Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink: How HR Can Activate the Workforce One Small Touch at a Time

Posted in Best Practice Thoughts & Culture

Employee engagement has never been hotter than it is right now — and the space is littered with a newfound interest in employee surveys. Last fall, SAP dropped $8 billion to buy a survey company, and Microsoft-LinkedIn spent over $400 million to get one. Venture capital investors are meanwhile pouring buckets of money into employee survey companies of all shapes and sizes.

 

Don’t get us wrong. We believe employee surveys have their place. But here’s the thing that many employers and engagement-focused technology companies are missing: Surveys usually do nothing to improve the employee experience or heighten engagement. Why? Because asking employees something doesn’t change anything. Nothing. It just gives you — wait for it — data.

 

But even when companies do attempt to use survey data to forge organizational changes, their attempts are ineffective for one of two very simple reasons:

 

1. They don’t share the results with managers or employees — the people most affected by whatever the data is about. Duh!

2. They share survey reports with managers, but then simply ask them to pick an item or two or three to work on — and leave them to it. So much for having an action plan, right?

 

The sad thing here is that Gallup research has found that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is tied to the manager. The old saw is true: We work for a company; we quit a manager.

 

And where can your managers make their greatest first impression? Where in the employee journey can managers begin to build trust, create connection, and begin to meaningfully and consistently move the lever on the holy grail of employee engagement? Call us self-serving if you like, but the answer is onboarding, thank you very much.

 

The answer is onboarding because what they say about first impressions throughout your life is also true about first impressions made on a new job. Here’s proof, from an employee engagement survey by Hays, the global recruitment firm:

 

  • 91% of employees said a good onboarding process is a ”very important” or “important” engagement factor.
  • 22% said they’d look for another job if they didn’t receive a good induction and onboarding, and 41% more said they might look elsewhere if their onboarding sucked.

 

On the other hand, Hays found that a whopping 51% of employees would go above and beyond the call of duty if they had a good onboarding experience. Another 33% said “maybe” they would do the same.

 

Now, couple the very real influence of managers on employee engagement with the undeniable impact of onboarding, and you just gotta ask the next question: Why not do more to help managers nourish employees starting from Day One, during onboarding? Seems like a no-brainer to us.

Which moves the discussion right along to: How can you do that? If surveys aren’t the answer to engagement, what can HR or onboarding technology do in the hectic and often thankless lives of managers to weaponize and unleash them as warriors in the battle for employee engagement?

Forget surveys. Stop thinking big. Go small. Consider the nudge.

From Merriam Webster’s online dictionary: Nudge, transitive verb.

1. To touch or push gently.

2. To prod lightly; urge into action.

The concept of “nudge” as a stimulus for changing human behavior is about a decade old. It was defined and popularized in 2009 by economic professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Since then, its effectiveness and power has been embraced by global corporations, the military, and even governments.

 

Nudges really are amazing little things. With next to no effort, they can effectively be a pat on the back, a little hello, a subtle reminder of an upcoming or unfinished task, a tip or suggestion, recognition of an important day, a show of support and connection, and so much more.

 

“Good afternoon, Ray. How’d the workplace safety session go? Let me know if you have any questions.” Nicely played.

 

Now, imagine (easily) going further. Imagine if your managers could send nudges to new hires with information based on that person’s hobbies, habits, skills, interests, or more.

 

“Hello, Katherine. Hope the commute from Carrollton goes smoothly for your first day tomorrow! Here’s directions to the office: ….” Sweet.

With the right onboarding system — one that collects personalized and work-related information about employees before they ever walk in the door — HR can add a whole lot of useful information to the mountain of critical employee data it will already start compiling. Then, again with the right onboarding technology (say, for example, Enboarder), HR can set the system to automatically give managers tools and trigger prompts to send personalized nudges to new hires.

 

Here’s the result when you combine the power of nudges with a great onboarding technology:
Managers are empowered to create compelling employee experiences that wow new hires — improving retention and driving performance.

 

Learn more in our onboarding master guide, “Empower Your Managers to Own Onboarding.”

 

READY TO ROCK ONBOARDING?