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?

Already a member? Sign in.

Make today’s workplace challenge tomorrow’s strategic advantage

Charter memberships deliver the research, education, events, and expert advisory that people leaders and teams need to transform themselves and their organizations.


The best way for anyone to keep up with what's new and next in the changing workplace.

Charter Pro

Actionable insights, benchmarks and best practices designed to be used in the flow of work, plus unlimited access to Charter events for managers, rising decision makers, or your whole people team.

Charter Pro CxO
Custom pricing

Join our community of groundbreaking CHROs and get unlimited, expert 1:1 advisory, plus custom research to help you navigate your thorniest challenges.

Trusted by change-ready and innovative companies


Charter Charter Pro Charter Pro CxO
News and Insights

Cutting-edge analysis of the latest workplace trends

Tools, templates, and benchmarks
Delivered twice-weekly in essential email briefings and written by journalists and researchers dedicated to the future of work
Original research insights and how to use them

Regular installments on AI, flexible work, and inclusion

Live events and on-demand workshops

Meet and learn directly from global experts building the future of work

AI-powered assistant

On-demand analysis, answers, and action plans to save you time and make you smarter

Coaching and advisory

Unlimited on-demand expertise – for a fraction of the cost of analysts and consultants

Custom team briefings

Host live research briefings for your whole people team on topics you care about most