Can The Nudge Theory Positively Impact Your People?

What is the nudge theory?

In Richard Thaler’s book ‘Nudging & Behavioural Economics’, he popularised the nudge theory. It reveals ways to influence behaviour and decisions made by groups and individuals. An individual is more likely to decide something when nudged simply by altering the environment so that automatic cognitive processes are triggered to favour the desired outcome.

Sille Krukow, the founder of Krukow, a company that provides behavioural design, nudge and behavioural optimisation, says, “Only 10% of human decision making is based on rational evaluation”. Krukow explains that “Translating what we know is the right thing to do into true behavioural change requires an extraordinary amount of energy, which is why 90% of decision making is driven by a subconscious or automatic system.”

How can nudge theory help your people?

Within the workplace, a nudge can simply help your people to make better decisions more quickly. Bringing about positive change more effectively. Your team may subsequently have higher levels of employee engagement, employee wellbeing and better employee relations, all leading to a healthier work environment.

The most well-known example of the nudge theory is when Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport painted a housefly on their urinals, a small detail that worked extremely effectively against unwanted mess by 80%.

Looking further into the workplace, Google reported a reduction in employees’ collective calorie count by three million simply by placing healthy foods in more visible and accessible locations in the employee dining room.

Are there any negatives to the nudge theory?

The nudge theory may be simple to implement. However, it can be ineffective and even backfire. Like any other modern theory, The nudge theory has its sceptics. Many believe that it is a form of brainwashing or coercing individuals into tasks they do not want to do.

To avoid negative impacts, it is essential to remember that you should only use a nudge to steer helpful behaviour and protect freedom of choice. They should not push individuals into an unwanted position or be a form of punishment. In other words, perks at work such as an employee of the month scheme could help nudge your people into more proactive behaviours to receive the award. However, this may not work for those who work differently, so it is critical to think ahead.

To conclude, a nudge should aim to improve the workplace and help your team create positive change overall. With a successful rewards and recognition scheme, you could promote your team’s wellbeing, productivity and growth.

To find out more about how Each Person can help make a positive impact within your organisation, visit us at and follow us on social media to stay up to date with our latest tips, blogs and news.

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Follow us on Twitter: @_EachPerson

Follow us on Linkedin: Each Person