How Nudge Learning helps SMEs tackle the Learning Problem

In our previous article we covered how employees (Gen Z and Millenials in particular) value the opportunity for personal and professional growth over any other non-salary factor.

But if the key to a successful learning strategy is consistency, how can organisations without a dedicated L&D function deliver the results employees and the business demand?

As you may have guessed from the title, the answer could be nudge learning.

Summary: Nudge learning has the potential to solve many key, modern-day workplace issues. We’ll explore what nudge learning is exactly, and how a business of any size can make it work for them.

What is Nudge Theory?

Look up nudge theory (behavioural science) in Wikipedia and you’ll find that a “nudge” is the positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals. Put more simply, a nudge is a gentle and consistent push in the right direction, influencing people to learn and take a desired action.

In the quest to find ways to make learning relevant in the modern workforce, nudge learning has emerged as one of the most potent tools in the L&D toolkit. It addresses 2 of the most stubborn problems with training;

1.      Initial engagement with learning

For modern learners, learning is seen as more about a journey rather than a destination. The experience needs to feel more like a casual scroll through social media than remind them of trigonometry classes at school.

A little bit of engaging learning that they stumble across is a nice find. Engagement is highest if they feel like they are in charge of it, even if a very deliberate effort has gone in to putting that learning in their path.

2.      Knowledge retention

Ask your team to absorb several hours of training and expect them to apply it straight away, and you’ll most likely be left feeling disappointed.

Nudge learning is about creating small learning interventions, more often. Think of it as creating more of a learning mindset which gives them the chance to gradually implement new ways of thinking into their routines.

This approach counteracts the ‘forgetting curve’, as the intermittent nature of nudge learning means that learners have the chance to apply what they have learned practically, reinforcing the learning.

With the leaky bucket taken care of, it’s easy to see how the compounding effect of nudge learning over time can massively influence capability over time.

How can I use it?

A few things to keep in mind whilst using the nudge theory in your learning strategy.

1.      Nudges should be regular but not intrusive

Almost by definition, a nudge should not carry a formal element of accountability. Instead, regular, well-timed nudges should encourage engagement with learning.

2.      Learning needs to be visually attractive

If a nudge lands but a dull learning experience follows, the impact of future nudges is likely to be diminished. Make sure that the learning experience is as engaging as possible, and…

3.      Keep it short

The goal is to reduce resistance to learning and encourage learners to keep coming back for more, so learning needs to be crisp and short to aid retention. If you need your learners to complete something ‘heavier’ mandatory learning, make this a clear and separate instruction rather than a gentle nudge.

4.      Close the loop

Not only can getting feedback help you to tweak your approach, it’s also another little nudge in itself. A gentle hint that there is an underlying expectation that individuals are expected to make use of the learning.

See for yourself how nudge theory is very much at the heart of how help SMEs to cultivate a culture that’s more open to learning.

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