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For anyone who has worked for an organization with low morale and an organization with high morale, you've probably noticed a difference between the two.
Companies with strong positive morale typically have strong and positive employees. Companies with low morale usually have unhappy and unproductive employees.
In this deep dive on employee morale, we’ll uncover why it’s crucial for organizations to nurture employee morale and provide meaningful work to employees.
We’ll also explain how morale relates to productivity, what factors might affect it, and the importance of employee morale in remote work.
By the end of this guide, you will have seven actionable tips to help you boost employee morale in your organization.
What is employee morale?
Employee morale is the outlook, satisfaction, attitude, and confidence that team members have at work. It’s a reflection of how healthy company culture is, how well employees are supported, and how engaged employees are. It reveals the workplace mood.
While employers can’t give employees positive morale, they are powerful contributors to employee morale.
When team members feel taken care of and supported by their company, it fosters intrinsic motivation and creates a space that allows them to perform at their best.
Sometimes, employees experience low morale for reasons unrelated to company culture — i.e., personal hardships or difficulties at home — but these are usually isolated incidents and don’t reflect company morale as a whole.
Note: if employees are struggling due to a personal issue, employers can still offer preventative care options and support to help boost employee morale — more on this in a bit.
Why is positive employee morale crucial for an organization?
Morale is the glue that holds an organization together.
When employee morale is running high, teams can accomplish anything. Employees are valued and have opportunities to grow, employees and managers are in harmony, and everyone is working toward a common goal.
Positive work morale is crucial for organizations because it improves a number of things, including:
- Employee retention: low employee morale can make employees feel helpless, undervalued, and ignored, resulting in higher turnover. Keeping morale high is essential to avoiding unnecessary turnover and increasing employee loyalty.
- Work performance: high morale uplifts and inspires employees, leading them to perform at their very best.
- Employee motivation: when employees feel appreciated and are given opportunities to develop their professional skills, it motivates them to take action to accomplish their work goals.
- Communication: when employees have harmonious relationships with their managers and co-workers, they communicate effectively and have positive attitudes.
- Employee productivity: when employees believe in their company’s mission and can see themselves advancing their careers with their company, they produce more work at a faster rate.
- Collaboration: employees who feel supported and in sync with their peers are motivated and excited to collaborate with other team members on new projects.
- Employee engagement: high morale encourages employees to feel more present and engaged with the work in front of them, instead of feeling overwhelmed by big-picture items.
What is the relationship between employee morale and productivity?
The bridge that connects employee morale and productivity is meaningful work.
In the absence of meaningful work, staff morale slowly starts to decline, and toxic behaviors surface.
But when employees have meaningful work, the resulting gains in employee productivity adds up to more than $9,000 per worker per year.
Employees who report having above-average workplace meaning tend to stay where they are. Their intent to leave the company reduces by as much as 58%.
Increasingly, employees are choosing to work for companies that align with their values, offer supportive and healthy workplace cultures, and provide meaningful work.
When these elements are present, employees are more productive and stay with the company longer — regardless of the company’s prestige.
With this in mind, it’s essential for managers to:
- Monitor the level of morale in the workplace on a regular basis.
- Address problems promptly and effectively.
- Nurture relationships with their staff.
- Create a psychologically safe work environment.
- Understand what employees classify as meaningful.
- Provide meaningful work based on employees' needs and goals.
Managers who prioritize bolstering employee morale and well-being can increase workplace productivity, improve retention, attract top talent, and give their organization a competitive edge.
How can you measure employee morale?
Here are six ways to measure employee morale:
1. Conduct a morale survey
Conducting a company-wide survey is an efficient way to monitor employee morale without using too many resources. To conduct a successful survey, be sure to ask the right questions and use the answers from those questions to make improvements.
For instance, an important question to ask is ‘does our company mission/purpose make you feel like your job is important?’
You’ll also need to create a scale to help you measure the level of morale.
For instance, if an employee answers ‘yes’ to only three out of ten questions, you can conclude that their morale is considered low. If they answer ‘yes’ to six questions, you can conclude that their morale is medium.
2. Check employee history
Checking employee history often includes sound indicators of morale variations and trends.
Some indicators to look for are absenteeism, production quality, training records, and the number of grievances the file.
Be sure to look for any high fluctuations that indicate low morale and gently discuss these fluctuations with employees.
3. Conduct one-to-one interviews
Conducting one-to-one interviews is an effective and direct way to see what employees think about their work, co-workers, managers, and the organization.
To conduct an effective interview, be sure to select the questions you’re going to ask beforehand and create a scale to help you measure the level of morale.
It’s also important to document the information you receive from every employee you interview, so you can look for patterns and trends over time.
4. Observe employees at work
Observing employees at work should be a natural and common part of any manager’s role.
In practice, managers should find adequate time to carefully observe employee actions and behavior, document what they see, and gently meet with employees to discuss improvements.
