Is your organisation making sure morale is high amongst its staff? If not, then you may be at a real disadvantage. Recent studies have shown that positive work cultures are more productive. Negative company culture can also heavily impact your company's reputation and recruitment process. Nowadays, employees have a more prominent voice through sites like Glassdoor, where employees publicly rate workplace culture.
Here at Ovation Incentives, helping you improve workplace culture and get the best from your employees is the backbone of what we do. We've been helping some of the world's biggest companies with employee engagement and recognition for over 20 years now. Read on to discover what impacts employee morale, and we'll reveal our top 15 staff morale boosters.
What is Staff Morale?
Staff morale is defined as the overall viewpoint of individuals in the workplace, including attitudes, emotions, satisfaction levels, and general outlook.
If staff are motivated, satisfied, and engaged in their work, they are far more likely to be happy and have high morale. Staff with high morale can positively influence your team and help make your workplace an upbeat environment.
On the flip side, unhappy employees with low morale can display negative behaviours and be a disruptive influence. They can be unenthusiastic, frustrated or even angry about things like facilities, company policies, workplace culture and many others.
Many factors can affect employee morale. Whether positive or negative, some ways we can assess and measure staff morale are:
- Business performance
- Attendance / absenteism
- Suggestion or complaints
- Staff surveys
- Relationships with colleagues and management
Why is Employee Morale Important in Business?
Most employers would agree that keeping employees happy and healthy is essential for achieving their business goals. But what are the underlying reasons that make employee morale so vital to high-level business performance? Put simply; the business relies on its employees. If staff are absent or not productive when present (aka. presenteeism), then chances are your business will not perform at its best.
In the latest Britain's Healthiest Workplace survey, results showed productivity has been dropping steadily since 2014, primarily due to presenteeism. Employees lost 14.6% of working hours, representing a loss of 38 productive days per employee per year. The Centre for Mental Health calculates the annual cost of presenteeism on the UK economy is at £15.1 billion per year, while absenteeism costs £8.4 billion. If your staff are happy and morale is high, they'll be more creative, productive and collaborative. You'll be far more likely to get the best from them and as a result staff retention will improve.
Causes of Low Staff Morale
So what causes low morale amongst employees? Well, there can be many reasons. Here are a few examples.
Low trust in leadership
Poor behaviour, abuse of authority and questionable decisions taken by leaders can hit morale hard, especially if left unaddressed. Those in leadership roles must lead by example and be mindful of how their behaviour and attitude affects those around them.
Lack of open communication
Poor communication is often at the centre of problems. Whether it's a simple misunderstanding, a lack of clear goal-setting or employees feeling like there's no one they can talk to.
Staff not feeling they are part of a team
Often, a lack of communication also comes with feeling isolated or ostracised from the group. Don't leave anyone out on their own.
Be careful not to give unthoughtful or impersonal incentives or rewards as these won't go down well. For example, if your employee isn't an adrenaline junkie, don't get them a crazy experience that will freak them out! Make sure you get to know their likes and dislikes and tailor your rewards accordingly. If in any doubt, let them choose their reward.
Don't attempt to hide problems or avoid difficult conversations. You'll only cause more damage to morale. Your employees will appreciate and respect your honesty.
Trust your employees. They are responsible adults, and you treat them as such. No one does their best work when someone is breathing down their neck.
Whilst you don't want to micromanage, don't go to the other extreme and leave your team unsupervised. Make sure you are there to help and support them when needed.
Lack of career progression
Nothing kills morale like that feeling that you're in a dead-end job. Make sure there is a clear path for progression. Employees will be motivated by having a clear goal to work towards.
No training / poor training
As with the previous point, a lack of training will lead to an unclear path in their career progression. Poor training only means your employees' jobs will be more challenging. A lack of training can make tasks feel overwhelming, and no one wants to feel out of their depth.
Unrealistic goal setting
When you set unrealistic goals, this can put employees under colossal pressure. Naturally, most people aim to please and attempt to reach the goal set. Inevitably when the employee fails, they'll feel the personal responsibility. If more realistic goals aren't set, their confidence and morale can be crushed.
Are your employees simply working too hard? Are they physically, mentally or emotionally exhausted from all the issues within the company? According to a Gallup survey, 76% of employees experience this at least sometimes, with 28% experiencing it always or very often.
How to Boost Staff Morale
Once you've taken the time to understand why employee morale might be low or declining, the next step is to take action! Without further ado, here are our top 15 staff morale boosters.
Build Trust In Leadership
Poor leadership can cause a significant dip in morale. To remedy this, you'll need to build trust between your employees and those in leadership roles. There's no quick fix. Building trust takes time and is a result of positive actions taken. To help build confidence in leadership, make sure that everyone is treated evenly, fairly and with respect. Any reports of dishonesty should be dealt with firmly to stamp out this damaging behaviour.
