Understanding and Improving Employee Morale in the Workplace
Employee morale and engagement are critical factors in determining the success of any organization. High morale and engagement lead to increased productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction. Low morale and engagement, on the other hand, can lead to absenteeism, turnover, and poor performance.
As in assessing any situation, before issues can be addressed they need to be identified. In certain situations it is relatively easy. For example, a medical condition can be determined by reviewing symptoms reported by a patient, readings such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, hear rate, etc. and diagnostic tests. A mechanic uses diagnostic computer codes to determine repairs needed to automobiles. Unfortunately, there are no specific objective tests to diagnose employee engagement and morale issues. Organizations need to use an interactive approach to determine what is necessary to improve employee morale and engagement.
There are a number of ways to determine employee morale and engagement. Some common methods include:
Employee surveys: Employee surveys are a great way to gather quantitative data on employee morale and engagement. Surveys can be conducted online, in person, or via paper and pencil.
Focus groups: Focus groups provide an opportunity to gather qualitative data on employee morale and engagement. Focus groups allow employees to express their concerns and suggestions in a more open and informal setting.
One-on-one meetings: One-on-one meetings with employees provide an opportunity to discuss morale and engagement on a more personal level. These meetings can be used to gather feedback and identify any individual concerns.
All of these methods require interaction with the employees. Organizations must balance the time and resources available to accomplish this crucial part of the process. While one-on-one meetings will yield the most useful information, it is often not practical or cost-effective, especially in larger organizations. Surveys are the easiest and quickest to distribute and gather information but are sometimes not taken seriously or ignored by employees. There is also no opportunity to clarify and more deeply explore the answers to questions.
While the method of information-gathering may vary from organization to organization, it is a necessary first step to determine what area can be improved upon.
Once you have determined the level of employee morale and engagement in your organization, you can develop a program to address any deficiencies. It is important to “treat” the right condition which will vary not only from organization to organization, but also from employee to employee. While ideally you would give each employee concern individual attention, it is neither feasible nor economical. The issues affecting most employees should be given priority and addressed first. Over time, as the wider-ranging concerns are addressed, the remaining issues will then take priority. Organizations must recognize this as a process and not as a one-time solution to creating an engaged and happy workplace.
Once the areas of concern are determined, some common strategies for improving employee morale and engagement include:
Recognition and rewards: Recognize and reward employees for their accomplishments. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as verbal praise, written awards, and financial incentives. In addition to recognizing individual achievements, holiday parties and out-of-office social events show the organization’s appreciation for their collective contribution.
Feedback and coaching: Provide regular feedback to employees on their performance. This feedback should be specific, timely, and constructive. Coaching can also be used to help employees develop their skills and improve their performance. This should be done on both the micro and macro levels. While it is important for an employee to be aware of their own performance as it relates to the objectives of the organization, it is equally important for the employee to be made aware of the performance of the organization as a whole in order to see how their individual contributions affect the success of the organization. Regular communication is necessary on both levels. It also helps employees understand the “why” of things that are going on within the organization. The more “personal” this communication, the more effective it will be. For example, one-on-one meetings with supervisors are preferred to written memos and personal addresses by the leaders in the organization are preferred to newsletters and mass emails.
Training and development: Provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow. This can be done through training courses, workshops, and conferences.
Work-life balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and flextime.
Employee involvement: Involve employees in the decision-making process. This can be done through employee suggestion programs and employee committees.
Employee morale and engagement are essential for the success of any organization. By following the process outlined above, you can determine the level of employee morale and engagement in your organization and develop a program to address any deficiencies. By investing in your employees, you can improve their morale and engagement, which will ultimately lead to a more successful organization.