The key to successful observation is positive intent. Don’t use observation as a way to pick at employees, but as a way to help them flourish in their careers.
5. Conduct group interviews
Conducting group interviews is a great way to monitor group dynamics behind the scenes.
To conduct a successful group interview, create your questions and scale ahead of time. Make sure each team understands that the purpose of the interview is to gather information and improve — not to put anyone on the spot or embarrass them.
Group interviews also encourage employees to put their heads together and create improvements as a team.
6. Monitor performance data
If your company provides productivity metrics for each team member, you’ll be able to follow their performance data to spot patterns, like on-time delivery rates and team member output.
If you notice consistent patterns of poor performance, have a conversation with employees about what changes you can make to help them feel like their work is meaningful.
The following 10 factors can negatively affect employee morale:
1. Lack of meaning
As we touched on before, morale slowly starts to decline, and unhealthy behaviors begin to surface when employees lack meaningful work.
2. Poor company morale
When team members have to go into a toxic environment every day, they’re disengaged, stressed, and more likely to embody low company morale as their own. Eventually, these team members will be unproductive, or they’ll choose to switch to a less harmful organization.
3. Lack of recognition or incentives
Employees want to know that their good work isn’t going unnoticed, and many appreciate being rewarded for it whenever possible. But managers who have a consistent pattern of only pointing out mistakes create a breeding ground for low morale.
4. Misalignment with company values
Employees who are unaligned with a company’s mission, purpose, or values may experience low morale or eventually leave the company.
5. Lack of proper tools
Providing employees with the right tools and resources to do their jobs is essential to encouraging productivity and high morale.
6. No preventative care options
Companies that don’t provide preventive care options to help employees enhance their mental fitness and cope with workplace stress may negatively impact employee morale and work quality.
7. Low job satisfaction
Employees who are unsatisfied with their jobs may struggle to maintain positive morale at work.
8. Poor leadership
Employees struggle with productivity and morale when they don’t have trust, confidence, or respect for their managers — especially if managers micromanage, bully, or can’t clearly and kindly communicate expectations.
9. Lack of opportunities
Employees lacking opportunities to develop their careers may see a lag in their morale.
10. No autonomy
Employees need to feel as though their company trusts them enough to work when, how, and where they like. If employees can’t take ownership of their work, it can negatively impact their morale.
How to boost workplace morale
Now that we’ve covered why employee morale is important, how to measure it, and what factors influence it, we’ll go over some team morale boosters that organizations can start implementing.
Here are seven ways to boost workplace morale:
1. Measure employee morale regularly and make positive changes
One of the best ways to boost workplace morale is by consistently monitoring and measuring employee morale and using employee feedback to make positive changes.
It’s also important to meet with employees individually and in teams to collect feedback and collaborate on improvements.
2. Understand what employees consider meaningful
Understand what employees consider meaningful and use it as a foundation for their work responsibilities and future growth plan.
3. Provide proper tools/stay up-to-date with new tools
Help employees remove frustrating barriers and increase their productivity by giving them the best, fastest, up-to-date, and most efficient tools possible.
It’s also important to provide coping tools and stress management tools so employees can enhance their mental fitness. This could mean offering preventative care services, company training, coaching, or off-site workshops.
4. Strengthen/coach managers
Managers directly impact morale and engagement in the workplace.
Be sure to coach your managers on emotional intelligence, monitoring and supporting morale, giving feedback and recognition, communication, and effective leadership styles.
Managers should also consider implementing an open-door policy, so team members feel comfortable giving feedback and sharing concerns whenever necessary.
5. Create a growth plan with employees
Help employees advance their careers by creating a career development plan that outlines what employees need to accomplish to get a promotion, meet the organization’s goals, and improve their skills.
6. Find the balance between employee independence and accountability
While many employees crave autonomy at work, many employers crave accountability. Find the balance between the two by creating clear and fair boundaries that support both independence and accountability.
For instance, you may consider giving employees the freedom to design their own schedules, but you may hold them accountable for that schedule by having them log their work hours.
7. Recognize and reward employees
Include employee recognition and employee feedback as part of your company-wide procedures.
This can mean anything from setting up employee appreciation programs to offering rewards for hitting certain metrics to simply saying, “excellent work today, thank you.”
Proactively managing morale is just as important in remote work as it is for onsite locations.
Navigating employee morale looks more or less the same in remote work as it does for onsite locations, except for one crucial difference: physical distance.
Since physical interactions don’t exist, managers need to find creative ways to build relationships with remote employees through video calls, phone calls, chat, email, and other means of online communication.
It’s also important to ensure that remote employees can still feel company culture even though they’re at home.
Finding new ways to convey culture, like scheduling a group video ‘coffee chat’ or sending inspirational emails, is essential to fostering that connection.
Ready to boost employee morale?
Positive employee morale is crucial for organizations that want to attract top talent, reduce turnover, and have happy, engaged employees.
Vice President of Alliance Solutions