How digital reminders reduced workplace tardiness by 21%
Lateness and absenteeism can be a headache for coworkers, management, and customers. For corporations, it can also be a difficult problem to solve, as a person’s timeliness is almost entirely predicated on their own decisions and behaviour. Therefore, to improve worker punctuality, Nimble Software Systems, a US-based software company, developed a digital scheduling program that would send a reminder to employees before their shifts that encouraged them to arrive on time. Furthermore, the system allowed them to trade or pick up their coworker’s shifts which would lead to less absenteeism. Overall, the digital nudges proved to be quite effective, improving punctuality by 21% and reducing absenteeism by 16%.
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Rating: 3/5 (results published by private organization, unclear if employee participation was voluntary)
How a digital scheduling app impacted employee tardiness and absenteeism for 1000 businesses across two years
|No digital scheduling program||Pre-intervention measurements were not provided.|
|With digital scheduling program||21% increase in punctuality and 16% decrease in absenteeism|
Digital Nudges: The extension of nudge theory into the digital space. Typically, it refers to the use of user-interface design elements to alter people’s behavior slightly, usually through behavioral software or notifications.
How to combat chronic tardiness
If you have ever been part of a team, workplace, or organization, you likely know how stressful it can be when a person is late or fails to meet a deadline. While an occasional late assignment or arrival is understandable, chronic tardiness can be highly detrimental to achieving organizational goals. However, enforcing timely behavior has proven to be quite a challenging task.
While formal warnings and organizational punishments might lead to more compliance, they can also lead to tension amongst your team members. A more subtle way to solve this issue is to alter the decision-making context of the individual who decides to be late. Nimble Software Systems combined their software skills with behavioral science to solve this issue.
The targets: mall security guards
Nimble Software Systems designed and implemented a system tailored to a very specific type of employee: mall security guards. When a mall security guard doesn’t show up for work, it can be detrimental to customer safety and a manager must scramble to replace them. For the purposes of this study, they examined how the program helped JDS Security, a local security firm, as well as approximately 1000 similar companies.
Digital communication and reminders
Nimble’s system would allow employees to view their upcoming shifts, trade existing shifts, and would send them reminders many hours prior to their shift start time. In the event that an individual had to miss a shift, the system would also send a message to their coworkers asking them to pick up the shift.
These simple reminders, while very minimal, were a sufficient nudge to prevent employee absence without an adequate substitute. Furthermore, daily reminders allowed employees to plan out their day accordingly and arrive on time.
The EAST framework
The EAST framework can help explain the success of this intervention:
- Easy: Using the Nimble system made the lives of employees and employers easier.
- Attractive: Incentives for employers to reduce absences are salient and clear, which likely promoted uptake of the service.
- Social: This intervention is social in that it creates opportunities for employees to support each other by taking shifts. It also creates a group norm of taking responsibility for one’s schedule.
- Timely: Nudges via the system arrive in a fashion that is timely and allows employees and employers to plan their schedules. It is important that similar interventions consider the time at which nudges such as shift reminders occur because whether they work is highly dependent on whether employees have time to change their behavior.
Results and Application
A 21% decrease in tardiness over 2 years
All in all, Nimble Software Systems’ shift scheduling software allowed companies to reduce overall tardiness by 21% over its two year implementation period. Furthermore, the system allowed them to reduce overall absenteeism by 16%, over the same two-year period.
Tackling tardiness and absenteeism
Overall, this shows how beneficial digital nudges can be for organizations across different industries. Assuring that workers show up on time is essential for our complex systems to run properly and makes our lives more efficient. As this is an issue that crosses multiple industries, the implications of software like Nimble’s are immense. If brought to scale, these nudging technologies could save millions of dollars, hours of time, and immeasurable amounts of stress.
|Health & Wellbeing||Patients could be send reminders for upcoming appointments to cut down on lost time and resources from no-shows|
|Financial Services||Banks could send automated reminders to clients when they are near their spending limit for the month|
|Retail & Consumer||The same technology can be applied to retail, particularly in-store employees|
- Possible risks could arise if the software makes unrealistic expectations of employee arrival time. For instance, the additional pressure to get to work quickly could incentivize risky behavior, such as reckless driving.
- All information provided is from the CEO of Nimble Software Systems, a private and for-profit organization, which could potentially be a conflict of interest.
|Does the intervention demonstrably improve the lives of those affected by it?||
|Although there is little information about the impact on employees, it is likely their lives are improved by an enhanced ability to plan their time and trade shifts if necessary.|
|Does the intervention respect the privacy (including the privacy of identity) of those it affects?||
|Does the intervention have a plan to monitor the safety, effectiveness, and validity of the intervention?||
Room for Improvement
|Data on validity and safety was limited from this source. But data from 1000+ businesses overtime showed reduced tardiness of 21% and reduced absenteeism by 16% so the intervention seems to be effective over time.|
|Does the intervention abide by a reasonable degree of consent?||
|If employees are fully debriefed on the capabilities of the service, signing up can be considered the act of consent, however information is limited.|
|Does the intervention respect the ability of those it affects to make their own decisions?||
|Unclear if employees have a choice of whether to use this service and be nudged.|
|Does the intervention increase the number of choices available to those it affects?||
|The intervention can increase the choices available if employees feel it becomes easier to trade shifts and plan their lives, however more employee reviews in the article would be beneficial.|
|Does the intervention acknowledge the perspectives, interests, and preferences of everyone it affects, including traditionally marginalized groups?||
Room for Improvement
|All information is provided by the CEO of Nimble Software Systems, a potential conflict of interest.|
|Are the participants diverse?||
|No data was provided.|
|Does the intervention help ensure a just, equitable distribution of welfare?||
|Improving welfare via this system is possible due to an improved ability of employees to arrive to work on time and re-schedule shifts if necessary.|
Related TDL Content
How Effective Is Nudging?: Interested in how effective digital nudging is compared to other forms of nudges? In this piece, Dr. Dennis Hummel and Prof. Alexander Maedche break down the different kinds of nudges, emphasizing when they are effective, when they fail, and comparing the multiple forms they can take.
Rafter, M. V. (2018, July 24). How digital NUDGES Transform workforce management. Chief Learning Officer - CLO Media. https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2017/08/24/digital-nudges/.