How nudges helped 84% of Inditex employees complete training programs faster

Intervention Employment and Work Performance

Abstract

Inditex, a Spanish multinational clothing conglomerate, attempted to improve its employees’ enthusiasm, talent, and abilities by developing an employee talent program. The ultimate goal was to develop talented employees who would stay with the Inditex family long term. Unfortunately, these employees were not retaining what they were learning in the program, and their enthusiasm about the company was decreasing. 

Pairing with Kurkow, a behavioral design consultancy in Denmark, Inditex decided to find behavioral interventions that could aid in the program completion and knowledge retention, and that would motivate talents to remain at Inditex. To ensure that these goals came to pass, Kurkow decided to use daily reminders, live feedback, and social proof to build an environment where program completion was the norm. The results were impressive, with 90% of employees feeling motivated to continue with Inditex, as well as 84% of employees slicing months off their previous program completion deadlines.

Rating: 3/5 (published findings lack information, intervention published by private behavioral intervention firm)

How reminders, feedback, and social proof increased Inditex employee retention
Condition Results
Control Program completion length of 3-5 months more than the 12-week goal
After Krukow intervention Program completion rate of 12 weeks

90% of employees retained

Key Concepts

Social Proof: Conformity to socially acceptable behavior. As humans, we pick up on social cues that allow us to copy the actions of others around us. This allows us to fit ourselves into a given situation more appropriately, which increases cooperation and social cohesion. 

The Problem

A multinational retailer with millions of clients

Inditex, a Spanish multinational clothing company, is one of the world’s largest fashion retailers. They control multiple large subsidiaries, such as Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, and many others. Due to the vast extent of their empire, implementing solutions that are both effective and scalable is essential to improving their business model. Operating in 96 markets with over 5000 stores across the globe, Inditex juggles the needs and demands of millions of clients on a daily basis. 

Harvesting talent

Given that customer service is paramount to their business model, Inditex places a large emphasis on developing competent staff who can handle any issue that might arise. Due to this, they must keep their staff motivated and developing within the Inditex ecosystem. Therefore, Inditex developed a talent system that helped build this work culture and developed talented employees. 

Low enthusiasm = low commitment

The program was initially designed in two tiers: the first tier includes the fundamentals of basic store processes, and the second handles specialization once employees move up the corporate ladder. While well-designed, Inditex found that the program wasn’t working as planned. It had low retention rates, employee motivation was waning, and talents struggled to stay committed to the entirety of the program. It was clear that the program needed some tweaking on the behavioral end to improve their employees’ enthusiasm about their own professional development.

Design

Interviewing employees about daily obstacles

As the fashion world is incredibly fast-paced, global, and constantly changing, Kurkow discerned that the employees are likely too overwhelmed by their daily struggles to consider the program a priority. Therefore, inserting the program into their daily routine would be essential to assure completion of the program.

To begin their experiment, Kurkow directly went to the employees and conducted interviews and observational studies at a large Zara store. The goal was to map the everyday routines of the prospective talents and managers, attempting to figure out what daily hurdles and difficulties the employees were facing that prevented them from completing the prescribed talent program. 

Feedback, daily reminders, and social proof

After conducting their research, Kurkow decided to utilize a bevy of behavioral science techniques to improve program adherence. By pairing feedback systems, daily reminders, and a social proof system, Kurkow set out to increase the cognitive awareness of the program and built an environment where program completion was the norm. While Kurkow doesn’t provide much detail about how they specifically used these techniques, this combined approach allowed for employee progress to become evident to everybody in the program, which allowed Inditex to develop an environment where program completion became a social norm. 

Results and Application

90% of talent enthusiastically retained

Social proof proved to be a highly effective method for increasing engagement across the board. At the end of the program, Krukow found that engagement was at record highs, with 90% of the talents feeling motivated to continue on with Zara. The remaining 10% were more ambivalent, implying that this intervention, at worst, had no significant downside.

84% finished the program faster

Furthermore, the increased engagement helped push at least 84% of the participants through the program within the specified 12 week period, as opposed to before the intervention took place when groups would typically take 3-5 months longer. Overall, it seems that this intervention was a highly effective and inexpensive way to strengthen the Inditex family.

Industry Application
Climate & Energy Feedback systems for pilots have successfully reduced carbon emissions from flights
Technology & AI Reminder and feedback systems can be transfer from in-store setting to digital spaces, acting as enforcers for self-selected behaviors
Health & Wellbeing Feedback and social proof has successfully increased hand-washing in hospitals, reducing the transmission of hospital infections

Ethics

  • Insufficient information was given by the practitioners, including follow-up, consent, and specifics of the intervention
  • The intervention did not force employees to continue the program, but facilitated proper nudging practices
Yes Room for improvement Insufficient information/Not applicable
Welfare
Does the intervention demonstrably improve the lives of those affected by it? After the intervention, 90% of the talent felt motivated to pursue their development within the Inditex Group and timely completion rates reached 84%.
Does the intervention respect the privacy (including the privacy of identity) of those it affects? Minimal information on employees, talents, managers or any other Inditex staff was revealed, implying that sufficient levels of personal privacy were likely respected.
Does the intervention have a plan to monitor the safety, effectiveness, and validity of the intervention? No follow-up information was given concerning the monitoring of safety. effectiveness and validity of the intervention. 
Autonomy
Does the intervention abide by a reasonable degree of consent? No mention of consent.
Does the intervention respect the ability of those it affects to make their own decisions? The intervention still allowed full autonomy of choice amongst participants, but incorporated feedback and reminders, as well as comparison metrics so as to encourage quicker progress.
Does the intervention increase the number of choices available to those it affects? By increasing participation and motivation within the Inditex employee family, the program encourages talent to pursue existing specializations, but does not include a new set of choices for participants.
Equity
Does the intervention acknowledge the perspectives, interests, and preferences of everyone it affects, including traditionally marginalized groups? The program does not necessarily account for the discrimination and/or assault that some workers might more likely to face.
Are the participants diverse? Characteristics of participants were not included in published findings.
Does the intervention help ensure a just, equitable distribution of welfare? This intervention can contribute to the growth of junior employees at Inditex.

Related TDL Content

Do High-Potential Employee Programs Work?

Similar to the program Inditex sought to implement, organizations often utilize strategies to improve their talent. One of these strategies is a high-potential employee program, which essentially picks out employees who show promise and devote resources to them. While programs like this are built with good intentions, behavioral self-fulfilling prophecies often rob them of any effectiveness. In this piece, Western’s Natasha Ouslis and gothamCulture’s Zad El-Makkaoui team up to break down how high-potential employees fail to achieve their goals, and what some viable alternatives are.

Why Are Many Americans Checked Out At Work? 

If you are interested in further applications of behavioral science regarding issues in the workplace, John Hopkins’ Stacy Post tackles a complex, but important, societal issue. Every day, millions of dollars are lost because of employees lacking passion and being unproductive at work. Post shows how leaders can harness the power of behavioral science to instill pride within a work culture, increase worker engagement, and better prepare managers.

Sources

Krukow Behavioral Design. (2017). Nudging to retain employees and talents. Retrieved from https://www.krukow.net/inditex