Nudge-Learning In The Workplace: Things You Need To Know

Nudge-Learning In The Workplace
Robert Kneschke/
Summary: Nudge-learning has the potential of solving some key, modern-day workplace issues. Let's take a look at what exactly nudge-learning is and how to make it work.

Discover What You Need To Know About Nudge-Learning

L&D stakeholders, today, are looking for proven ideas to develop a culture of learning in their organization. They are looking for ways to make learning available in the flow of work, in a pursuit to make it more effective for the modern-day workforce. This whole exercise has led the L&D community to take notice of the very interesting behavioral science of nudge-learning.

What Exactly Is The Nudge Theory?

Wikipedia defines "nudge" primarily as a concept in behavioral science, political theory, and behavioral economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. In simpler terms, a nudge is a gentle push or a little guidance in the right direction. It gives people the opportunity to learn and do the right thing.

Nudge, in the context of learning, can be delivered through mediums like email, text, or via an organizational LMS. Google’s whisper courses are a perfect example of using nudge-learning to bring about a culture change. A whisper course is a series of emails, each of which contains a suggestion that managers could try out during their team meetings. Over the course of ten weeks, managers could build the "psychological safety" of their team by using the whisper suggestions [1].

The Relevance Of Nudge For The L&D Community

Nudge theory is highly relevant and useful for L&D professionals. Here are some challenges that advocate the need for nudge-learning in the modern-day workplace.

  • One of the key challenges that businesses are facing today is ensuring knowledge retention for a better ROI. You can spend hours in training and come out of feeling like you have learned a lot but then suddenly the"Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve" starts kicking in and before you even realize it, you cannot recall the majority of the things you just learned. It is found that almost a whopping 60% of knowledge is lost in less than an hour of learning it. One of the key reasons for this is lack of reinforcement. Nudging your learners with reinforcement training material on a periodic basis could be one of the potential ways to improve knowledge retention.
  • The L&D community is gradually shifting from a culture of training to a culture of learning. A couple of key aspects driving this change are the demands of the modern-day workplace and the way learners want to consume content. Modern-day learners like to be in control. Learning to them is more about a journey rather than a destination. Nudge, without being intrusive, is an excellent tool to make learners drive their own learning and be in charge of it.
  • Dwight Eisenhower was not the only one who encountered two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. This was, and is, applicable to all of us. The urgent problems were not important and the important problems were never urgent. This situation arises out of a natural human tendency to seek pleasure in completing tasks known as "completion syndrome." The modern-day learners, in pursuit of satisfying the completion syndrome at their workplaces, are not able to find time for learning. This is where L&D leaders need to bring learning in the flow of work rather than making it available outside of work.

Using Nudge In Your Learning Design

Here are 4 things you need to keep in mind while using the nudge theory in your learning initiatives.

1. Make It Personalized And Visually Intuitive

A dull learning experience will not engage learners as well as a visually attractive or intuitive one. Make use of visual and Instructional Design capabilities to design learning. Utilize instructional approaches that make it easier to understand and remember content shared through the nudges. Personalizing the whole experience and the nudges will add to the chances of success.

2. Time It Right

Nudges need to be made available when they are needed the most, such as performance support in the flow of work, reinforcement at periodic intervals, or alerting an employee of an important deadline. An untimely nudge will, most likely, be in vain.

3. Keep It Small

Microlearning is one of the most effective instructional strategies used to create and deliver nudges. Nudges need to be crisp and short in order to aid retention. This where microlearning design helps. Microlearning also comes with the added advantage of making nudges available across various devices.

4. Solicit Learner Feedback

It is always a good idea to solicit learner feedback on the whole experience so that you can make relevant tweaks.

Nudge In Action

I am sharing some screenshots of nudges from Plato, a nudge-learning app developed by Harbinger Interactive Learning. These nudges are based on some training material on intellectual property. The first three are reinforcement nuggets and the last one is an assessment on the topic. The idea is to demonstrate how these nudges can help a user recollect important concepts periodically.


If used intelligently, nudge theory can change how employees learn for good. It can also foster a culture that’s more open to learning and feedback. At Harbinger, we have been involved in building and implementing nudge-learning successfully for many global organizations. Do reach out to us if you wish to know more about it. If you have any insights to share about your experience with nudge-learning, I would be very keen to know those. Please feel free to drop a comment below.


[1] Google's Tiny Secret for Actually Impactful Employee Training

Originally published at