We’ve now entered time in the calendar that Wharton economist Katy Milkman calls “the granddaddy” of behavior-change catalysts: the turn of the new year.
Milkman, author of the book How to Change and co-founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative, helped pioneer the concept of the “fresh start effect”: the idea that we’re better at making a change or taking on a new goal when we can tie our efforts to the start of a new chapter, whether that’s a holiday, a new season, or a more personal demarcation like a move or a new job.
In a 2021 study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Milkman and her colleagues identified one real-life workplace application: Their research found that nudging people to contribute more to their retirement accounts was most effective when they had the option to start their increased contributions around a date that signified change, such as a birthday or the first day of spring.
Our question: How can you best leverage the fresh-start effect to spur employee behavior change?
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