We don’t just live in anxious times—we need to work in them as well. And as HR leaders, our role is to support employees and reassure them that the organization stands by them even in times of economic uncertainty. How can you support employees as inflation rises, the risk of a recession looms, and anxiety increases? We have your guide on how to improve morale right here.
Why morale matters
Employees have been through a lot in the past two years with the pandemic and all the changes it brought. And today’s economic uncertainty is yet another factor added on. Working to improve morale might seem like the least of your organization’s worries in this environment—aren’t there more urgent priorities?
But having high morale and engagement can mean the difference between surviving and thriving.
Many HR teams have been through this before during the 2008 financial crisis. And Gallup research at that time found employee morale and engagement were crucial.
"In good times, employee engagement is the difference between being good and being great," James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's chief scientist of workplace management and well-being said at the time.
In good times, employee engagement is the difference between being good and being great. - James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being
Want more? Check out our complete guide to employee engagement!
How to improve morale
Fear and uncertainty make it harder to keep employees motivated at work—their worries keep their minds elsewhere. But if morale and engagement are high in your workplace, you can create space for employees to do their best work even through challenging times.
One of the most essential elements in improving morale is creating a culture of recognition and appreciation in your workplace. When employees know their hard work is seen and valued, they feel more motivated to keep up the great work.
Another element that can improve morale is ensuring employees feel cared for. This can mean providing benefits and perks that speak to their needs, like yoga classes or free healthy snacks. As concern about a coming recession arrives, your employees might be cutting back on things they consider luxuries, so providing them at work allows for that self-care to continue.
It can mean allowing them to work flexibly in the way that suits each employee best, like encouraging a hybrid model, so they can balance work with their lives. And saving money on the commute as gas prices keep climbing shows your company is sensitive to their situation and taking steps to help.
The key to strengthening morale in your workplace is ensuring employees feel valued as people, not merely as useful tools. This gives them confidence that your organization will treat them fairly and with kindness, no matter what happens in the economy.
Morale and employee engagement
But improving morale on its own isn’t quite enough to drive motivation and results—and retention—in these anxious times.
Employee engagement is the other piece of the puzzle. And what engagement means has also shifted over the last few years as well.
The need for human connection is higher than ever, even as many workplaces move to remote or hybrid models. And fun is also important! Teams that have fun together are more engaged, according to our own research. Fun can mean Zoom cooking classes, time to volunteer in the community together, or trivia games everyone does on their own time.
And in the midst of changing conversations about the role work should play in our lives, it’s no surprise that connecting to the purpose and meaning of an organization are more vital than ever as well. A good communications plan is essential here, and leaders should regularly be drawing clear connections between the work employees do and business results.
You can’t promise employees that nothing will change as the economy shifts over the coming months—and you can’t bring down global inflation. But you can provide a space where employees feel seen, valued, and supported, and that’s the space where they can do great work.