We’ve all seen the sight: it’s 12 pm on a weekday and the Sweetgreen in Harvard Square is bumping. While the line to order might be long and people are passing you on the right and left to pick up their pre-order salads, a Sweetgreen team member will always greet you with a smile. Despite the chaos, how is that possible? The answer is quite simple: a nudge.
Sweetgreen has adopted the use of Humu, a nudge based people analytics software. According to a New York Times article, “[Humu] digs through employee surveys using artificial intelligence to identify one or two behavioral changes that are likely to make the biggest impact on elevating a work force’s happiness. Then it uses emails and text messages to ‘nudge’ individual employees into small actions that advance the larger goal.” 
I find this strategy extremely intriguing — a nudge, when deployed effectively, can improve the chances an employee will perform in-line with the goals of the larger organization. For example, if it is discovered that an organization’s workforce doesn’t feel that management is transparent, a manager could receive a ‘nudge’ before one-on-one meetings with their direct reports to share passdowns from upper management. These critical moments, often overlooked, provide an interesting opportunity to change how the workforce behaves.
However, in order to achieve these positive outcomes, I believe that there are three “criteria” that must be met. First, whatever the company identifies as a critical problem, the solution to the problem must provide benefits to both the organization and individuals. It is in my opinion, that if the solution only helps the organization and not the respective individuals, the solution is likely to fail. Second, there must be clear metrics and measurement instruments to ensure that goals are being achieved. This is a critical step to ensure that the organization can understand if real and tangible progress is being made. Finally, I believe that privacy should be very clearly understood. It is important for individuals to understand what degree of anonymity they have when entering information into the system. I believe that the higher degree of privacy and security assurances, the higher degree of transparency and honesty that a user will provide.
As the war for talent continues to wage on, I see a really bright future for nudge based, people analytics software. More than ever, it is critical that employers take whatever edge or competitive advantage they can get to keep their employees engaged and efficient.
In addition, I think this analytics platform poses an interesting opportunity for companies as they manage through the COVID-19 crisis. Tools like Humu can help connect top management and frontline employees quickly. For essential workers, having a tool they can use on their mobile phone to report safety concerns (or highlights!) is valuable and critical information. Managers of essential employees can be reminded to check-in daily with their direct reports on their personal health and wellness. For non-essential workers, who have now found themselves working from home (sometimes for the first time ever), nudges are also critically important. Small reminders can go a long way to keep team morale and connectivity up — from checking-in with teammates to posting on their team’s #random Slack channel, this jolt of engagement can carry a person through the day.