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Use the nudge theory for effective onboarding management

If you’re in the field of HR then you’re probably familiar with the term “nudge”. As in, “Have you nudged your employees to complete their paperwork”?   It has been gaining in popularity for a few years now. But, where did it originate? More importantly, how can we use nudge theory for effective onboarding management? We’ll tell you in this 3-minute overview!

What is Nudge Theory?

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Derived from the idea of persuasion, the Nudge Theory was conceived by economist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Tahler. His research looked at economic decision-making and how by nudging a consumer, we can affect and manipulate purchase outcomes.

Just like it sounds, a nudge is like a light push in a positive direction. It increases the chances that an individual will make a particular choice, or behave in a particular way. The theory is that a nudge makes it more likely that an individual will make a particular choice or behave in a certain way if the environment is altered to generate an automatic cognitive process favoring the desired outcome. In other words, in order to coax people to follow through with a particular action, it needs to be easy for them.

Read about the 6 actionable psychology principles to strengthen employee onboarding by clicking here. 

Nudge theory for effective onboarding management

Tahler’s research got us thinking. What if we applied nudge theory to employee onboarding? The goal is to increase the probability of getting managers to create connection, confidence, and clarification with their new hires before day one. Below are four scenarios to demonstrate the nudge theory in action.

The objective here is to get a manager to contact a new hire before their first day. The tactical actions outlined result in outcomes measured from ‘not likely’ to call to ‘very likely ‘ to get managers to call.

Not likely to get managers to call
Once a year, managers receive a two-page checklist of 20 action items that are mandated to be used for employee onboarding. The manager stores this document somewhere to be found the next time they are onboarding a new hire. Action item eight states that managers should call their new hires three days before the start date.

Small chance of getting managers to call
Every time an employee is hired, the manager receives an email from HR. The checklist is attached to the email so it is always at the top of my mind when needed. However, 30+ days could elapse between when HR sends the email that an employee has been hired and their start date.

More likely to call
The manager receives an SMS text from HR three days before the new hire’s first day. The text asks the manager to call the new hire(s) before their first day.

Very likely to call
In the best-case scenario, the manager receives the same SMS text within three days of the new hire’s first day. This time the text includes the employee’s phone number and why the manager is calling. The reasons are outlined in five bullet points to guide the call. The manager receives a second follow-up message the day before the start date to ask if the tasks have been done.

The likelihood of the manager completing the pre-boarding task increases as the frequency and quality of the nudges increase.

Nudging with employee onboarding software

Research has found that pre-boarded employees feel like part of the company early on and are significantly less likely to lose interest in the job. During pre-boarding, nudges can help remind managers and buddies to connect and welcome the new hire to the team. However, the first days and weeks on the job are equally important.

It’s up to the company to manage changing engagement levels and to monitor and check in with the new hire at regular intervals. Employee onboarding software can be used to nudge not just managers but all onboarding stakeholders. The employee, buddies, managers, HR, and even the CEO can receive nudges that help create a consistent and powerful employee experience.

Get this step-by-step guide to choosing the right employee onboarding software here.

Download a chapter from our upcoming book, “The Employee Playbook,” for actionable steps on choosing the best onboarding software for your company here.

You can also book time with one of our experts and learn more.