'Nudging' To Create a Better Workplace: Nudge Theory In Practice
We make a lot of decisions every day. Some simple, some difficult, and some we don't even notice. "On an average, a human brain makes 35,000 decisions each day," says Barbara Sahakian, author of the book Bad Moves: How decision making goes wrong, and the ethics of smart drugs.
Now imagine, if we were consciously making all these decisions. Ugh!
To make our lives easier, our brains take simple shortcuts to make most of the decisions, without involving our conscious minds - called heuristic decision making. Susan Weinschenk, a behavioral psychologist says -
"We often like to think that we're very rational and logical. But we're not. And, if you want to really reach people, if you want to communicate with them, if you want to persuade them, you need to figure out how to talk to the unconscious part of their mind."
Human beings are extremely emotional and the decision-making process is greatly affected by it. One of the characteristics of emotion is that it pushes us towards taking an action. And with time, most organizations have effectively used this understanding to subtly influence employee behaviour by nudging them to make better decisions.
What Is A Nudge.?
To put into simple words, a nudge is nothing but a simple, subtle cue that naturally leads people to make choices that YOU want them to make. It's not about penalizing them in any way or limiting their freedom if not acted in a certain way, but to help their decision-making process easier.
Behavioral economists, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness define nudge as "any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives".
Nudge theory suggests that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can influence people's actions and decisions - most of the time, without them even realizing it.
The great thing about good nudges is that it can be applied to any aspect of our daily lives - be it in educational institutions, government policies, political agendas, or whatnot. And the field of business is no exception.
Influencing Employee Behaviour Through Nudges
A greater number of companies are connecting the dots between happier employees and improved productivity and in turn, happier customers. While there are a number of ways to influence employee behaviours, we try to explore some of the methods to effectively nudge employees towards better organizational results.
Nudging To Build Better Managers
"To do great things is difficult, but to command great things is more difficult." - Friedrich Nietzsche
We have all come across the phrase "He was the best manager I have ever had". But do we really know what it takes to become a great manager? Being a good manager is definitely more than just driving your employees towards better performance and better results. Great managers are the ones who often succeed in guiding, shaping, and steering their teams to greater heights of engagement, job satisfaction, and efficiencies.
Here are some simple tricks that will nudge managers to become better versions of themselves:
Capitalize On People's Strengths
You always find people with varied strengths, attitudes, capabilities within your team. Learn to understand each employee's strengths and capitalize on them to achieve the best results.
Make Rewards And Recognition Your Best Friend
When employees feel valued and appreciated for their efforts, they tend to perform better and stay engaged. Especially when employees are recognized amongst their peers, it not only values the achiever, but also shows to everyone in the team that hard work gets recognized.
Nurture Collaboration & Communication
Involve your team in discussing important issues, take their views before making decisions, seek their opinion on the problems you are facing - encourage these behaviors to effectively communicate with your team.
Master the Art of Delegation
One of the keys to becoming a great manager is to effectively delegate work and encourage your team-mates to take complete ownership of the delegated work. While assigning tasks and responsibilities, always keep their strengths and interests in mind to drive best performances.
Being a successful manager can be challenging. In order to succeed in this position, it is crucial to remember that your success is directly dependent on your team. So, as a manager, building a team that is engaged, motivated, and driven is the key to your success as well.
Nudging Employees To Create A Culture of Appreciation
"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." - Proverb
Human beings have an innate desire to be appreciated and valued for what work they do. Employees who feel valued and appreciated often are the ones who have deep job satisfaction, willing to work longer hours, engage in productive relationships with their peers and managers and work towards achieving organizational goals.
There are a number of ways to nudge employees towards a culture of gratitude.
Make Gratitude A Habit
It is important to encourage employees to take time out, every once in a while, to thank someone's effort. Eg: While beginning a meeting, you can always start off by appreciating the efforts of one of your team-mates, Or, have a "Gratitude Board" in your office (or on the intranet), where anyone can go and pin a thank-you message. Small steps like these can go a long way in building employee morale and motivation.
Encourage Learning & Development
Employees often appreciate organizational initiatives like workshops, training, exposure to new projects, etc. that help them develop important work skills. Even when promotion opportunities are limited, employees are said to experience a higher level of satisfaction and engagement in expanding their skills.
Build Employee Authority
Employees feel a sense of authority when they are involved in discussions and tasks that have an impact on organizations growth, in turn leading to higher levels of job satisfaction
Acknowledge Wins - Both Big & Small
Appreciate achievements however big or small. This invokes a desire in employees to keep performing better and consistently achieve better results.
Encourage Workplace Celebrations & Friendships
The classic example of this will be birthday celebrations, retirement celebrations, deal-win celebrations, product launches, etc. Such celebrations encourage appreciation that is more inclusive and less competitive while encouraging employees to socialize with one another.
Building a culture of gratitude within the workplace definitely takes time and effort - but comes with its own rewards of increased employee performance and satisfaction.
Nudging the Leadership to Enhance Employee Engagement
"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." - Ronald Reagan
Organizations often spend a huge sum of money on training and developing leaders, often to see them fail in a short period of time. Leadership roles can be extremely challenging with constantly changing business environments and complex decision-making processes.
Sometimes, what cannot be achieved by development programs can be achieved by simple nudges. Instead of defining leadership competencies and behaviors, when nudges are used to influence their decisions, leaders are more likely to succeed.
Here are some important nudge strategies for leaders to adopt to build an engaged workforce:
Set Clear Goals And Reward Employees On Achieving Goals
Ensuring that your employees are crystal clear about their goals and how it aligns with the organization is perhaps the most effective way to engage and motivate them. When employees understand what is expected out of them - they focus on the performance and delivering better results on time. Rewarding employees who successfully achieve their goals further adds to the motivation.
Learn To Recognize Potential
Leaders may exist at any level within the organization. Whenever you come across employees who have performed exceptionally well under difficult or unusual circumstances, never forget to appreciate and recognize their potential. These might be the people who have hidden skills and behaviors that make them capable of fitting into critical roles in the future.
Support Your Managers Through Coaching
Encourage a culture of open discussions where your employees feel free to come to you to discuss their challenges and fears. Coach them on various tricks of the trade that will help them perform better in their respective roles.
These are only illustrative examples of some of the nudges that leaders can apply to improve engagement within the organization. There can be a number of other nudges that can be structured to push employees towards better health, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and engagement.