An introduction to nudging

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Written by Barry Johnson on 28 October 2019

Reading time: 2 minutes

We know “managers have to know” but to get some them into action can sometimes be a real pain. Let’s use an example.

To integrate off-the-job learning into action on the job requires 70:20:10. Recently a divisional HR director wrote a note pointing out that managers were far too busy to get involved in this training stuff.

It was surprising, really, as a key requirement of any manager is to ensure the people in his or her care have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to meet the business needs under the guidance of the manager.

At least, that was part of a line manager’s job when I was trained umpteen years ago.

Any diligent learning facilitator helps the implementation of off-the-job learning by guiding the learners into what and how the learning can be integrated into the operating unit.

The application completes the learning through reality (see Kolb). However, that does need the manager to ensure the learner(s) get the opportunity to work and learn.

It is important – but how do you, as a training professional, get that necessary action into place?


Change in an organisation means people need to change their ways of working and their ways of thinking. It stands to reason that this can be hard: it’s personal, and for many people, the reasons for changing won’t be immediately apparent, or the benefits might not seem worth the effort. 

It influences choice without taking away the power to choose

Recently the nudge has emerged. Nudging is the art of influencing people’s behaviours by bypassing their unconscious biases.

Nudges are designed with a thorough understanding of the behaviours of the people who are affected.

The nudge encourages managers to make decisions that are in their own best interest. So, a nudge is persuasion or influencing skill.

It influences choice without taking away the power to choose. It empowers people to want to engage by understanding how they’ll decide. 

For this crude example, we have chosen to ask: why was there a negative attitude? We can think of several reasons.

Managers’ attitudes might be, “learning is the job of the guys in the training unit, not my job” or “I don’t get paid for this. I have enough to do already.” These are logical if emotional reactions. 


All we can say is nudging works, and we only wrote this for the minority of professionals who have not met it – yet.

Our view? It is an essential leadership tool. It is what competent professionals do. They nudge their clients in the right direction gently and persistently.

We suppose that is why they are leaders in their profession. 

We wonder if nudging is included in your leadership learning events, and are you nudging the managers into 70:20:10 in the interest of their staff and their departments’ preproduction?


About the author

Barry Johnson BA, CMCIPD, MCMI, is a non-executive director at Learning Partners Ltd

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