Warehouse team management: nudge rather than cop-out

Published on 16 March 2022

Generix Group

Motivating and raising awareness among employees is a permanent challenge in warehouses. How can we renew ourselves to ensure a lasting convergence of team commitment, performance and mutual trust? In an environment where tasks are often tedious and repetitive, this equation is complex. New approaches to attention and motivation, based on the concept of "nudge", can help maintain a balance when combined with a solid and innovative warehouse management system. Here are some explanations.

Nudge: what are we talking about?

Traditionally, two types of work motivation are distinguished:

  • extrinsic motivation, triggered by an external factor (recognition by the manager and/or peers, remuneration or rewards, risk of punishment, etc.)
  • intrinsic motivation, which is linked to an internal force (the satisfaction of a job well done, the meaning that one manages to give to one's work, the pleasure of the social link with colleagues, the symbolic reward in terms of self-esteem or professional accomplishment, etc.)

Based on social psychology and cognitive sciences, nudge management can complement these two approaches. Contrary to traditional directive management, the principle of nudge consists in encouraging behaviors without explicitly expressing what is expected. In other words, it is a subtle "nudge" to encourage employees to act, without forcing them, in their own interest and in the interest of the company.

Painting crosswalks in trompe l'oeil form with a 3D effect to encourage motorists to slow down; offering smaller plates in canteens and self-service restaurants to limit food waste; sticking stickers on the risers of a staircase with the promise of calories burned, to encourage users to clear the escalators and exercise... These are just a few concrete examples of this nudge approach. Applied to the business world in general, and to warehouse work in particular, what can we expect from it?


Nudge in the industrial and logistics environment: some inspiring ideas

Safety: renew and diversify floor markings

In a warehouse, clear, intuitive and standard-compliant signage is one of the cornerstones of the safety policy. However, there is nothing to stop you from being creative with the content and form of the message, to discourage risky behavior. The objective is to attract attention without resorting to explicit injunctions or the threat of punishment, which are anxiety-provoking and potentially ineffective. Possible examples include a silhouette of a falling person that appears on the ground only when the surface is wet. Or a "catch me if you can" message on a guardrail.

Workplace engagement: give teams visibility with real-time information and updates

Allowing employees to concretely visualize the tasks that have already been completed and those that await them in the coming hours and days; allowing them to distinguish the nature of the task, to identify the other colleagues involved in the different stages of the chain or the typical profile of the final beneficiary: all this information contributes to giving meaning to the work of each person and to dissipating the impression of repetitiveness specific to handling tasks in the warehouse. In addition to being a motivational lever for employees, this visibility offered by the digital 'Resource Management' functionalities integrated into Generix Group's WMS solutions also benefits managers. They can easily allocate tasks according to available resources and modulate in real time according to needs.

Environmental footprint, waste management: focus on fun devices

How do you encourage employees to take on new, sometimes painful and restrictive actions to limit the company's environmental impact and carbon footprint? Placing basketball hoops above the waste sorting bins to make the process more fun can be an option. Another idea: transform the plastic waste collection containers into transparent ballot boxes - and thus ask the teams' opinion each week on a given unifying subject or launch small challenges ("The break room, should we repaint it green or orange?"; "Can you recognize this teenager? Is this a photo of the leader of Team A or Team B?", etc.).
Particularly beneficial in transformation and change management contexts, nudge-based initiatives must fit into the company's strategy and be articulated with the HR culture and practices in place. In other words, the examples given here are not universal recipes. Before taking the plunge, each company must take the time to study the behaviors to be changed, determine the desired results and devise its own nudge solutions.