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What is nudging and how can you apply it in your organisation?

95% of our behaviour is unconscious behaviour. This behaviour happens automatically, making it difficult to get people to consciously do the right things. Through stimuli (‘nudges’) in the environment or in communication, you can respond to unconscious behaviour. Nudging can be applied for all kinds of purposes, such as safety and quality. In this blog, you will learn exactly what nudging entails, what the pros and cons are and how to design the perfect nudge. You will also read how you can apply nudges in the workplace, for example using Zenya BOOST.

What is nudging?

Nudges are subtle pushes that can steer people’s behaviour towards healthy choices. You do not think about it, but every day you are ‘nudged’. Often without you even realising it. Just look at the examples below, they will probably be familiar to you.

Online buying behaviour: Many online shops use nudges. Through mentions like “Most chosen”, “Best choice”, “Best rated” or “Only one left”, they steer your buying behaviour.

Keep a distance of 1.5 metres: the corona period also saw frequent use of nudging to ensure people complied with corona measures. Consider, for example, the floor stickers with ‘Keep 1.5 metres away’ at outlets and businesses.

Accept cookies: many sites try to make you accept all cookies through visual nudging, even though you already indicate you do not want to. In the example of ‘negative nudging’ below, you have to be very careful not to accept everything anyway:

Nudging example - Zenya

In fact, nudges are subtle pushes that, through small adjustments in the environment or in communication, encourage people to change their behaviour. For example, to making a different, usually more responsible or healthy choice. Nudging is a motivational technique, derived from behavioural psychology, that encourages people to do or not do something. Usually, nudging is applied as part of a campaign in combination with education, legislation and/or financial incentives.

The pros and cons of nudging

Advantages: nudging encourages people to make healthy or wise choices. It is a relatively inexpensive way to strengthen people’s autonomous thinking skills and give them the impression of choice.

Disadvantages: nudging alone is usually not effective enough to bring about permanent behavioural change. Moreover, nudging is quickly perceived as patronising or meddling. It is also sometimes used to mislead rather than seduce. Just think of the nutrient scores on packaging of pizzas, for example: these only tell you how healthy this product is compared to other pizzas, but not whether pizza fits into a healthy diet at all.

Hoe kun je nudging inzetten in je organisatie

Nudging techniques

There are endless nudging techniques. Below are five commonly used techniques and an example of each:


In this form of nudging, you make information or procedures simpler so that more people will follow them. An example: a simplified information leaflet for medicines ensures that people take the medication responsibly.

Making it easier

With nudging, you can make ‘healthy behaviour’ easier, for example by putting healthy products at eye level in the company canteen or putting a fruit bowl in the office.


With a warning nudge, you alert people to the harmful effects their behaviour can have. For example, the NIX18 campaign that warns parents that alcohol is bad for the growing brain.


A reminder nudge helps you not to forget or stick with the desired behaviour. For example, an email from your dentist that it’s time for the next check-up appointment. Or a sign at your office door asking if the lights are off?

Appeal to intention

This nudging technique encourages people to actually carry out intended behaviour. For example: ‘You will put your plastic in the plastic bin from now on, won’t you?’

The perfect nudge in four steps

Want to come up with the perfect nudge to bring about behavioural change in your organisation? Then make sure it meets at least the following conditions:

  • A short, understandable assignment, question or hint;
  • Focused on healthy, safe or sustainable behaviour;
  • Easy to execute;
  • Is close to the person or type of employees;
  • Plays on an advantage, right, profit or just a risk;
  • Airy, playful or humorous.

Step 1. Determine problem behaviour and desired behaviour

What are people doing now and what behaviour do you want to encourage? Also describe why the target behaviour is desired.

Step 2. Map psychological processes

Why do people exhibit these problem behaviours? What aspects influence this? Does the environment support the desired change?

Step 3. Design the nudge

In doing so, consider form, colour, language and the right place in the environment in which the nudge should do its job, among other things.

Step 4. Test and evaluate

Measure behaviour before you introduce the nudge and some time afterwards. And determine whether the change is actually due to the nudge or to other factors.

Nudging in the workplace

The use of nudges is automatically associated by many with government campaigns. But nudging is also excellent to use in the workplace. For example, to increase your employees’ motivation by giving small expressions of appreciation or linking incentives to desired behaviour.

To encourage employees to make healthy choices by promoting healthy meals in the company canteen. But also to make employees aware of responsible data use or learn to recognise cybercrime.

Themes where nudging can be very effective in the workplace:

  • Learning and development: offer microlearnings, for example, which make learning fun and need not take up a lot of time. Or save points by taking e-learnings or watching instructional videos.
  • Vitality and health: putting a fruit bowl on the bar instead of a sweet jar, giving everyone their own water bottle or offering a cycling plan.
  • Sustainability: Creating awareness for waste separation, a sign on the door to ensure that the last person to leave the office turns off the lights.
  • Work-life balance: a notification if you want to email a colleague outside working hours with a suggestion for another time.
Nudging op de werkvloer - Zenya

Quality and safety

When it comes to quality and safety, there are many situations where the right behaviour is essential to work safely or responsibly. For example, following certain safety rules and procedures. With a broad information campaign, you can respond to conscious behaviour by focusing on regulations, protocols and agreements. By complementing this with nudges using, for example, small pieces of information, a statement, a poll, a meme or something similar, you can touch, activate and include people in the theme at a subconscious level.

Case: dispensing medicines safely

At an elderly care facility, an awareness campaign was linked to the recording of incidents. The records showed that mistakes were regularly made when dispensing medication because employees were often distracted during preparation and dispensing. As a solution, it was thought to put a vest on these employees with ‘Do not disturb’ on it. In addition, attention was paid to why this was important and new working agreements were made.

Another example of how nudging can be applied to quality and safety is the creation of awareness around cybercrime. For example, as part of a digital information campaign that makes employees aware of the risks and teaches them to recognise cybercrime. You can read more about this in our blog ‘Creating security awareness’.

Software that supports nudging and behavioural change

People change their behaviour if they understand why it is important and know how to do it easily. Nudging can help with this. You can apply nudging in multiple ways in your organisation, both in the physical and virtual work environment. An example of software you can use to apply nudging is Zenya BOOST.

With Zenya BOOST, develop effective, cohesive digital information campaigns of which nudging can also be a part. As a campaign manager, you can monitor the reactions and engagement via Zenya BOOST and, if necessary, trigger additional actions during the campaign, for example via a chat function or a proposition. This way, you make it possible to adjust if there are a lot of questions or ambiguities.

An example: within Infoland, a new strategy was introduced some time ago. It was described in an extensive document that was shared with all employees. To really bring everyone into the why, the management made 30-second to 1-minute videos via Zenya BOOST with different aspects of the story, but in a different (and especially: shorter) form.

This way, employees did not have to go through the whole document thoroughly, but still got all the necessary information out of the new strategy. Employees could also actively participate in the campaign by responding to the content and each other. How exactly does setting up an information campaign in Zenya BOOST work? We will go into that in our next blog.

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