What Is Employee Morale, And Why Is It Important?
Employee morale is how your team members feel about their work environment and their role in it.
Morale has a tremendous impact on:
Addressing workplace morale isn't always easy for leaders. Morale has a lot of internal and external factors that can change an employee's experience from day to day. However, companies can improve morale with a bit of work, even if it's been low. Today's article will cover specific strategies your organization can use to improve employee job satisfaction and boost confidence at work.
How Is Employee Morale Measured?
Morale isn't always easy to measure. Most companies that measure morale use various methods to measure their team's experience. You can use pulse surveys, sentiment analysis, and performance to measure workplace confidence.
Many companies send out pulse surveys regularly to capture the pulse of their team. Pulse surveys are typically quick surveys that companies send out quarterly. Each survey might have 3-5 questions that help you understand where your team is and how you can improve.
Some companies use a more extensive employee engagement survey like Gallup's Q12 quarterly survey to understand where their team members are.
Quarterly surveys are best because you can easily track employee morale over time, and it reduces some of the recency bias that yearly surveys often have. Hosting surveys quarterly isn't always a perfect option, though. Weekly or monthly surveys reduce recency bias further, although hosting surveys often isn't easy for HR or employees. Find an effective cadence for you and your team members.
Sentiment analysis is text analysis. When you're performing sentiment analysis, you are trying to understand if the message is generally positive, negative, or neutral. Most survey programs have some version of sentiment analysis built-in for open-ended questions.
Your pulse survey should give employees a chance to share how they feel in an open-ended capacity. Once you have that data, you can read the responses to determine if the morale at work is typically high or low.
Another way to track morale at work is through performance. Have some of your best employees begun performing poorly? Slight dips in performance are typical as your team can't be productive 100% of the time. Instead of looking at tiny drops, you should consider significant or sustained dips in performance over several weeks or months. If you notice this, it's time to consider your team's morale.
Understanding Nuanced Differences
If you are tracking employee morale, you should also look at nuanced differences in enthusiasm. For example, you could look into morale further to determine if specific demographics or teams at your company are suffering from a lack of confidence at work.
Are your women suffering from low morale? Does a particular team have lower morale than others? What about employees who work remotely vs. those who come into the office?
Many companies choose a one-size-fits-all approach to handling morale, but that's not always the best approach. Sometimes you need to get specific to improve job satisfaction. Making sweeping workplace culture changes won't work if what you needed to do was demote one team's manager.
Research to understand the actions that would make the most positive impact on your team.
What Factors Improve Employee Morale?
Many factors improve morale. Most of these revolve around simple concepts like:
Utilizing these factors will help you improve team morale. Today's examples will give you tangible ways that you can impact these factors at work.
22 Ways To Improve Employee Morale
Now that you have a solid understanding of what employee morale is, how to measure it, and what affects it, let's move into some helpful strategies to improve it. Utilize a mixture of the following methods to make your company a better place to work.
1. Understand The Importance Of Employee Morale
One of the first ways to improve morale is understanding why it's so important. If you are reading this article, you already realize how a team's spirit impacts every aspect of the employee experience. By understanding the importance of morale, you will take it seriously and invest in how your team feels about their work.
When dealing with this topic, your entire leadership team needs to be on board. If one leader doesn't understand the value of building your team's confidence and spirit, they can destroy the progress of other managers who do value that. So, take your time and ensure that you have buy-in from everyone on your leadership team.
2. Provide Employees With Regular Communication About Workplace Issues
Communication is an integral part of workplace morale. Your team needs to know that they won't be the last to know when issues arise at work.
One common issue that causes problems at work are layoffs. Workers who stay after a round of public layoffs often suffer from survivor's guilt and an increased workload, which can lead to low morale. Companies that are upfront about workplace issues and potential layoffs can build a better work environment for everyone at their organization.
If your organization could or is dealing with any issues, be upfront. Let your team know so they can prepare for changes.
3. Create A Suggestions Box (That You Normally Check And Utilize)
Another way to improve communication with your people is by creating an anonymous suggestions box. Companies often fail because they don't act on the feedback they get from a suggestions box. Why should an employee continue letting you know how to improve if you don't improve?
Someone on your leadership or human resources team should be reading these suggestions weekly. After reading the recommendations, open things up for discussion with the leadership team. Can you make these accommodations? If so, implement them. If not, try to understand why an employee feels that way. Is there another strategy you can implement that will help the team with this same issue?
Whether you can implement something from your suggestions box or not, let your team members know that you are reading them. For example, you can set aside some time in your company's weekly meeting to let your team know that you read their suggestions and what you are doing to implement them.
4. Create A Robust Internal Promotion Strategy
Are your best people being overlooked for new positions or your leadership team? Sometimes you need to bring in outside resources if you are looking for a specific skill set, but this isn't always the case. Often you can promote from within to fill gaps at the top or new roles.
