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Nudge Some Ethics into Your Employees

Everyone is familiar with when public policy projects seek to “nudge” the public in some way, like the “Truth” anti-smoking campaign. But now businesses have deliberated over adopting a similar approach with their employees. In a post for strategy+business, Matt Palmquist says how to go about giving employees a subtle nudge in the right direction.

A Nudge Goes a Long Way

Nudges can work wonders when done right. They aren’t expensive and can be pretty successful; one example is that Google displays the benefits of certain vegetables in its cafeterias to help employees make better health choices. You especially want to utilize nudges to discourage unethical or illegal behavior, but it will only work if utilized in a particular way.

Nudging done wrong can do more harm than good. If you say you’re monitoring everyone’s computers, then the “Big Brother” vibe will be undeniable to your employees. Public nudging campaigns and company nudging campaigns are often very different in structure. Public campaigns are about changing an individual’s choices by appealing to their rational self-interest, (“Drink less and your liver will be healthier.”) whereas a company campaign is often looking to have employees act against rational self-interest. For example, you don’t want your staff selling off company secrets for a small fortune, despite it being in the individual’s interest to do so.

Palmquist says successful nudging is all about balance:

Successful nudging involves a delicate balance of preserving employee autonomy and articulating benefits. For example, studies have demonstrated the power of nudging when it comes to 401(k) plans. When the default enrollment provision is changed from opt-in, which requires employees to fill out forms to participate, to opt-out, in which workers are automatically enrolled and have to file paperwork only if they don’t want to take part, participation rates soar. Pointing out the benefits of saving for retirement also allows employees to see how the nudge improves their own welfare.

Ultimately, the success of nudging requires that the right tone is used, employees are empowered to make their own choices, and the benefits and reasoning are rationally explained.

You can view the original post here: https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Want-More-Ethical-Employees-Give-Em-a-Nudge

About Austin J. Gruver

Austin is a Staff Writer for AITS. He has a background in professional writing from York College.

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