19 experts share tips on boosting employee morale in the workplace
Last updated on: July 7, 2022
Take a minute and think. What are you doing to keep your employee engaged and motivated? Are you doing all you can to ensure their well-being and praise them when they do great work? Do you know what employee morale refers to?
We reached out to 19 experts in the field of human resources and employee management, as well as to several university professors to pick their brains on the importance of employee morale in a professional setting.
We asked them the following questions:
1. What is employee morale?
2. Why is employee morale important in a professional setting?
3. What can managers and team leads do to boost employee morale?
In addition to answering our questions, these experts shared a lot of practical and effective tips to help you improve your people’s morale and motivate them to do what they do best — contribute to the overall success of your business.
Let’s dive in.
✨ What is employee morale?
In one of my previous texts, I explored the concept of employee engagement and looked for the best ways to improve it through communication.
While researching the topic, I realized that all employee-associated issues have recently become a focus for experts on workplace and employee management — employee engagement, employee recognition, employee well-being, and employee morale being some of the most frequently mentioned ones.
As someone very passionate about how employers can find ways to keep employees happy and provide them with a satisfying and thriving experience at work, I looked for people who could better explain the concept of employee morale.
Here’s how they defined it:
🎯 Employee morale is a set of attitudes about the work, the organization, and colleagues
According to Daphne Pedersen PhD., Professor of Sociology at the University of North Dakota and Co-Editor at The Social Science Journal, employee morale can be defined as a set of attitudes:
“Employee morale is a set of attitudes that employees have about their work, the organization, and those they work with – coworkers and supervisors.”
Similarly, Anjela Mangrum, Founder and President of Mangrum Career Solutions and a Certified Personnel Consultant agrees with Dr. Pedersen’s point of view — attitude is important:
“If I see an employee who seems motivated, disciplined, and satisfied where they work, I would describe them as having high morale.”
🎯 Employee morale is a measure of employee motivation and satisfaction
For some, employee morale is a measure of employee satisfaction. The Head of People at Passport Photo Online, Bartek Boniecki, explains that “a measure of employee morale is their willingness to challenge themselves at work.” He elaborates:
“This definition encompasses all aspects of employee morale, such as engagement, job satisfaction, personal well-being, and outlook on the work.”
🎯 Employee morale is how employees feel about coming to work each day
Another view of employee morale comes from Stephanie Heath, Job Search, Negotiation, and Interview Coach and Founder of SoulWork. She says:
“Employee morale is how employees feel about coming to work each day. For most, this means feeling like they’re in the right role for themselves and their goals, how much they feel seen, acknowledged, and respected, and how much they resonate with the company as a whole.”
In support of Heath’s view, Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., President at EleVive, and Concierge Coach, thinks:
“Employee morale is favorable or strong when employees are optimistic about their work environment and believe they can satisfy their most critical professional and vocational needs.”
According to Mikaela Kiner, Founder and CEO at Reverb, employee morale is defined as “a sense of confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline.” She says:
“When applied to a group of employees it looks like a team that’s excited to come to work, energized by what they do, and therefore driven to meet goals and objectives. Imagine a team lacking in morale — they would be skeptical, low energy, and easily distracted.”
🎯 Employee morale is the driver of productivity and better performance
According to Lattice Hudson, Business Coach, Leadership Mentor, and Owner at Lattice and Co, high morale sets the stage for better performance:
“Workers with strong morale are healthier and more productive, and organizations with satisfied workers have been shown to make more and perform better than their competitors.”
Similar to Hudson, Hilmon Sorey, Managing Director at ClozeLoop and Forbes Coaches Council Member, defines employee morale with the help of the Four C’s:
“The evidenced confidence, commitment, contribution, and collaboration of an individual or a team at any given time. Morale is important but those Four C’s directly correlate to satisfaction and retention, productivity, quality of work product, and ultimately your customers’ experience.”
🎯 Employee morale is based on a true sense of purpose and respect
Another interesting perspective comes from Sarah Murdock Ph.D., Head of People and Culture Advisory Services at Nevelab Technologies. She says:
“There’s a misconception that employee morale is about happiness or generic perks, but this isn’t the case. What most employees want is a deep sense of purpose, true respect for both contributions and aspirations, plus meaningful opportunities to build new projects that create an impact.”
For James R. Elliot, Founder and Leadership Trainer at Unleash Your Power, employee morale is also about loving your job:
“To me, it’s the love of what they do, the love of working at the company, and the love of working with people there. It’s the sense of purpose in their work.”
