The Importance of Employee Morale and How to Improve It

Andrew Moran
Andrew Moran

Business and Finance Expert

Group of excited people high-fiving each other in an office
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What does your daily journey in the concrete jungle look like?

You awake from your eight-hour slumber that was routinely interrupted throughout the evening because of the baby crying next door. You shower, shave and eat your cereal – sometimes all at the same time. You depart from your humble abode, hop on the train, make a pitstop to Starbucks and prepare your soul for the abuse it is about to endure. You get to your desk, complete the pile of paperwork and participate in inane office cooler talk. It’s 5pm, you return to your fortress of solitude and get ready for the next day, which will be the same thing all over again.

Anyone’s morale could take a nosedive with this gut-wrenching workday experience. Suffice it to say, the corporate world, devoid of purpose and engagement, has an employee morale problem.

The State of the Workplace

Facebook made headlines in May 2018 when it was reported that staff morale was at the lowest it has ever been. In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Silicon Valley, leading to investigations and sluggish user growth, the company’s leadership clamped down on personnel. This has spawned great consternation among workers across all pay grades, causing a mass exodus.

Soon after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, supermarket workers began to complain about everyday conditions. Since one of the world’s biggest companies absorbed the grocery chain, employees are required to hustle more than ever before: managers perform pop quizzes, supervisors conduct spot checks, and workers are given scorecards.

But it isn’t just Big Tech and its subsidiaries enduring a slouching, unhappy and perturbed workforce.

A 2016 Oxfam America report revealed the horrific working conditions of Tyson Foods, the US-based mega food corporation. In addition to uncompetitive pay, assembly line workers are required to stand close to each other while everyone is holding sharp tools, operating machinery and ripping chickens apart. The report also suggested that workers are denied restroom breaks, resulting in many workers sporting adult diapers.

That office cubicle doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

While human resource professionals, consultancy groups and business analysts discuss the need for heightened engagement to boost contentment throughout the 9-to-5 grind, a plethora of executives and managers are only paying lip service and ignoring these wails and warnings.

Is it any wonder why 70% of American workers hate their jobs and 27% of Britons want to quit their positions? This breeds laziness, poor job performance, deplorable teamwork and, worst of all, apathy on the job. And what company wants to have such a workforce?

The Importance of Workplace Morale

Before your business dismisses the importance of workplace morale, you should consider several trends.

First, the labour market is roaring, which means professionals have more options, including your competition. Second, a new, more relaxed, job-hopping demographic is invading the talent pool, leaving companies no other choice but to adopt measures that appease these workers. And third, employees are disengaged at the office, spending a great deal of their time browsing social media.

All these factors increase the turnover rate, something that can bleed into your budget. It’s no secret that companies that employ terrible human resource measures maintain high turnover rates and, thus, low morale – and this is costing them in the present and in the future.

Some studies have found that each time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs as much as nine months’ salary on average. The resources, manhours and investment necessary to train a new worker can come with a hefty price tag at a time when every business needs to tighten their belts. Indeed, training isn’t cheap!

The only reasonable solution is to improve your retention pursuits. This is an effective element utilised by successful companies worldwide. Should your brand ignore this business model variant, then you’re left with an uncompetitive firm in a hyper-competitive world, as well as a revolving door that gives your brand a black eye in the mainstream press.

Of course, the key question is: how can you retain your staff when they’re disgruntled by ineffective management, lacklustre supervision and uninspiring business practices? It’s perhaps time for a change.

If employees feel engaged and they believe their roles are integral to the company, then they are far more likely to come into work early, leave the office later, get more tasks finished and remain energised all day long. It is this level of satisfaction that serves as a net positive for your bottom line.

No longer are you flushing your labour investments down the toilet.

How to Monitor Morale

Let’s be honest: when you’re balancing the books, crunching the numbers, securing funding and meeting new clients, it can be difficult to gauge how your staff feels. Ditto for your management team. However, this is a core responsibility for the higher-ups, especially if you’re noticing a dip in productivity, a decline in quality and ballooning absence rates.

Simply put: it’s imperative to monitor office morale if you wish the company to survive and thrive.

But how can you determine if employee morale is up or down? Below are several strategies.

  • Conduct anonymous surveys. Asking how satisfied or dissatisfied your employees are at the office in a survey can be helpful, as long as there are no names.
  • Maintain an open-door policy. Having your door ajar during all working hours can encourage employees to air their grievances and convey to you how they’re doing.
  • Conduct quarterly interviews. Taking aside your workers and asking a series of questions about the state of the office and their workload is useful because it is face to face – just be sure interviewees are not reprimanded for being honest.
  • Monitor absence rates. Chronic tardiness, consistently missing work and taking time off are indications that there’s something more than just sloth, especially if it is widespread.
  • Rather than leading from behind a desk, why not lead with your team? Having mini-meeting lunches with your staff and get-togethers outside the office is key to learning about employee morale.

The days of the business owner or chief executive dictating behind closed doors are gone. From open-office landscapes to giving off positive energy to having fun with your employees, these are all ways to discover if you have happy or disgruntled employees.

How to Improve Office Morale

You might believe that it is nearly impossible to turn indolent, cynical and unhappy employees into cheerful, pleasant and jovial ones. But it isn’t as difficult as you’d expect. In fact, many employees are just waiting for management to take an active approach in stimulating workers’ little grey cells.

It is your job to activate them.

What can you do?

  • Activities: Create a fun atmosphere with activities, like Breakfast Buffet Mondays, Work-from-Wherever Wednesdays, Word-of-the-Day Emails and behind-the-scenes social media snippets.
  • Celebrations: Met a major deadline? Nabbed a new client? Received an award? These are all team efforts, and they should be celebrated by the team with champagne flowing from the heavens. By recognising their efforts, you’re inciting pride, contentment and motivation to do more.
  • Inspirations: Thanks to their sudden fascination with Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard, your typical millennial seems like a nihilist. But you can change this attitude through inspiration: erect positive quotes, hold classes that teach inspiring stories or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  • Encouragement: Employees have lives outside the office, you know? They have passions and hobbies, so perhaps you can offer guidance and even time off to allow them to pursue these interests further.

And, of course, there’s the monetary factor that may or may not be successful. The verdict is out on this one, so we’ll just leave it to you.

A little bit of kindness, the odd praise and routine engagement are all worthwhile tools to invest in to maintain employee morale. You do not need lavish out-of-town trips or expensive Friday dinner parties at an opulent restaurant to retain your best workers.

Professionals are not zombies, robots or cows heading to the slaughterhouse. They are human beings – most of them – so it is important to treat them with dignity, respect and intelligence. You do this, your company’s turnover rate will plunge within a year.

How do you boost employee morale at the office? Let us know in the comments section below!