How To Boost Employee Morale (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 6, 2021
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Employee morale is a term that encompasses employees’ attitudes, outlooks, and job satisfaction levels while at work. When you look around your workplace, and people seem like lifeless drones instead of energetic workers, your office may be suffering from low morale.

This article will cover the benefits of high employee morale, what factors affect morale, and the best ways to boost morale. In a way, creating an environment where employee morale flourishes is a job in itself.

The Benefits of High Employee Morale

We all know that a happy workplace is better than a drained and defeated one, but it’s essential to detail what the benefits of high employee morale are precisely. Below are some of the expected benefits of creating and maintaining high employee morale:

  • Better performance. Employees that enjoy their work and feel satisfied performing their duties produce better results. They will go out of their way to make sure everything operates at its fullest potential instead of doing the bare minimum of work necessary to maintain functionality (if that).

    When employees enjoy their work and working alongside their team members, efficiency naturally improves. Employees are intrinsically motivated to do their best because they believe in the company’s mission and get joy out of manifesting that mission.

  • Lower turnover rates. When a workplace fosters a sense of doom and gloom, it won’t be long before folks start jumping ship. And it’s usually your most talented employees who will be first out the door.

    On the other hand, when employee morale is high, and everyone feels like part of a well-oiled machine, people feel attached to their workplace and are genuinely excited about coming into work. Employees like that have very little reason to quit and search for greener pastures.

  • Competitive edge. When two companies are locked in competition, the one with high employee morale has the edge. Employees pull together for the common good in a workplace with high morale, making even the most impossible tasks seem manageable.

    In an office where everyone’s looking out for themselves above all, efficiency and productivity go out the window.

  • Attract talent. If you’re looking to hire the best in the business, you’d better foster and maintain high employee morale. Those who have options for where they work (i.e., top talent) will always prefer to work for a company where employees are happy coming into work.

    And low employee morale is not the sort of thing you can hide. A few strategic questions from any savvy candidate will reveal that his potential cohorts are miserable at work, and that’s a big red flag scaring away your most valuable potential hires.

  • Saves money. Businesses don’t need to aim for high employee morale due to purely altruistic reasons. The fact is that high employee morale means fewer mistakes, less wasted time, and fewer people calling out of work.

    Employees who aren’t stressed and cynical about their life at work, on the other hand, will naturally do better and waste fewer company resources.

Factors of Employee Morale

All right, you’re sold – high employee morale is worth achieving. Now let’s get at the nitty-gritty and examine what factors bear on employee morale:

  • Delineation of responsibility. Nothing detracts from an individual’s morale more than not knowing what’s expected of them at work. Employees need clear guidelines for what they do and how they do it to have high job satisfaction. As an employer, it’s your job to make sure everyone is on the same page, but that’s just the first step in creating an environment where employee morale can flourish.

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    At the same time, it’s important not to micro-manage employees and instead allow them to fulfill their responsibilities independently. It’s crucial to strike a balance between direction and autonomy, and every employer needs to decide how best to walk this tightrope.

  • Leadership. Whether your leadership has just changed, or there are issues with your current leaders, employees look to top personnel to garner a realistic notion of the company’s success. One of the primary reasons people quit their jobs (a red flag for diminished employee morale) is that they don’t like their bosses.

    On the other hand, happy employees have a good relationship with management and feel that the corporate hierarchy allows them to perform at their highest level.

  • The company. This is a tough one to manage, but your company’s overall reputation will affect employee morale. If you’re in the news for your cancer-causing products or horrible working conditions in your off-shore factories, then your employees will have a tough time feeling good about what they do for a living.

    But if you’re an industry leader, praised for your progressive policies, employees will feel optimistic about their contributions.

  • Growth. This factor is twofold, covering both the growth of your business and the personal growth employees experience. For starters, if your company isn’t thriving and adding new clients, your employees will start to panic and feel that layoffs aren’t far off. But if your stock just keeps rising and you’re adding employees and clients left and right, every employee can feel secure in their job.

    On a personal level, employees need to feel as though they’re not stuck in their current position forever. You need to create a space where advancement is not only possible, but encouraged and supported. With the possibility of a promotion, a pay raise, or even just a one-off bonus, employees will be happier and more motivated to put their best foot forward.

  • Type of work. Nothing fosters cynicism more quickly than boring, monotonous work. Nobody wants to feel like a dispensable cog in a corporate behemoth, so it’s essential you allow employees to perform tasks they’re excited about and good at.

    When employees feel adequately challenged at work and get to do different things that push their comfort zone and skill set to the limit, they feel a sense of accomplishment and, with it, higher morale.

    This can (and often does) go too far, though. If all your employees get is challenge after challenge, with no downtime to celebrate their achievements, then burnout is right around the corner.

  • Communication. Communication affects every aspect of employee morale. Employees need to feel like they’re “in the know” rather than outsiders who receive piecemeal information in a disorganized way. Additionally, workers can’t make informed decisions about how best to align their goals with corporate ones if leadership doesn’t clearly spell out just what those corporate goals are.

    Communication is a two-way street. Allowing your employees space to ask questions and clarify confusing elements of their job is every bit as important as maintaining corporate transparency.

  • Recognition. If you want to dispel your employee’s “cog in a machine” feelings, you need to take time to recognize achievement at all levels of your organization. Expressing your appreciation for a job well done goes further than you might think and can even do some of the heavy lifting that a pay raise or promotion might usually do.

    Employees who feel appreciated and recognized will be more motivated and generally happier at work. On the flip side, if employees feel like nothing they do matters, their morale will dip, and their performance will soon follow.

