What is employee morale and how can you boost it?

Employee morale may not make as many headlines as market trends or innovation, but it is actually the secret engine that powers your company’s success. It’s the unseen, yet felt, rhythm, that keeps your workforce in-sync, and moving forward.

And that’s why we’ve decided to explore this subject in more detail – in order to demystify the concept of employee morale, discover why it matters so much, and, perhaps most importantly, look at a bunch of techniques you can use to lift morale – and reap the rewards – within your very own organization.

Understanding employee morale

Ever heard of the term ‘esprit de corps’? Well, if you haven’t, it’s a French phrase that directly translates to the ‘spirit of the body’—referring to the collective enthusiasm, camaraderie, and energy within a group. Now, take that concept, place it into the context of a workplace, and voilà! That’s employee morale in a nutshell.

It’s the overall mood, satisfaction, and outlook of employees towards their work and workplace—an invisible, yet highly palpable, force that can make or break an organization’s success.

So, what exactly sprinkles the magic dust on employee morale?

Think of it as a gourmet recipe, with various ingredients coming together harmoniously. From the clarity of job roles to management practices, workplace culture, and recognition programs—all these elements influence morale.

For instance, an environment that fosters collaboration and respect can create a positive buzz, enhancing morale. On the other hand, constant overwork, lack of communication, and unsatisfactory pay can drain the life force out of the most dedicated employees, leading to a nosedive in morale.

Why employee morale matters in an organization

Now you may ask, “Why should I care about employee morale?” Here’s the deal—morale is like the wind beneath your organization’s wings.

Research from the University of Warwick revealed that happy employees are up to 12% more productive. When morale is high, employees are more engaged, motivated, and committed — thus leading to better performance, increased productivity, and a thriving company culture. It’s no wonder that morale is often synonymous with the heartbeat of a business!

Signs of high and low employee morale

Just like a doctor checks a patient’s vitals, business leaders must recognize the signs of high and low employee morale.

Imagine a workplace where laughter echoes in the corridors, fresh ideas bloom like spring flowers, and employees are as loyal as a golden retriever — that, my friends, is a snapshot of high morale.

On the flip side, low morale manifests itself in frequent absenteeism, lacklustre performance, high turnover rates, and a general atmosphere of dissatisfaction. It’s like being in a party where everyone’s constantly checking their watches — definitely a vibe killer, right?

The impact of employee morale on business

If you think morale is all about making people look happier for their Christmas party photo, then we’re sorry to say that you’re wrong – employee morale impacts many areas of your organization.

1 – The effects of morale on productivity

Let’s start with a thought experiment. Picture yourself in a dingy, dull room, faced with a mountain of work. Your mind is swirling with a whirlwind of stress and dissatisfaction. Now, how likely are you to churn out your best work? Exactly — probably not very. That’s because, just like in our experiment, employee morale is intrinsically linked to productivity.

Read more: Does employee happiness impact productivity?

As a little morale fairy sprinkles joy and satisfaction over your workplace, it leads to employees that are happier, more engaged, and, you guessed it — more productive!

And it’s not just us saying it, either — remember that study we talked about earlier, from Warwick University? The sweet recipe of high morale truly can unlock a full treasure chest of productivity!

2 – Impact on employee retention and turnover

If morale is the lifeblood of your business, consider employee retention as its healthy heart.

A workplace brimming with high morale is like a five-star resort — people don’t want to leave! Employees feel valued, seen, and motivated, resulting in a loyalty that money can’t buy. Contrarily, low morale can transform your business into a veritable revolving door, with employees making a beeline for the exit. And it’s not just the loss of talent—employee turnover can cost businesses a whopping 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement. Ouch!

So, if you’re looking to keep your talent from jumping ship, make boosting morale your priority.

3 – How morale affects workplace environment and culture

Let’s face it: no one wants to work in an office where people wear frowns instead of smiles. Morale is the invisible thread that weaves the tapestry of your workplace environment and culture.

A high-morale workspace is like a well-oiled machine, with camaraderie, positivity, and a palpable zest for work. Employees are motivated, creativity is sparked, and an overall positive culture takes root. But when morale takes a nosedive, it’s like a wrench in the works—creating an environment ripe with dissatisfaction, negativity, and disengagement.

The trickle-down effect? A toxic culture that can tarnish your company’s reputation faster than a viral tweet. Sorry, is it Thread these days?

Assessing employee morale

So, it’s safe to say that employee morale is an important part of business. But how can you measure it effectively?

