing employee behavior can sound a bit forceful. But it’s not just for the sake of the employer. Employees will be happier when they are able to thrive personally and professionally too. So gently nudge them in the right direction, and you’ll create a culture everyone wants to be a part of!