  • Work-life balance. Sure, workplace morale and life morale are separate things, but they’re not unrelated. Employees need to feel like they’re getting something more out of work than just a paycheck.

    When a company introduces ways for employees to relax and destress in the workplace, morale goes up. But when work drains your employees of every shred of energy they have in the tank, they’re going to run out of steam in no time.

    Scheduling plays a significant role in this. Employee morale will largely hinge on how far you go in respecting the importance of the “life” part of the “work-life” dichotomy. Flexible schedules, remote work opportunities, and general respect for employees’ lives outside of work all contribute to higher employee morale.

12 Ways to Improve Employee Morale

Now that we’ve talked about factors that bear on employee morale, you probably have a few ideas in mind for how to boost it. Use the list below as a guide in brainstorming ways you can start improving employee morale today:

  1. Provide clarity. As we said earlier, a lack of clarity will discourage even the most upbeat employee. Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them, how you’d like their tasks completed, and accurate time frames.

    At the same time, it’s essential not to hover over each employee every step of the way. Find the balance between independence and structure, and your employees will be forever grateful.

  2. Be transparent. Sometimes there’s a general malaise around a workplace as everyone starts to realize that business is flagging. As an employer, the worst thing you can do is run away from these conversations and allow employees’ imaginations to run wild with notions of budget cuts and downsizing.

    If those things are really in the offing, be honest about them. Morale might take a hit regardless, but at least everyone will be on the same page and feel supported by management during troubling times. Honesty is everything.

  3. Assign duties based on skill and interest. This one might be challenging depending on the department or positions you’re dealing with, but it’s essential nonetheless. If you find that an employee hates a particular element of their job, find ways to remove or reduce the amount of time they spend performing that element.

    In the same vein, if you find that one of your workers has a passion for certain tasks, look for ways to incorporate more of that into their schedule. Obviously, there will always be monotonous or unenjoyable aspects of a job. The key is to minimize the drag these aspects have on morale.

  4. Foster camaraderie. Folks are happier going to work every day if they like and feel connected with their peers. Organize after-work outings, plan team-building exercises, or just start your morning meetings off with informal chats.

    Employees don’t need to be besties, but if everyone feels comfortable around one another, it’ll go a long way in boosting morale.

  5. Communicate effectively. Employee morale is a fragile thing, and unless you’re in constant communication with your employees, certain warning signs will go unnoticed. Find out what elements of your workplace are detracting from high morale. Stay vigilant in this – don’t just assume that everyone was happy last month, so they must still be satisfied now.

    An open-door policy between employees and management will go a long way in fostering high employee morale.

  6. Listen to feedback. Employees feel more in control of their relationship with work if they’re free to express themselves. They shouldn’t fear reprisal for bringing up a negative aspect of the workplace or their job.

    Employees will feel a greater sense of agency and respect if you truly listen to their thoughts. If you shut off this free exchange of ideas, you’ll still hear about grievances – just at exit interviews, when it’s already too late.

  7. Recognize achievement. It’s absolutely crucial that your employees feel like individuals who make valuable contributions rather than easily replaceable parts of a massive machine.

    Take time to recognize a job well done at all levels of your company, from the interns to the CEO – you’d be surprised how far a kudos can go in boosting employee morale.

  8. Provide purpose. This one is kind of tricky – after all, it’s partially up to individuals to take pride in their job. However, by clearly communicating how their job benefits corporate goals and how those corporate goals, in turn, benefit the community, you’ll provide a solid framework for how your employees feel about their jobs.

    Talk about your company vision often, and highlight how each person’s contribution is valuable in achieving that vision.

  9. Encourage breaks. Nothing will destroy employee morale quicker than burnout. And burnout is contagious and usually involves some failure of leadership. If your leaders pride themselves on never using their PTO, recognize that they’re setting an example where work-life balance is secondary to job performance.

    Don’t just set up a generous PTO policy and call it a day, though – actively encourage employees to use their time off. They’ll come back feeling refreshed, with higher morale than ever.

  10. Create opportunities for growth. You don’t need to hand out pay raises and promotions to foster a sense of growth in your employees (although those are certainly good options for the deserving employees).

    It can be as simple as offering a free course to help your employees develop their skills or sending them to a conference where they can learn from and share with their peers. Nobody likes a job that feels stagnant, so continually look for ways to generate a sense of upward momentum among your employees.

  11. Get leadership on the same page. Low morale is often the result of poor management. Ensuring that all your leaders are aligned in their thinking and communication will make every employee’s life easier.

    If you notice low morale and constant negative feedback from one department, investigate how their supervisor(s) handle things and make adjustments to boost employee morale. This might involve retraining or even hiring someone new, but it’s a worthwhile investment.

  12. Incentivize. This is the most generic advice for boosting employee morale, and, honestly, it’s the least effective. Whether it’s the promise of a bonus based on certain KPIs or the possibility of a promotion down the road, incentive programs are based on extrinsic motivation. In other words, you’re engaging in quid pro quo – the employee does X, and you give them Y.

    While extrinsic motivation certainly has its place, its effects are temporary. If your employee hates her job, but does it well enough to get an extra thousand bucks at the end of the year, she’s still going to hate the job after you pay her.

    For genuine, long-lasting boosts in employee morale, a more all-encompassing strategy that takes more into account than monetary rewards is necessary. That’s not to say you shouldn’t incorporate incentive programs – just make sure they’re part of a broader plan to boost and maintain high employee morale.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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