Roll up your sleeves and put on your detective hat — it’s time to dive into the thrilling world of morale assessment! If you’re picturing complicated graphs and number crunching, fear not. Assessing morale is more about listening and observing than it is about equations and pie charts.

One tool that’s as handy as a Swiss Army knife is the employee survey. It can be an anonymous platform for employees to voice their thoughts, opinions, and feelings about the workplace. You can also harness the power of one-on-ones, a golden opportunity to connect with employees and understand their perspectives. Then, there are suggestion boxes, mood-tracking apps, and even AI technologies that analyze digital communication for sentiment.

It’s all about finding the right tool for your unique business landscape.

Key indicators to look out for when assessing employee morale

Remember those ‘Where’s Waldo’ books? Assessing morale is a similar game of observation, except the stakes are a tad bit higher. But certain telltale signs can serve as your canary in the coal mine.

High morale is most often characterized by:
– Open communication
– Enthusiastic participation
– Creativity

A high-morale workplace is the kind of workplace where employees are truly excited about Mondays! Conversely, low morale looks like consistent absenteeism, poor work quality, or a sudden surge in resignation letters — these are the equivalent of neon warning signs flashing “Houston, we have a problem.” Remember, the quicker you spot these signs, the quicker you can work on a solution.

Effective strategies to boost employee morale

Here are some of the tried and tested methods that we’ve found are the most effective for boosting employee morale.

1 – Encouraging open and honest communication

Your workplace should become a space where honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy! When employees feel heard, respected, and part of the conversation, it’s like igniting a spark that fuels morale. This could mean regular team meetings, fostering a safe environment for feedback, or simply ensuring that your office door is always metaphorically open. According to Mathilde Collin, transparency from management is directly linked to employee happiness. So go on, unleash the power of open communication!

2 – Recognizing and rewarding employees

A pat on the back, a heartfelt “good job,” or even a simple thumbs-up emoji — these small gestures of recognition can act as a magic potion for employee morale. By recognizing and rewarding your employees, you’re not just acknowledging their hard work — you’re telling them they matter. You’re showing them that their efforts are seen and valued, and that’s a feeling more addictive than the sweetest candy. Employee recognition can be as elaborate as an annual awards gala or as simple as a shout-out in a team meeting. Trust us, the effects are far-reaching and morale-boosting!

3 – Promoting work-life balance

Picture this: an employee working from the crack of dawn until the stroke of midnight, drained and devoid of a personal life. Doesn’t sound like a happy picture, does it? That’s because it’s not. Employees are not machines—they need a healthy balance between work and their personal life to function at their best. Promoting work-life balance — be it through flexible hours, remote work options, or mandatory time off — is like giving your employees the keys to their own wellbeing. And when they’re well-rested and satisfied, their work sparkles too! A study from the Boston College Center for Work & Family suggests that employees who believe they have good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t. Quite the incentive to embrace balance, isn’t it?

4 – Investing in professional development

Employees are like plants — nourish them with opportunities to grow, and they’ll thrive. Investing in professional development is akin to equipping your employees with a jetpack for their career journey. When they see a clear pathway for growth, feel challenged and inspired, it leads to a sense of fulfilment and, consequently, a boost in morale. It could be training programs, skill development workshops, or even sponsoring higher education — these steps show your employees that you’re invested in their future, and that’s a surefire recipe for high morale!

5 – Building a positive workplace culture

Imagine yourself at a great party. The music’s pumping, everyone’s laughing and having a great time — that’s the kind of energy you want in your workplace (albeit, slightly more professional!). Building a positive workplace culture is like planting a beautiful garden—it requires patience, care, and a lot of love. It’s about fostering a sense of belonging, promoting diversity, and encouraging teamwork. It’s about making your workplace a space where employees feel at home. When you create a supportive and inclusive work environment, you’re not just building a team — you’re building a family. And that, my friends, is the epitome of high employee morale!

Case studies: Four companies that have successfully boosted morale

It’s no fun listening to us preach about the whats and the whys, without real evidence of companies who have done this and succeeded. So we thought you might like to read about four leading brands who embraced employee morale – with great results.

Google: A forerunner in employee satisfaction

If there’s a company that knows a thing or two about boosting morale, it’s the tech titan Google.

Google’s been popping bottles of champagne since it famously topped Fortune’s list of ‘Best Companies to Work For’ multiple times. How did they make the magic happen?

From awe-inspiring office spaces equipped with gyms and massage rooms, to flexible work hours and free gourmet meals—Google ensures its employees are cared for, satisfied, and most importantly, happy. The result is an army of Googlers who are motivated, productive, and totally in love with their workplace. Talk about a morale rocket ship!

