A worker’s morale is a combination of their confidence, their enthusiasm, their discipline and their productivity. When morale is high, workers feel good and work hard; when morale is low, they make mistakes, miss deadlines and, perhaps worst of all, resign in search of employment that improves their morale.
An organization has a vested interest in keeping morale up — but how? Here are the most significant factors that influence employee morale and how business leaders should manage them.
There is no skill more important in the workplace — indeed, in life — than communication. The effective transmission of accurate information keeps teams productive and successful. What’s more, when employees feel that they know and understand the values and strategies of the organization they work for, they tend to feel more engaged with their employer: They can feel that their work has more impact on the success of the company as a whole, and they can feel more in control of their own career choices. Thus, business leaders need to make communication a top priority to maintain high employee morale. For the most part, this means leaders must practice active listening, paying close attention to what employees are doing and saying. However, it also means striving toward transparency in their decision-making process, which can increase trust amongst the workforce and reduce stress levels considerably.
Every industry experiences highs and lows, when workers will have more or less tasks to accomplish throughout their workdays. During times when workloads are heavier, employees will experience more stress — and if workloads remain high for an extended period of time, that stress will infect workplace morale, causing it to plummet. Business leaders should listen to feedback from employees who say that their workloads are unbearably high and shift responsibilities to make tasks easier and less stress-inducing. It might be necessary to hire an additional worker or two to reduce the impact of high workloads on morale.
Morale is founded upon the relationships that employees form in the workplace. When an organization suffers from high employee turnover, workers are deprived of the opportunity to form strong connections with their coworkers, and as a result, morale is stifled. Unfortunately, that lingering low morale feeds into the high turnover rates, creating a cycle that is difficult to break. Business leaders should identify the root cause of high turnover and strive to improve their workplace culture and incentivize workers to stay.
Whenever people work together, they need to develop trust in, with and for one another. When an employee has trust in their teammates, in their managers and in overall business strategy, they are happy to focus on their own tasks and contribute productively to mutual success. However, when trust is weak or non-existent, workers are likely to feel stressed — concerned for the fate of the company, their future in their current position, or the fortune of their career as a whole. Business leaders can build trust by developing strong connections with their workforce and by aligning employee and employer values. Perhaps most importantly, leaders need to behave in accordance with their values and act reliably and with empathy. When employees can expect compassionate behavior from their leaders, they are more likely to trust their leaders and develop contentment and high morale as a result.
Intrinsic motivation matters; workers need to be able to motivate themselves to do good work. However, even the most intrinsically motivated worker wants to know that their contributions to the company are seen and appreciated. Recognition shows employees not only that leadership is paying attention but also that leadership cares. Workers who do more should receive more thanks and praise than workers who do less. What’s more, managers need to celebrate all staff through employee anniversary recognition, birthday parties and other events and occasions. Recognition programs do not need to be expensive or extensive, but they are essential for keeping morale high.
In addition to recognition, employees want to be compensated for their contributions to the company. In fact, insufficient compensation is often cited as the primary reason that workers left their jobs during the Great Resignation. Though incentives differ from compensation in a key way — they are not typically outlined in employment contracts or required by every employee — they are essential for keeping up worker morale. Incentive programs include benefits like extra paid time off, access to business travel, career development initiatives and company profit sharing. Workers like to know that their unnecessary effort is benefiting them, which is why incentives are important components of strong morale.
Almost every element of the workplace can affect how employees feel, from the color of the carpet to the word choice of their boss. However, if organizations can focus on these major elements affecting morale, they are more likely to establish strong, positive feelings in the workplace.