A business is only as good as its people. So often, leaders and managers alike forget the indispensability of treating employees well in running a successful business. In so many organisations today, employee morale has taken a backseat towards other long-term business interests like cost-efficiency.
The effects of having an enthusiastic and motivated workforce go far beyond merely creating positive work environments. Workplace productivity, employee satisfaction, and turnover rates all hinge greatly upon employee morale. In that regard, here are six practical strategies for boosting employee morale.
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At its core, workplace morale rests primarily on whether your employees feel valued in their roles. This, in turn, is heavily influenced by managerial leadership styles. Time and again, industry leaders–from Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella–have underscored the importance of leading with empathy.
In the context of employee morale, empathetic leadership styles cannot be stressed enough. Employees need to feel that their managers care enough about them to be willing to listen (and listen well) to their input. When people see their leaders taking a “people-first” approach to management that puts people, not profit, at the core of the business, they benefit from the psychological safety that comes with feeling valued.
As Simon Sinek mentions in his hugely popular TED talk, the best leaders are the ones who make their people feel safe.
As per the adage, “a family that eats together stays together.” That applies to the workplace too. Teams with strong rapport and bonding naturally create internal social support systems that bolster resilience and motivation in the long run. While it may still be underrated today, the fact is that having a sense of belonging and attachment to the people you work with is a huge help in good times and bad times.
If people feel a sufficiently healthy amount of rapport with their co-workers and bosses at work, they’ll be more motivated to come to work every day. When the going gets tough, they’re also more likely to stay motivated and help motivate one another when the going gets tough.
A recent SurveyMonkey study revealed that “meaningful work” is the second most crucial element of employee morale, despite HR professionals undervaluing it.
Scientific research supports this too. A 2012 study by Adam Grant, organisational psychologist, Wharton professor, and bestselling author, found that interacting with an end user had considerably positive effects on employee morale and motivation. When people saw how their work was contributing to the greater good, they were more driven to perform.
Of course, how this plays out from company to company depends on the situation. Sharing and reading positive customer testimonials is one way of reenergising employees through connecting their work with some sense of meaning. A manager at a travel agency, for example, might make it a team habit to share glowing customer reviews from, say, newlywed couples whose honeymoons were unforgettable thanks to the efforts of the team.
Self-efficacy, or the extent to which a person believes he or she can execute a task well, contributes significantly to an employee’s motivation levels. The more confident we feel in our skills, the better our morale gets. Hence, in the workplace, managers hoping to boost workplace morale need to cultivate their employees’ self-efficacy.
The obvious practical implication of this is to ensure employees get the requisite training they need to excel. As per Sir Richard Branson’s philosophy, leaders should train their people well enough so that they can leave, and treat them well enough so that they don’t.
A more targeted approach to this, though, is to factor in employee strengths in determining what training to give which employee, and which tasks to assign which employee. Giving people the tools to maximise their skills and the ability to put them to good use goes a long way in boosting their morale.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings are bound to occur in any workplace. If they generate feelings of ill will and resentment that are allowed to fester and snowball into full-blown conflicts, though, it’s a massive dampener to workplace morale.
Coming to work at an office where playing politics determines job performance more than actual effort is very demotivating.
Good leaders understand this and strive to maintain a culture of open communication and honesty that prioritises problem-solving over finger-pointing. In these contexts, when conflicts do occur, they’re brought out in the open and resolved quickly and efficiently before they can start eating into employee morale.
People need to feel appreciated for their work before they can feel valued for it. Managers who tend to think that there’s no need to thank people for doing the job they were hired for will almost definitely take their employees’ hard work and achievements for granted, thus making them feel as though their roles are mostly thankless.
People who are made to feel like entirely replaceable grunt workers are likely to behave as such. They’ll ultimately seek greener pastures where their efforts might be more valued and compensated accordingly.
Obviously, compensation packages need to be attractive enough to make employees feel valued. Opportunities for career advancement within the company should also be clearly defined and available to anyone who earns it.
What so many leaders neglect, though, is giving praise when due. Genuine, specific commendations are vital in ensuring that employees feel valued, thus boosting morale. Rather than absent-mindedly commenting “good job,” it’s much more effective to specify what was so good about it. In so doing, you’ll encourage the rest of the team to emulate those praiseworthy behaviors.