Transparent and Open Communications
Poor, inaccurate or incomplete communication influences morale. Imagine you were working on a task, but then your manager drops some vital piece of information at the last second before it's due. How frustrating! Why wasn't I told earlier? Better communication could have prevented this situation. Be sure to communicate early and often, so you can support your employees and ensure they are well informed and prepared. Keep your employees well informed of what's happening in the company to ensure they feel more involved and not left in the dark.
Develop a Positive Company Image
Reputations take years to build and moments to destroy. A negative company reputation can cause low staff morale and deter attracting the candidates you want. Make sure your company is ethically run, and people know about it. Employees don't just work for a paycheck. They want to feel their work is essential and the company they work for shares their ethics and values.
Get Feedback from Employees
Getting feedback from your employees is a great way to boost morale. When you invite your staff to share their opinions, it demonstrates that you value their thoughts and care what they have to say. The team will be more engaged when their voices are heard.
Provide Plenty of Staff Recognition
Recognising your staff regularly not only makes them feel valued but helps foster a culture of gratitude, which is consistently associated with greater happiness. You can recognise your team with the following methods:
- Informal, verbal acknowledgements
- Staff recognition programs
- Company-wide awards schemes
- Handwrite them a thank-you note
- Add them to a wall of fame
Invest in Staff Development
Investing in your staff's personal and professional development is a sign you believe in them. This doesn't necessarily mean financial investment in a course or training program. Sometimes investing your time through a mentorship program can be even more beneficial. A recent survey shows that 87% of employees want some form of job development, but only a third receive the feedback they need.
Establish a Healthy, Appealing Workplace
Your employees will do their best work when they are healthy and happy. Make sure your office has plenty of plants to create a sense of calm and provide cleaner air. Clear any clutter in your office and provide a space for employees to relax. You can even get someone to come in to give massages, yoga or meditation classes.
Promote and Support Healthy Work / Life Balance
Look after your staff's well-being through healthy working practices. Discourage working out of office hours to avoid burnout, even if it's just sending that one last email late at night. Whilst you may respect your employees' hard work and dedication, they will appreciate your concern for their well-being. Setting these constraints shows that you care for them as people and not just as employees.
Provide Appealing Incentives, Perks and Rewards
As mentioned earlier, the wrong incentives can go down like a ton of bricks. However, getting them right can give a huge morale boost and is easier than you think. Offering a reward, perk or incentive based on the employees' hobbies and interests can show you understand them. Alternatively, here are some options that (in our experience) never fail.
- Let staff choose their reward, voucher or experience
- Give them a well deserved day off
- Let them finish work early one day
More Frequent 1-to-1 Meetings
Great managers can help make a massive difference to your teams' morale. Set aside time for each employee to have a 1-to-1 meeting. These meetings can be informal and allow the employee to express their feelings in confidence. Having this dedicated time just for them can be a cathartic experience for the employee and a healthy way to let go of any frustrations or concerns. They'll hugely appreciate their manager taking the time to listen to them and support them with any challenges.
Acknowledge Staff Life Events
All work and no play makes life pretty dull sometimes. Celebrating key life events such as staff birthdays and work anniversaries, weddings and newborns can help lift everyone's spirits. Any excuse to get together and connect with your team can help bring everyone closer together and make the work environment a happier place.
Identify and Deal with Problematic Employees
Suppose just one employee has a poor attitude or behaviour. In that case, it can be draining for the morale of everyone around them. You should not tolerate any form of bullying or discrimination under any circumstance. Make sure your employees understand this zero-tolerance policy. In the unfortunate event that this occurs, do not hesitate to enforce it. No one person should be above this, and all your staff deserve fair and equal treatment.
Make it OK to Fail
"Fail fast and fail often" has become somewhat of a mantra, especially in the world of tech startups. Remember, the aim is not to fail, but we are all human. We all make mistakes. We all could have done something better with hindsight, and that's ok. What's important is that we learn and apply these lessons to improve things the next time a challenge is faced. Encourage your team to share what they've learned from a challenging task and support each other to help trial and make positive changes.
Team Building Events
Getting everyone together in a different setting away from the workplace can be great for morale. Consider taking suggestions from your staff to make sure it's something they'll enjoy. These could include:
- Scavenger hunts
- Murder mystery
- Sports day
- Escape room
Build Diversity Awareness
Having a diverse team can be your superpower. Research shows that "decision-making of diverse teams outperforms individual decision-making up to 87% of the time". Having a diverse group will have a broader range of ideas and perspectives that can help boost creativity. Encouraging your team to share their cultural differences can help make your employees more inquisitive and help team bonding, alongside your team building events.
Short term gains for cultural change
Recognising when employee morale is important, but it's crucial to act on it as soon as possible. There are many reasons why morale might be low, and there are many solutions you can implement to change things. Lots of small changes can boost employee morale in the short term. However, when you start making this a practice and regularly implement positive changes, it will accumulate on your employee morale. These positive changes can help you get the best from your employees, attract top talent and reduce staff turnover.