Maintaining positive employee morale is essential for a successful business. Boosting employee morale can be done through various means, such as creating a positive work environment, providing feedback and recognition, and developing a sense of community. By implementing these strategies, businesses can also improve employee satisfaction and productivity.
The best way to know how to boost employee morale is to review data regularly and then act on it by speaking with your team about their needs, training your managers, encouraging people to take time off, and reviewing your benefits package. Below are five ways to boost morale at work.
1. Measure Employee Morale
Before you can take action, you first need to measure employee morale to identify what you must improve on. Here are some approaches you can take to measure it.
One of the best ways to get a genuine sense of employee morale is through anonymous surveys. Some employees are understandably suspicious of whether a survey is truly anonymous, so use an established platform to gather these results. Many platforms gather and compile results for you, using aggregate data that shows trends in your company.
SurveyMonkey, which is one of our recommended employee survey tools, offers a free platform where you can create unlimited surveys with up to 10 questions each. Responses are anonymous and can integrate with third-party software, such as Salesforce—delivering your results right to your network.
You can also create your own survey or customize our free Employee Engagement Survey below.
Your survey should be short, consisting of at most 10 questions that ask employees about their happiness at work, if their manager supports them in their role, if their productivity has been recognized, if they would refer someone to work at the company, and more. These items specifically can help you understand where your employees’ morale sits.
To obtain a more concrete figure, use a scale of 1-5 to determine the morale of your employees.
1 = Not at all/never/no/poor
2 = Rarely/probably not/not great
3 = Sometimes/occasionally/maybe/decent
4 = Often/most likely/pretty good
5 = All the time/very much/yes/awesome
Surveying workers also gives you data from across the company. While you won’t know which employees answered each question, you will be able to chart this data and gain impressions. Say you asked all 10 staff members to rate their happiness on a scale of one through five—if more than one gave a low rating, you need to take action, as low morale can spread like wildfire.
According to statistics, there is a 14.9% lower turnover rate in companies that regularly conduct employee feedback surveys.
High employee turnover is usually a sign of problems in your organization and can exacerbate morale issues. When employees see colleagues leaving in droves, they get concerned about what’s going on and may become disengaged.
There are many causes of turnover, some outside of your control, so taking proactive steps to combat it can help change the trend. It’s important that you calculate staff turnover on a monthly basis and look at your historical turnover data over the last quarter, six months, and year. If you see high turnover rates at any point, you may have a morale problem.
The same is true for employee attendance issues like absenteeism. It is a problem that can have serious consequences for an organization. It can lead to decreased productivity and morale, as well as increased costs. To reduce absenteeism, employers should focus on prevention by providing remote work for commuting or travel issues, a family-related paid time off (PTO) policy for caring for loved ones, and good employee benefits, such as health insurance (i.e., free annual checkups) for those with health concerns.
According to research by the University of Warwick, happy employees work harder and are 12% more productive. As such, by working on the pain points of your employees regarding their work, not only will they have higher morale and be happier, but your business will improve in the long run.
Great managers support employees and give them the space required to succeed. While every manager should know what their team is working on and do whatever they can to support them, they shouldn’t micromanage.
Managers should review performance with each individual on their team at least once per year in a formal setting and more frequently in less formal environments. Even for informal discussions, managers should record information discussed and any relevant performance data. This data can be used to spot patterns of poor performance, which can be a clear indicator of falling morale.
Did You Know? While many companies follow an annual schedule for conducting performance reviews, employees who received meaningful feedback from their managers in the past week are four times more likely to be engaged at work, according to a Gallup survey.
2. Provide Growth & Teambuilding Opportunities
Employees want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. They also want opportunities to grow and develop within their company and in their personal lives. If a company is stagnant or doesn’t encourage employees to better themselves, morale often drops.
Plus, without growth and new challenges, workers frequently become bored, disengaged, and unmotivated. You might even lose them, further increasing turnover and decreasing morale for those who remain.
Offering growth opportunities through training and development is one of the best ways to bring about positive changes and boost employee morale. Providing your staff the chance to know more about the teams they work with through company activities will also help them understand how to effectively interact with their colleagues in order to accomplish work goals.