Salesforce: Building morale through philanthropy

Imagine working for a company where not only is your work valued, but your commitment to making the world a better place is also recognized. That’s exactly what Salesforce did to supercharge employee morale.

The company incorporated a unique ‘1-1-1 model,’ where 1% of its equity, 1% of its product, and 1% of employee hours go towards philanthropic activities. Salesforce employees have contributed over 5 million hours to community service, feeling a sense of pride and fulfilment that goes beyond just work.

Salesforce’s approach truly embodies the phrase “Do well by doing good” — resulting in happier employees and a soaring morale!

Zappos: Cultivating a strong company culture

Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has laced up its employee morale boots quite firmly. The secret? A strong, unique, and customer-focused company culture.

Zappos offers its new employees a whopping $2,000 to quit after their first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But here’s the catch—it’s a test of commitment, ensuring that only those who are passionate about the company’s mission stay on.

The result? A cohesive team of dedicated employees, an engaging workplace environment, and morale that’s kicking high in the sky!

Netflix: Trusting employees with unlimited vacation

Netflix took the road less travelled when it introduced its unconventional ‘unlimited vacation’ policy. The company trusts its employees to take as much time off as they need, provided they meet their work responsibilities.

This bold move not only showed trust in employees but also promoted work-life balance. Netflix’s gamble paid off — the company witnessed enhanced employee satisfaction, productivity, and, of course, morale.

It just goes to show that when it comes to boosting morale, sometimes thinking outside the box office can create a real blockbuster!

Four common mistakes to avoid when trying to boost morale

It’s easy to get so focused on launching morale-boosting initiatives, that you can forget to look out for the things that are going wrong. So here’s our top four mistakes that you should try your best to avoid when trying to boost employee morale.

1 – Overlooking the importance of individual differences

Imagine receiving a woolly jumper as a gift — great if you live in chilly Alaska, not so much if you’re in sunny California!

The same principle applies to your workplace. A one-size-fits-all approach to boosting morale can be as off the mark as that jumper. It’s essential to understand that every employee is a unique snowflake with their own motivations, aspirations, and preferences. What boosts morale for one may not work for another.

So, take time to get to know your employees — treat them as individuals, not just cogs in the machine.

2 – Ignoring the power of communication

If boosting morale is your mission, don’t play a game of broken telephone. One common pitfall that companies fall into is ignoring the power of communication.

Failure to communicate effectively can lead to misinformation, confusion, and a dip in morale that falls faster than a lead balloon.

So, keep those lines of communication wide open. Ensure your team knows what’s going on, what’s expected of them, and that their voices are heard. As an article from Forbes highlighted, clear communication is key to boosting morale and fostering trust.

3 – Failing to recognize and reward effort

There’s nothing more disheartening than putting in a ton of effort and having it go unnoticed. Failing to recognize and reward your employees’ hard work is like driving with a flat tire — you’re not going to get very far.

So, don’t skimp on the ‘good jobs’ and the ‘well dones’, and consider launching an official employee recognition program too. Show your employees that their contributions are valued and appreciated. A little recognition goes a long way in keeping that morale meter ticking upward.

4 – Neglecting the importance of a positive work environment

We’ve all most likely had the unfortunate experience, once or twice in our lives, of working in a gloomy, uninspiring office where enthusiasm goes to die — a nightmare, right?

Neglecting to create a positive and engaging work environment is a surefire morale-killer. Your workplace should be a place where employees feel comfortable, supported, and motivated. This doesn’t mean you need beanbag chairs and ping pong tables — although, these can be a nice touch. It could be as simple as a clean, well-lit office with a collaborative atmosphere.

Remember, your workplace environment is the soil in which your employees’ morale grows — make sure it’s fertile!

Good luck!

Alright, folks, that’s a wrap! We’ve navigated the thrilling roller coaster ride of employee morale, from understanding what it is and why it’s so crucial, to exploring the telltale signs of low and high morale. We’ve unveiled the secret recipe to boost morale — open communication, recognition, work-life balance, professional development, and a positive work culture. We’ve also gleaned inspiration from the champions of morale boosting—companies like Google, Salesforce, Zappos, and Netflix.

But remember, boosting morale isn’t just a one-off project — it’s a continuous journey. Avoid those common pitfalls — ignoring individual differences, underestimating the power of communication, neglecting recognition, and overlooking the importance of a positive work environment.

Good luck! And remember, every step you take towards boosting morale is a step towards a happier, more productive, and more successful business.