Creating an internal promotion strategy can help you keep your best people engaged and excited to work. After all, being passed over for a position you think you deserve can be demotivating.
Before you list a new job or leadership opening, look internally. Encourage internal team members to apply for the role and work with company leaders and employees to find stellar internal candidates. If you cannot find what you are looking for internally, reach outside the company.
5. Improve Manager/Worker Relationships
Next, you need to improve management and worker relationships.
According to Gallup, "Managers account for 70% of [the] variance in employee engagement."
If your managers aren't serving their team members appropriately, team morale will dip further than you can fix it. So keep an eye on managers, listen when employees complain about their management, and take action to improve those relationships.
For example, you might put your managers through extra training to help them improve their working relationships. You could also invest in team building or retreats that help managers and workers get to know each other better.
6. Increase Team Member Connectivity
How your team interacts is also essential. Increasing team member connectivity is especially important for remote teams who don't get to see each other in the office every day.
You must host get-to-know-you activities for everyone at your company and within departments. These events are critical for team members. You should strive to host a larger team building event every quarter.
Use team and department meetings to get to know each other consistently. You can also use a communication tool like Slack, Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc., to build teams and ensure that everyone gets to know each other daily.
7. Swap Out Leaders Who Damage Company Morale
If you cannot improve manager/worker relationships, it may be time to let go of the leaders who bring your team down. Removing or demoting a manager isn't something your organization should take lightly.
Before you make any roster changes, you want to ensure that letting go of a team member would be in the best interest of your entire team. Is their presence causing their team to fail? Has their team mentioned that they dislike working with that manager?
You also want to have a solid plan for what to do with that manager's employees. For example, will you hire a replacement or have that manager's employees working with another leader? How long with that current leader need to step up?
Swapping out leaders can be an excellent thing for your team, but you have to ensure that it's done well.
8. While You're At It, Let Go Of Any Employee Who Damages Company Morale
Managers may have the most significant impact on team morale, but they aren't the only people who can affect it. Individual contributors can harm teams too.
If you work in an at-will state, you can fire someone for not being a great cultural fit, but you want significant evidence to support your claim. An employee who damages company morale isn't a great fit, but it's more about how they make others feel at work. Are employees able to be themselves, accomplish their best work, and get excited about the company?
If an employee brings others down, it might be time to chat with HR and determine how to best cut ties with this employee.
9. Ensure That Teams Are Well Staffed
Another way to boost morale is to ensure that your teams are well-staffed. Missing even one employee for an extended period can mess with your organization's balance and create resentment at work.
If you have an empty seat, fill it as soon as possible. You should also ensure that your teams grow as your organization makes more money or acquires more customers. Backfilling and creating new roles will ensure that your team feels supported.
10. Or Focus On Building A Sustainable Experience For The Team Members You Have
If you cannot afford to hire a new team member, you may need to adjust expectations for the employees you do have. You can't expect your team members to wear multiple hats for several years. Even your best people will get burnt out if they have to do numerous jobs.
Make sure that your expectations are set appropriately. For example, are you expecting employees who wear multiple hats to work twice as hard? Or do you want them to do less in each position to cover them the best they can? Don't put too much pressure on employees who are doing your organization a favor by keeping several seats filled.
11. Conduct A Stay Interview
One of the best things you can do as a leadership team is conduct stay interviews for the people in your organization who decide to stay onboard. Exit interviews can teach you a lot about your team, and your company is probably already conducting those regularly. Unfortunately, companies don't spend enough time chatting with current team members to understand their motivations.
Why do they enjoy working with your company? Is there anything they would improve? Would they recommend your company to a friend? Getting detailed with open-ended questions is your best bet for making stay interviews work.
12. Create A Consistent Recognition System For Your Team Members
The next strategy you can use to boost morale is creating a consistent recognition system. Employees want to be celebrated for the hard work they do for your organization. Many companies choose employee of the month programs, but that can limit how many people you can recognize.
If you want to create a better system, try peer-to-peer recognition using Nectar. Peer recognition programs allow for more consistent and timely recognition. By providing positive feedback instantaneously, you can give employees a boost to their morale that impacts their behavior quickly.
13. Help Your Team Delegate And Work More Effectively
It can be challenging to get excited about work when you know you have too much of it. Managers are typically great at delegation, but individual contributors could use some help. Everyone on your team could benefit from delegating to freelancers or assistants.
If you notice that employees have too much on their plate, help them hire someone who can help them. Hiring a freelancer to help is often cheaper than a full-time employee, and your team will be grateful for the assistance.
