Richard Thaler won the Noble prize in economics for his work on ‘nudge theory’ this week. Is nudge theory something we should be applying in HR and L&D? Maybe you already are?
Nudge theory involves affecting a person’s behaviour and choices based on subtle and indirect prompts rather than through instructions or the threat of punishment. It is a change-management tool that minimises resistance and confrontation and suggests humans are more easily affected by peer pressure than logical thought.
Here are some examples of nudges:
- Opt out instead of opt in schemes for pensions and organ donation.
- Babies’ faces have been painted on shop shutters in areas of South-East London as people are less likely to damage something if it has a baby’s face on it.
- The sign on the motorway roadworks that says ‘My Mummy works here’ encourages drivers to slow down.
- Reducing the number of lifts in new buildings to encourage people (that can) to take the stairs.
- The fly etched on the bottom of the urinal that helps to focus the user’s aim.
Entertaining examples of the use of nudge theory can be found on http://www.thefuntheory.com/
Examples that are more relevant to the HR world include:
- Having ‘email free days’ in the office which result in people getting up from their seat and going to speak to colleagues.
- Downsized packets of paper for printers and photocopiers, thereby increasing the number of times one must fill the machine. With the aim being that people use less paper.
- Bike-to-work, making healthy food more accessible than unhealthy food, and activity days can all help affect employee well-being.
- Sharing information about the cost of not following Health and Safety procedure and how that cost must be recouped by the organisation can encourage compliance.
As HR professionals, I’m sure we all agree that positive reinforcement is the way to affect behavioural change for the better. I think nudges can give us a ‘quick-win’ on some key issues and help us steer the ship away from those situations where people entrench themselves into arbitrary disagreement.
I’d love to hear about any examples of nudges in your organisations. Likewise, please share any behaviours you’d like to see changed and maybe the Community can suggest the nudge.
(Image source: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/move-it-shorty-1309492)