We highly recommend that you do both: offer formal training programs to enhance their skills and schedule informal sessions like team building exercises to build camaraderie and trust between team members.
Did You Know? According to a Namely survey, you can keep employees motivated by inspiring them to participate in growth opportunities and setting work goals.
3. Train Managers
Effective staff management is crucial to improve employee morale and retention—and that begins with your managers. Your managers must have solid people management skills. Too many lack good people skills or don’t prioritize their colleagues when managing a team. Because they work directly with your employees on a micro level, they may directly affect your company’s morale levels.
Remember, workers rarely leave companies—they leave managers. When managers are overbearing, aggressive, unsympathetic, and constantly looking over employees’ shoulders, that sets a bad tone. Managers must understand that their behavior directly affects the team and be able to react to employees who need different management styles.
Training them on managing people effectively, executing proper communication, and giving recognition and feedback is crucial. Even if they aren’t the cause of low employee morale, it is their job to fix the issue. So, you must train them to spot and deal with faltering morale.
Nearly 80% of the HR professionals who joined the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) State of the Workplace survey believe that training their people managers in their roles to support their talent management strategy is a top priority.
Here are some tips on how your managers can serve as morale boosters at work through open communication and employee recognition.
Strong communication is a key skill of managers who enhance employee morale. Your employees need to understand what you need from them. That starts by setting clear and realistic expectations for each employee and position. Leave no ambiguity when discussing what’s needed with each worker and department.
The most effective way to communicate transparently is to hold regular check-ins—tell your team what’s coming and what they can do to push an existing project over the finish line. This is also a great opportunity to speak about their morale and make sure they’re happy and getting the support they need. If it’s clear that one employee or department is struggling, don’t ignore it or try to hide the issue—that’ll only make matters worse.
While maintaining good communication is key, you should also train your managers to recognize deserving employees for their contributions and achievements at work. Remind them to be on the lookout for small to big accomplishments to help workers feel valued and inspire them to do better at work.
The recognition can be a simple “pat on the back” or a formal award with a monetary reward. Managers can also verbally acknowledge their employees’ contributions during one-on-one sessions, or publicly congratulate them via an announcement posted on the company’s intranet. You can also check out our guide to showing employee appreciation, which contains more than a dozen suggestions.
Be mindful that the recognition is genuine and meaningful. Employees consider authentic recognition as a sign that they are treated with respect at work, according to a Gallup survey. Plus, workers who receive recognition are 20x more likely to feel engaged.
4. Encourage Disconnection From Work
When companies think about ways to boost employee morale, they often overlook genuine breaks and disconnection. They think that the way to overcome a drop in morale is to dig deeper and focus intensely on work. Unfortunately, that can have the opposite effect.
Workers today are pretty terrible at taking even a lunch break, let alone a full vacation. That’s because so many companies offer PTO as a benefit but don’t encourage employees to use it. By reminding employees to disconnect, whether it’s for an afternoon or a week, you can help them get refreshed. You might be surprised by the productivity increase you’ll see.
A survey of more than 20,000 millennial and Gen Z workers, found that they want more flexible working environments. Encouraging these employees to use their PTO and allowing them flexibility during the workweek will improve their morale and productivity.
5. Offer Great Benefits
The most long-term solution for boosting employee morale is providing great employee benefits that support workers. There are different benefits types—from high-quality healthcare and retirement plans to PTO and vacation incentives. Building an exceptional benefits package will not only help you attract qualified candidates but also retain top talent.
While it can be costly at first, investing in your staff members will improve morale and productivity, increasing your company’s profitability in the long run. Some common benefits to include are:
- PTO and other leave types (e.g., birthday leave)
- Medical insurance (including dental and vision)
- Retirement plans
- Life and disability insurance
- Flexible or remote work options
- Employee referral program
- Wellness programs
- Computer equipment stipend
Did You Know? Around 52% of organizations have plans to improve flexibility and leave policies to better fit the needs of their current workforce.