14. Celebrate Important Dates For Your Employees
Did you know that class reunions, big birthdays, and work anniversaries make employees more likely to quit their job? If you don't get these celebrations right, you risk upsetting your team members and making them likely to leave. Make sure that you keep up with dates like this and give your team members a reason to stay at your organization.
Nectar can remember birthdays and work anniversaries. You can program our software to give your team members a points bonus during these crucial dates.
15. Ensure That Employees Have A Healthy Work-Life Balance
Can your employees leave work at work? Do your team members work hours of overtime every week without much support? Are you giving your workers a chance to destress and get out of work mode every day?
Companies must focus on improving work-life balance because poor balance causes employee turnover and burnout. According to research from Statista, only 60% of U.S. employees feel like they can effectively manage work and personal commitments. Companies need to step up and make sure that their team members understand how to balance work with life (and that life is taking a precedent.)
16. Check-In With Your People Regularly
The next way to improve morale is to regularly check in with your team. Work can feel lonely sometimes. Your team may need you to make the first move to uncover employee issues at work. During one-on-ones, leave some time to check in with your employees.
- What's happening in their lives?
- Do they need any extra support?
- How can you help them accomplish their most pressing tasks?
- How are they handling their stress levels?
Ask these questions and care about the answers. Help your team solve problems so they can improve their morale and feel better inside and outside of work.
17. Offer A Flexible Work Environment So Staff Can Work At Their Best
The pandemic has made flexible work environments a necessity for many workers. Flexibility at work allows for the work-life balance so many of your team members want and need.
Flexibility doesn't mean that employees don't have specific obligations for when they need to be on the clock. For example, your employees might have to attend staff meetings or office hours for customers.
Other than those mandatory events, workers should be able to schedule their day as long as they get work done on time. For example, you might find that some of your employees enjoy getting work done in the afternoon or at night. That should be okay as long as they interact with customers during business hours.
18. Let Your Workers Have A Bad Day
Everyone, from executives to individual contributors, has a bad day. Instead of overthinking a bad day, let your team members work with the mood they are in. As long as the bad mood isn't affecting customers, potential customers, or vendors, it's okay to work through a rough day. Encourage team members to do some thought work to determine what makes a day bad or less productive for them. You can't expect employees to leave emotions at the door every day.
19. Keep Up With Employee Morale Trends
Having a few bad days doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Companies need to think about employee morale trends, not one-off days.
If you take quarterly surveys, compare numbers. One bad quarter may not cause concern, but two or more quarters means you may have an issue.
If you have access to more nuanced information, you can make even better decisions. For example, some companies encourage employees to check in with their emotions every week so that managers and executives can spot trends. This may be a part of a manager's one-on-one duties to see how their team feels.
Once you have several months or a year of data, you might be able to spot deeper trends that can help your team manage their morale. For example, you may notice a dip in morale at the end of every quarter. With this information, you can put safeguards in place at that time to ensure staff members get the support they need.
20. Build Out A Stellar Paid Time Off Policy
Time off is essential for boosting employee morale. Time off helps your team members recharge, rest, and spend time away from work.
Employees in the European Union get a minimum of 20 days of vacation every year. Americans do not have a federally mandated amount of time off. Americans get an average of 10 days, and often many aren't taking full advantage of their time off.
If you want to improve morale at your organization, restructure your time off policy. You may not be federally mandated, but offering more days will help you stand out to new employees and build a better relationship with current ones.
21. Focus On A Common Goal
Do you want to improve employee motivation and morale? Try finding a common goal that everyone on your team can get behind. When everyone has a clear plan that matters to the entire organization, you can create a more meaningful place to work. With a common goal, your team members' retention and satisfaction at work go up.
22. Build A Company Culture That Helps Instead Of Judges
Building a solid workplace culture is imperative for improving workplace morale. Employees need to feel like you care for them and are willing to help them if they need it. Judgment doesn't help your relationship with your team members.
When you're dealing with a worker issue, think first about what you can do to help that team member. Encourage all of your executives and employees to have the same mindset. Before you know it, problems will have solutions, and your team will seek solutions instead of hiding the issues they have.
23. Encourage Leaders To Share Their Ups And Downs
Do your company leaders share their ups and downs? Seeing emotional intelligence from company leaders can help everyone feel more comfortable sharing their struggles. Everyone brings some amount of baggage into the workplace. If your leaders aren't addressing their problems, employees won't feel comfortable sharing what's impacting their lives.
Remove the need for perfection from your leadership team. Employees follow their lead, after all.
Conclusion: You Can Build Workplace Morale
No matter what your organization's morale currently looks like, there are many ways to boost it and create a stellar workplace. It starts with executive leaders deciding that employee satisfaction matters. From there, you can work on building the morale of employees by taking genuine action and implementing some of the ideas we shared today. Pick three activities from today's list and create a plan to improve your company's morale today.