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ATD Blog

Use Nudging to Help Make Learning Stick

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The end of the year is upon us, and L&D planning is in full swing for 2022. That means it’s a great time to review your programs to see if they are current. People are creatures of habit, and it’s easy to slip into a rut on just about everything, including using the same content and delivery methods year after year.

Traditional training isn’t sticky and has little impact on creating long-term change, but we keep going back to it because it’s what we’ve always done. It’s easy, and we can justify it in hundreds of ways. I’m asking you take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you want what’s easy or if you want to leave a learning and growth legacy. Change, even change in programming, is hard. You need a big reason to be willing to dig in and do the work necessary to update your programs in a meaningful way.

Check out these stats on adult learners:


  • Some research has claimed that 8 seconds is the average transient attention span (shorter than a goldfish!). While this finding has been debunked, MIT researcher Ted Selker states, “Our attention span gets affected by the way we do things… If we spend our time flitting from one thing to another on the web, we can get into a habit of not concentrating.”
  • 43 percent of viewers prefer instructional and informational videos between 3 to 6 minutes in length, while another 15 percent preferred videos up to nine minutes (source: TechSmith)


  • 80 percent experience stress on the job (source:
  • Only 1 percent of the work week is dedicated to training and development (source: Inc.)


  • People check their phones an average of 96 times a day; that’s every 10 minutes (source: Asurion)



Compare your current programs and delivery methods to those stats. Are they meeting learners where they are—impatient, overwhelmed, hooked, untethered—or are they convenient for the L&D team to deliver? I’m asking you to face the brutal facts. For those programs that fall into the “convenient to deliver” bucket, ask yourself this follow-up question: “Am I willing to do what it takes to update this program to make it more effective?” If the answer is yes, read on.

Nudge Your Learners Along

Learning nudges delivered by smartphones might be the closest thing to a silver bullet there is for today’s leaners. Why? The brain makes up 2 percent of our total mass yet consumes 25 percent of the oxygen we inhale, so we’re constantly looking for new ways to conserve power and habits are a way for your brain to save energy.

Your learners already constantly check their phones, so you’ll tap into an existing habit loop by sending nudges directly to their devices. Delivery is also frictionless; there’s nothing to log into, and you don’t need to attend at a certain time or place.


Nudges are also bite-sized. Think one- to three-minute nudges packed with actionable content; one knowledge nugget per nudge. That makes your learning accessible and scalable. One minute doesn’t feel overwhelming. One minute can be finished on-the-go as a part of a daily routine.

At their core, learning nudges are so small that learners can’t fail or say no. Nudges delivered to a device people already use all day long create a perfect mash up of delivery method plus content design to tap the neuroscience of behavior change.

As L&D professionals, we’re in the business of growth and unleashing human potential. I’ve asked you some hard questions about the relevancy and effectiveness of your current programs and about whether you’re going to do what’s easy or if you want to leave a learning legacy. Pick one program that if it were wildly successful would have the greatest impact on your people and redesign it to be delivered in learning nudges.

Trust me when I say it can be done. I took the hard look in the mirror I’m asking you to take and didn’t like what I found when I reviewed our programming. As a result, I reworked and redesigned all of Moxie’s programs, including a half-day unconscious bias leadership training, into a smartphone delivery within learning nudge format. Was it easy? Not by a long stretch. But we’re trying to make workplaces and the world more inclusive, so it was worth it. Here’s to nudging your way to learning success.

About the Author

Maureen “Mo” Berkner Boyt is the Founder of The Moxie Exchange. She’s spent over 25 years helping organizations grow by creating inclusive workplaces where talented people can thrive. She has leveraged the power of technology to build scalable, actionable, measurable inclusion programs and tools, including the first-of-its-kind comprehensive diversity and inclusion app, Everyday Inclusion. People around the world are using Moxie’s inclusion technology to change their daily behaviors and help create inclusive cultures.

Maureen holds a Master of Education, Organizational Development and is the author of the 5-book series Rock Your Moxie: Power Moves for Women Leading the Way. Her Disrupt HR Talk, “Hack Your Biased Brain” is one of the most popular talks of the movement.

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