Why Employee Morale Is Important to Your Business
Employee morale is critical to a business’s success for a number of reasons. Morale influences and interacts with a host of other qualities, including motivation, engagement, satisfaction, and happiness.
Employee motivation vs morale vs engagement: Although closely related and often used interchangeably, these terms are distinct. Motivation is your employees’ drive to get a task, project, or job done; it’s a personal and individual trait that can fluctuate. Meanwhile, morale is the overall satisfaction employees have with your organization. Morale is a key element of engagement, which goes even deeper, representing the internal commitment and enthusiasm an employee has for their employer.
High employee morale generally corresponds with positive developments in the other areas mentioned above, ultimately resulting in increased productivity, reduced turnover, and better-served customers. Low employee morale, of course, generally indicates the opposite and may result in lower productivity and higher turnover.
By understanding the importance of employee morale, businesses can develop strategies to improve how their employees feel about their jobs and employer.
Let’s take a look at how Google (and parent company Alphabet) has focused on employee morale and engagement to drive results. As one of the world’s largest companies, there are aspects of Google’s corporate culture that won’t be applicable to small and midsize businesses, but the overall approach is worth examining.
In addition to its financial success (it’s one of the world’s top 5 most valuable companies), Alphabet/Google has consistently been named the best place to work by Forbes, Fortune, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor, among other sources.
So, how has it managed this? In large part, by aligning with the tips we’ve covered in this article.
- Measurement: Google’s HR department is guided by science, relying on data analytics (employee turnover rate, manager-to-employee ratio, number of promotions, etc.) to provide insights and steer decision-making. Additionally, it uses Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), an annual gDNA survey, and tools such as Manager Upwards Feedback to regularly solicit feedback from across the organization.
- Growth Opportunities: The company has made development a key tenet of its culture, which can be seen in its highly lauded Creative Time Program. This program allows employees to devote 20% of their work time to innovative projects of their choice that will challenge them and enable them to explore areas of interest or areas outside their traditional duties.
- Management Training: Managers at Google are trained to be leaders, with a focus on what they do to support, encourage, and drive their team members to success. Being a good coach, listening, and focusing on team member well-being are some of the behaviors emphasized.
- Breaks and Disconnection: Flexible work hours, work-life balance, and work autonomy are all major components of Alphabet’s corporate culture. The idea of disconnection is also built into the company’s actual workspace, with areas of the office meant to enable relaxation, reading, and exercise, among other nonwork activities.
- Great Benefits: Alphabet is known for best-in-class benefits and has historically been a leader in benefits. For example, its transferable stock option program (2006) and employee death benefits (2012) were both cutting-edge offerings. It provides subsidies for various purchases, from gym memberships to electric cars, has cafeterias and snack rooms on its campus, and uses spot and peer bonuses to recognize and reward good employee work.
Another important lesson to learn from Alphabet/Google: Boosting morale and engagement is not a one-time deal. You must continuously evaluate your offerings, initiatives, and culture and make changes when necessary. In 2022, for example, when the company saw that its twice-a-year review process was hurting employee morale, it moved to annual performance reviews.
Common Causes of Low Employee Morale
There are many factors that may negatively impact employee morale. Here are some of the common causes:
- Poor communication between the managers and employees: This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, ultimately resulting in workers feeling unmotivated and disengaged at work.
- Low job satisfaction: Employees who don’t feel challenged or are overworked may struggle with keeping their morale high at work.
- Poor leadership: If the managers have poor people management skills and fail to support, guide, and inspire their teams, then it can negatively impact morale.
- Insufficient recognition, incentives, and preventative care options: Employees who feel unappreciated or find the company’s benefits and rewards programs unattractive (or don’t meet their needs) will likely have low morale.
- Internal changes or reorganizations: Employees may feel some frustration, anxiety, or confusion when dealing with major company changes, such as mergers, staff layoffs, restructuring, and leadership changes. If not properly managed, these scenarios may affect staff morale.
Knowing how to boost employee morale is essential to a productive and successful workplace. There are many ways to achieve this, including training your management team, providing employee development opportunities, and offering strong benefits. By implementing these strategies, you can help improve your employees’ attitudes and increase their productivity.