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How to Boost Employee Morale and Experience Its Many Benefits

By Johnny Duncan on September 06, 2017

The benefits of attaining a high level of employee morale are phenomenal; luckily, building morale isn't as difficult as some believe.

Just skimming some of the benefits of high employee morale would make any employer want to boost morale in their organization:

Improved productivity

High morale increases engagement, thus increasing productivity.

Greater attention to the important details

Low morale causes people to stop caring and make more mistakes on the job. In a high morale setting, employees pay attention to details because they care about the outcome of a project.

Improved attendance

As employees discover the excitement of coming to work, attendance often increases.

Improved performance and creativity

When morale is high, employees get excited about solving problems, completing projects, and satisfying customers.

Higher quality work

Working in a high morale environment improves the quality of the work performed. People care more about what is being produced.

Safer work environment

A workplace with high morale makes everyone more conscious of working safely and avoiding shortcuts that may cause someone to be injured.

The question remains, are we successful because of a high level of morale or a higher ratio of engaged employees?

Which came first?

High employee morale has been attributed to increased employee engagement. Engaged employees have a higher level of morale and are more apt to provide the results an employer desires. Other elements factor into generating employee engagement, but most of them fundamentally rely on boosting employee morale.

For example, improving communication channels, privately and publicly recognizing great work, and clarifying goals all help to boost morale. These actions also support greater employee engagement. The difference is that an employee may report a high level of morale but something might cause him to become disengaged in his work.

On the flipside, highly engaged employees might experience low morale. Eventually, these workers lose any emotional connection to their work that they may have had and their organizations suffer from poor productivity. These are the clock-watchers and the hangers-on. They become dead weight for the company; worse, they'll share their discontentment with others in the workforce.

While high employee morale and employee engagement are related, they are not the same thing. Employee morale is typically associated with feelings of well-being and job satisfaction. Engaged employees may be satisfied with their jobs, but contented employees are not necessarily engaged with their work. Having high employee morale is the foundation upon which employee engagement can grow and thrive.

According to BusinessSolver, 98 percent of HR professionals, and 92 percent of employees surveyed said empathetic employers drive retention. Both engaged employees and employees with high morale are more likely to stay at their jobs. 

Achieving a high level of morale

Boosting employee morale isn’t a one-time effort that generates long-lasting desired effects. Though there are some set-it-and-forget techniques to support employees, fostering high morale requires that you routinely take the pulse of your employees while tweaking the procedures that work.

Here are four action items you can begin immediately to build high employee morale:

1. Respect employees by recognizing them

A recent SHRM survey found that 65 percent of employees say respectful treatment of employees at all levels is a very important contributor to their job satisfaction. Because respect can be shown in many ways, personalized approaches make a considerable difference.

One way to show respect is by giving genuine recognition. In “Trends in Employee Recognition” by World at Work, the common reasons cited for not having a recognition program in place are senior management's lack of support (28 percent of over 5,000 surveyed) and the cost (26 percent). Although employers are spending $46 billion per year on employee recognition, work anniversaries, and reviews, employee morale is not as high as it could be.

A Reward Gateway study revealed that, “[a]lthough more than 22 percent of senior decision-makers don’t think that regular recognition and thanking employees at work has a big influence on staff retention, 70 percent of employees say that motivation and morale would improve 'massively' with managers saying thank you more.” Investing in a good recognition program is essential to developing a workforce with high morale.

2. Pave a path

Helping employees identify their career paths and develop necessary skillsets is another way to boost employee morale.

Most business leaders believe that helping employees develop their career paths is important, but many don’t take action. SHRM reports that in a study by global staffing firm Randstad, "73 percent of employers said fostering employee development is important, but only 49 percent of employees said leadership is adhering to this practice."

Career mobility is not just about providing career opportunities, but about providing job enlargement and job enhancement opportunities, as well. Employers can do this by establishing fair promotional policies and following them, ensuring smooth transitions for newly promoted employees, and providing career coaching to all employees.

3. Match skills to work

One of the best ways to grow and develop employees is to identify how they most naturally think, feel, and behave, and then strengthen those innate talents to improve performance. When employees know you care about using their natural talents and abilities in best, most productive way, their morale improves.

The key here is that you need to do more than clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to do their work, providing professional development, and promoting positive coworker relationships

Those efforts do indeed create greater employee engagement, but they don't necessarily boost employee morale. As we already discovered, an employee can be content and report high morale but still not be fully engaged in their work.

To improve morale, see to it that every employee feels they are doing a job that matches not just their knowledge, skills, and ability, but also their passions. Offer a DISC personality test (or an equivalent) to determine what work employees are best suited to do. Not everyone is suited for customer service and some great customer service employees might be working on the loading dock. When possible, strive to match individual personalities to the most suitable positions.

4. Continually assess morale

A Harvard Business Review piece shares the story of how agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere (Deere and Company) has created a system for surveying the motivation of its employees every two weeks. Frequently keeping a close eye on how employees actually feel has helped all divisions of the company improve productivity by improving morale.

Deere and Company noticed that a high-performing employee scored his motivation as being lower than normal. Though there were no signs of a decrease in productivity or engagement, the employee’s motivational score dropped even lower two weeks later. In conversation, his manager learned that this employee was concerned about his career development; his manager was able to resolve the problem and keep that employee on track.

If John Deere hadn’t kept a close eye on the morale of its employees, this particular employee may have become completely disengaged as well as disgruntled. Unfortunately, most managers only become aware of an issue during an annual or semi-annual performance review or worse, after the employee screws up a project or simply quits.

What will you do next?

The majority of the US workforce is not engaged, according to Gallup's “State of the American Workplace” report. Since we know that high morale is a springboard for increasing employee engagement, take the pulse of your workforce today to determine the level of morale in your organization.

If it is not at a high level, take action. Implement the above steps or get creative with your own actions to improve morale. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between the level of morale and the relationship between employees and their managers. Go way outside the box to discover ways to improve morale.

A good place to start is reading “4 Ways Your Phone Can Improve Employee Morale” by our cofounder, Raphael Crawford-Marks, in which he offers further tips you can adopt in your organization today. Also check out “3 Quick Tips to Boost Employee Morale” on our blog.

If you're ready to take the next step toward building a stronger, more enaging organizational culture, check out our latest guide:

Download the Motivation Manual

Written by Johnny Duncan

Johnny Duncan

Johnny Duncan is an author and consultant with over 22 years experience helping to provide solutions to small businesses with the people side of business.