Behavioral Nudges for Organizational Change: Humu

Humu uses data science and behavioral insights to provide personalized, easy-to-act nudges for improved management and performance.

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“We’re leveraging the power of small behavioral changes to create radical organizational transformations from the inside out and the bottom up.”

–Stefanie Tignor

Head of Data Science and Insights at Humu

In the article How People Analytics Can Change an Organization by Knowledge at Wharton, we learn about Humu – a behavioral change platform that nudges people towards better ways of working. Nudge theory, a concept rooted in behavioral economics and political theory, suggests positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions have the ability to influence the behavior and decision-making of groups or individuals. Humu combines the power of data-driven insights and behavioral interventions to provide personalized guidance on actions employees should take in the workplace. 

According to Humu co-founder and former SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, the original vision for the company was “to make software that helps managers and co-workers act more human.” For example, traditional human resource professionals measure milestones in the form of salary growth, promotions, and performance assessments, while gauging employee perceptions through surveys and polls. There is a missed opportunity for considering the larger social and historical context, so Humu serves to identify and address the gaps between employee perceptions and realities with an understanding of the complex interactions that can take place in a business.

Overall, I see many benefits to using Humu and was surprised to learn some of the insights shared in the article. For example, we’ve all heard the saying, “people leave managers, not companies,” yet I was intrigued to read that a person is 12% more likely to stay with a bad manager if that boss is universally disliked by everyone on that team because there is a sense of social support rather than going through the bad experience alone. Another study showed that even when a person leaves their bad manager for a new one, there’s evidence of “negative baggage” that carries over from the original relationship. On a more positive note, Humu integrates with email, Slack, and Teams to send personalized nudges that inspire action, like reminders to recognize coworkers or check in on how people are doing (video below).

Playing devil’s advocate, I can see how Humu may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for every company, given various business models and sizes. The technology could also develop shortcomings around other human behaviors and biases such as habituation. In their marketing, Humu says they use “nudges, not notifications” – still, as far as I can tell, the interaction seems pretty similar to notifications we receive regularly. Unless their nudges are dynamic, salient, and varied in timing, people may cognitively start tuning them out. It does seem like people can track views, so there is an element of social accountability through observation, but it’s hard to predict follow-through. Even so, at the very least, I would be keen to watch a demo or try out their diagnostic survey if I were in a position of leadership at an organization.


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Student comments on Behavioral Nudges for Organizational Change: Humu

  1. Hi Kelly, thanks for sharing your unique insights regarding Humu. I like your points regarding some interesting findings that previously might be misunderstood. For example, the statistics about how a person is going to stay with a bad manager is also insightful for me. I also like the points you made about how Humu “may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for every company.” Your ideas made me more curious about how it could be improved and its competitive advantages over other similar firms.

  2. Hey Kelly, interesting choice and thanks for sharing. We looked at nudge theories in the context of climate change at my old company and how you could influence employee behavior towards more sustainable lifestyles. I had never encountered it in the broader managerial space before. I’m curious about Humu’s tech and how they avoid employees “gaming” the system.

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