Last week we talked about what it means to be a leader. To recap, our leadership blog outlined what it takes to lead your crew to success, instead of on ‘bossing’ them into submission. Inspiration and personal touch are key to being a leader. Now, we’re taking those leadership skills and expanding on what they mean. This brings us to the subject of employee morale. Morale is a multi-faceted subject. Although we’re all created equal, some of us have an easier time digging deep and finding those internal motivators than others. Some employees dig deep and strive for perfection; although perfection is impossible, they continue to try. Some employees do enough to get by. Unfortunately, you can’t force an employee to do a better job… but, with some moral boosting techniques and strong leadership, you can encourage your staff to reach their greater potential.
In most companies, there are three types of employees: 1 – The ones who fight to perform and who aren’t derailed by failure, 2 – the ones who are content with being “in the middle”, and 3 – those who only do what they ‘have to’. Who are you catering your leadership style to?
What is Employee Morale?
“Employee morale, in human resources, is defined as the job satisfaction, outlook, and feelings of well-being an employee has within a workplace setting. Proven to have a direct effect on productivity, it is one of the cornerstones of business.” Not a bad definition, but we think there’s more to it than that.
An employee with high morale tends to ‘look’ and ‘act’ happily, in all aspects of life, not just at work. A simple smile is a good sign. An Employee who always tries to help, who isn’t afraid of a new challenge or shows signs of initiative most likely has a higher sense of morale/job satisfaction. That said, there are a lot of outside factors that determine day to day attitudes as well. That’s why personal leadership is so important. Checking up on employees and developing at least semi-personal relationships with (all of) them can make a huge difference. This is a huge undertaking for large companies, but efforts should be made.
Why try to ‘know’ your employees? We’ve all seen poor morale. Subdued, apathetic attitudes are outwardly apparent and easy to identify. The above mentioned are the folks that may not even want our help. But, what about the middle-men and women; the group of people who just need someone to take them to the next level? This is the largest group that make up the work-force and probably contains the most untapped potential.
It’s true that our ‘runners‘ (high morale employees) work the hardest and deserve to be rewarded, but don’t let the others fall by the wayside. Ask yourself the question, “Does this employee (lower morale) need something that I can give them (as a leader) or are they not cut out for the job?” It’s hard to make this call, but this is real life and not everyone has a positive mental outlook. Without trying, you will never know what their true potential can be.
How Can You Help?
First, let’s start with our ‘runners’ – Employees who naturally show a high level of morale, despite personal and professional circumstance. While it’s common in PC Culture to ‘level the playing field’, we know that the best employees deserve a reward, because they produce the most results for our businesses. Again, we’re not saying ignore employee morale issues, but don’t crash your business trying to coddle those who may not want to improve themselves. A few simple ways we keep our employees in high spirits are:
- Lunch with the boss – Take your employees out to lunch and let them choose the location. Do your best to keep work-related discussions to a minimum. Take this time to get to know more about what your employee’s interests and hobbies are beyond their work lives. Steve Moore, Director, The HR Center of Excellence
- Company apparel – Who doesn’t love a free t-shirt or ball cap? Offering employees free company apparel and other logo merchandise can be a simple, inexpensive way to say, ‘thank you’. Mary Lawrence, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, MidMarket Human Resource Consultant
- ‘Thank you’ meetings – Call an employee into your office to just say thanks. It’s most impactful if you simply say thanks for a particular thing and nothing else. Don’t discuss other issues; only talk about the good work. Jill Evans Silman, MS-HRM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior Performance Consultant, Recruiting Services
These are just a few of our practices from an amazing list we found online. Check out 52 Epic Ways to Reward Your Employees to get a ton of great ideas on rewarding your hard working employees! There is so much good content on this website, we’re sure you can find something useful.
Remember, you’re not allowing your elite team to flaunt their rewards (high performing employees don’t do this anyway), but you’re motivating them to continue in their efforts. A cocky attitude can be just as damaging as low morale.
Identifying the Problems
Now that you’ve really taken care of your top employees, what do you do to bring the rest of your organization to success? As we mentioned earlier, there are some people who really don’t like being lead to better attitudes and work ethic (statistically around 10% or 11% of the total organization). We’re not talking about them. In fact, you might be better off without them. We’re speaking about the middle group of men and women who just need a little push. What do we do for them? We take this group seriously because we want every member of our organization to take ownership of their positions.
First, you need to identify this group.
- Do you see increased negativity, high or increased rates of absenteeism, or reduced cooperation or commitment? Checking in with workers on a regular basis will help you gauge employee morale and address budding problems. They aren’t ready to give up, but they may need help.
- Unmotivated employees go through the motions rather than taking an active seat at the table. Have you noticed this in your workplace? Do they want to help, but don’t know where to start?
- Employee morale problems can quickly affect a team’s quality of work. Signs of trouble include missed deadlines, an increase in mistakes or a decline in service levels. Ask your team members if they feel burdened by the amount of work they have to do. This could be a runner who is reaching a state of ‘burn-out’.
Most of the identification process involves you (the leader) paying attention and communicating with employees, at all levels, as often as possible. Don’t view this as a chore. It’s no different than any kind of maintenance for your company. If you don’t check your car’s oil, your engine will explode. If you don’t check your employee’s morale, your business will fail, or at least be very slow growing. We’re currently working on this within our company. As PolyPortables grows, we’re trying to make sure that we bring everyone along with us. It’s a challenge, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to help our people grow both personally and professionally.
Boosting Employee Morale
This is our favorite part, making people happy. As a business, and as business operators in general, we all take an extraordinary amount of pride in ‘satisfying the needs’ of our customers. Let’s apply that same philosophy to the people we surround ourselves with every day – our employees. Morale is a mindset, not just a list of activities to distract employees from daily struggles, making them happy for a minute. Here are a few ways we’ve researched to keep spirits up for your entire office.
- Work is more than a job – Everyone wants to feel that his or her work has a higher purpose. Sometimes, though, that purpose gets lost in the day-to-day grind. So what can you do? Find ways to show your employees what their work really means. This is one that we’re working on as well. Taking photos of portable restrooms being used in disaster areas, and showing those photos to our construction crews, really drives the point home – “your hard work is helping people stay clean and safe.” What can you do to show your employees that work is ‘bigger’ than the day to day?
- Grant time off to employees to pursue projects they are passionate about – Personal projects can provide an energizing break from regular responsibilities and can serve as a source of innovation for a company. Do your employees play music? Are any of them photographers or artists? Encourage them to pursue those hobbies along with their normal workload. You never know what skills may be developed that can help your company grow. If nothing else, a personally satisfied employee will be a better team member than an unhappy one.
- Train employees to develop positive attitudes – Although some people are naturally motivated, not all employees think the same way. Schedule time for employees to watch and discuss videos with inspiring themes, like “Why Do We Fall”, free on YouTube. Just listening to this video while writing the blog got us fired up! Take the time to teach your team what it really takes to be a success, not just on the job but in life. The employees who respond to this motivation will make a positive difference in your company. This is one area we need to focus our attention. Training is key, and we’re making efforts to increase our employee’s knowledge base.
There are a thousand ideas that you can implement in your business to pump up employee morale, but the key word is ‘implement‘. YOU have to take charge and start making changes. Your employees will notice, and the ones you want to keep will change with you.