11 actionable Tactics for Boosting Employee Morale

by Duncan

High employee morale is an elusive quality of the work environment that all managers and HR directors strive to reach but few actually achieve. Granted, employee morale will fluctuate but there are steps you can take to keep the norm well above average.

1) Don’t require that employees participate in non-work activities
Extra-curricular activities shouldn’t be mandatory. Sure it might be a good bonding experience if the office staff played paintball together but don’t require that everyone attend. If your team-building exercises are effective, those that do attend will talk them up and others will want to attend the next time around. As the EvilHR-Lady says sometimes we get caught up in the latest fad or program and we think, “gee, won’t this be fabulous!” and we forget to ask if this is actually helping the business by truly meeting the needs of the people. Yes, the activity you came up with might be “fun,” but most people consider work, work and want to find their fun elsewhere.”

It might also be worthwhile to hold them during work hours because employees do have a life outside the office and making them come in early or stay late can seriously jeopardize employee morale.

2) Give employees the best training possible
There’s nothing more intimidating – and nothing that will lower morale faster – than being thrown into the workflow without proper training. Make sure there is a process for training that is both comprehensive and complete (don’t start the process and then fail to take the employee all the way through).Training is an investment in morale, as Shawn Graham says “Short-term fixes create long-term morale killers”

3) Establish clear expectations for employees
In education, a rubric is a standard of performance for a defined population. A rubric tells students how their task will be evaluated and what is expected of them. Teachers have realized that if they want a student to perform in a certain way on an assignment, they have to establish what that ‘way’ is. By doing this, teachers give students a clear path to success.

Employees in a business should have a rubric as well. It should state the expectations that employee will be held accountable for and outline behavior and other office norms. If you want your employees to ‘earn an A’, you have to tell them how to do it. It’s also worth clarifying whats’ not required. Are employees required to watch their emails when not at work? If so, you could damage morale and lead to burnout. In the article
The New Cause of Employee Burnout: Always Being “On”, Sharon Lauby talks about how employees need to “identify how you will build relaxation into your life” in order to avoid burnout.

4) Keep management arguments and disagreements private
There’s nothing worse for employees than having to listen to management argue. This is especially true for family-owned businesses where personalities and tension between family members can sometimes escalate into shouting matches. I’ve even been witness to one instance where the argument became so heated – and believe me we all heard it – between a father [owner] and son [manager] that the son effectively quit and didn’t show up to work for a few weeks.

Nothing drives down morale faster than two people screaming at each other so try to keep the discussion civilized. If emotion needs to be involved, consider waiting until after hours to throw down the gauntlet or take the fight to a place where employees won’t be able to overhear.


5) Create a clear managerial structure
Within a company, there needs to be a clear line of responsibility. If an employee has to get approval for something from her direct superior, she should know who that person is…and the approval process should not constantly shift from one manager to the other.

6) Don’t skimp on compensation
One employee I spoke to stated, “Money is the only effective means to increase morale; anything else is insincere and empty. Having spent 30 years in the semiconductor industry working long hours as both a manager and lead engineer, I can truly say that the morale in my areas was directly proportional to the financial rewards (or lack thereof) for results and accomplishments. You can tell your employees that they are valuable and perform well but without money to back it up, it is hollow praise.”

This may be taking it too far to one extreme – money as the only catalyst – but compensation is certainly a big part of employee moral.

7) Establish clarity of process for employees.
If your business has a process for taking orders or generally interacting with customers, make sure that process is clear. If it involves a checklist or methods sheet, fine, but make sure that the employee knows and can execute the process without difficulty. This also goes toward proper training (see #2) and can often result in not just improved morale but also broader improvement.

8) Establish clarity of process for customers
You’ve put forth the effort of getting your employees acclimated to the process but, really, what’s the point if your customers aren’t also clear on that process. Is there jargon involved? If so, your business needs to agree on a set of terms that both employees and customers make use of. Set up a method for placing orders so that the customer follows the employee’s checklist or waits to be prompted by the employee. It may seem like a common-sense thing but who said customers had common sense?

Training your customers will make it easier on all parties involved and ensure overall accuracy.


9) Don’t put customers above employees
True or false: The customer is always right. While this maxim may be a great way to get employees to better serve the customer, the customer is certainly NOT always right. Treating them as if they are can lead to a whole host of problems, not the least of which is low employee morale. In the culture of entitlement that seems to be the norm these days, sometimes it’s better for a customer to hear the word ‘No’ occasionally.

It’s also very disheartening if employees get the sense that no one has their back. Employees often have to make snap decisions based on experience and common business practices. If their decisions are constantly being undermined because management is kowtowing to the customer’s needs, employees won’t know how to react. This uncertainty can make for a very frustrating work environment and serve to push morale even lower.

10) Make your company mission a part of everything your employee does
This, of course, means that your company mission needs to be clearly expressed (e.g., written down) and that all employees are aware of what it is. When you establish the process an employee should follow (#7 above) and outline the expectations they should adhere to (#3 above), explain how these things contribute to, and help fulfill, the mission. This will make them feel like they are working toward a purpose; not just because the boss said so. Without a mission, it’s easy for “work to become so mundane, so routine, that employees just float through the days without much thought or concern for what we’re doing” according to HR author Trish McFarlane.

11) Allow for fun
This point can be summed up nicely in a simple question: “Is office laughter an unfamiliar occurrence?” If it is, this can be a major sign of low employee moral. To combat this lack of laughter, allow room for fun.

This can be as simple as allowing employees a few minutes to talk with each other, to as elaborate as organizing a company-wide game day. One successful strategy is to reward certain goals with fun activities – be they in-house or out-and-about.

Employee morale will not always be high; groups as a whole have emotional fluctuations just like individuals. But as an HR director or manager whose job it is to organize and direct these groups, you can work to keep morale in the positive. Put yourself in your employee’s position, find out what they need, and get creative in your solutions. When your employee’s morale is higher, yours will be too.

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