Another specialist in the field, Annie Raygoza, Director of Client Services at WebEnertia, believes employee morale is founded on trust and working together to reach a solution:
“To me, employee morale means providing confidence and trust in the teams we work with. If we encourage our team members to be more solution-based, it empowers them to find answers to problems we’re facing, further elevating their career growth opportunities and morale.”
🎯 Employee morale is closely connected to employee engagement
Interestingly, Alexis Zahner, Founder and Facilitator at Human Leaders, finds employee morale to be a forerunner of employee engagement:
“Morale is a precursor to employee engagement — employees who don’t feel satisfied and positive towards their work, aren’t likely to be engaged in it. At an individual level, employee morale will drive a person’s motivation, contributions, and commitment to their work and business.“
On the other hand, Teshia Davis, VP of People and Culture at SECU Maryland, sees it as a significant consequence of an engaged workforce:
“Positive employee morale is a byproduct of creative, thoughtful, genuine engagement initiatives built on the needs of employees.”
Defining employee morale as “the collective emotional pulse”, Holly Schmittle, Director of HR at Planit reminded us:
“Morale is different and less complex in concept than the hot topic of employee engagement but is an important element of engagement. Similar to engagement, morale is personal.”
Teaching Professor and a Faculty Member at the School of Communication and Information, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Richard Dool, concludes that employee morale and employee engagement go hand in hand:
“Employee morale essentially captures an employee’s outlook, attitude, and confidence level at work. Why is it critical? American workers report that only 39% are actively engaged at work.”
👔 Why is employee morale important in a professional setting?
Grasping the concept of employee morale is a good starting point for managers and team leads — yet, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The next step is to understand how employee morale manifests itself in the workplace and why it is one of the key ingredients to the success of your business.
Sit tight and read on.
⚡ Employee morale helps retain top talent
Dr. Dool believes that “we are in an era where employee retention is more critical than ever and that leaders must work harder to attract, recruit, and retain talent.” He says:
“There is a war for talent that has been raging, and even more during the pandemic. It has been referred to as the Great Resignation as talent has more access and choices. We also see a more ‘nomadic’ workforce as the typical Gen Z may work for 8+ firms in a 30-year career.”
Zahner also feels low morale is what chases away your best people and causes more problems:
“Low morale is linked to low engagement and can result in poor organizational commitment, this basically means that employees who have low morale, will feel less enthusiastic and connected to their work, and as a result, may have diminished feelings of commitment to our organization, if left unchecked this might result in the employee leaving our business.
Low employee morale contributes to poor organizational culture, the effect of one employee with low morale, left unchecked, can seep into a wider team dynamic causing a myriad of issues within the team.”
⚡ Employee morale boosts productivity and engagement
Employee morale can affect productivity, innovation, and job outcomes. But Managing Partner and Executive Recruiter at Summit Search Group, Matt Erhard, emphasizes its importance for employee loyalty:
“High morale in a workplace leads to more productive, more engaged employees. It’s also a key factor in employee loyalty, making it a crucial aspect of the workplace to improve for those suffering from high turnover/low retention.”
Dr. Lombardo also believes that “employees with better morale are more productive” while Boniecki reminds us that our emotions can affect our performance, too:
“Even in the workplace, we are still human beings, not machines. Thus, emotions and feelings affect us, and they influence our performance. Team members with high morale inspire and motivate their colleagues to accomplish more as a team.”
According to Matt Woods, Co-Founder and CEO at Sold.com and a Forbes Council Member, high employee morale “can make your employees feel more motivated to contribute to the company’s success.”
If going to work evokes negative or apathetic feelings, “employees may not feel as motivated and thus productivity overall could decrease,” he adds.
⚡ Employee morale improves communication quality
Employee morale is also a key ingredient for effective communication, says Schmittle:
“High morale can impact so many areas that are key to company success, such as relationship and communication quality, focus on resolutions to issues, and better creativity!”
⚡ Employee morale creates an engaged and imaginative workforce
Dr. Pedersen believes that high morale paves the way to happier and more productive employees:
“When morale is good, employees are energized and committed; when morale suffers, so do other things like workplace relationships, productivity, and commitment.”
Dr. Murdock explains that when employees feel they are contributing to something important, they find it easier to unleash their inner talents:
“Employee morale is the single biggest factor to whether an individual or team brings their A-game and does truly innovative work.
To be clear, most people aren’t consciously sitting around intentionally withholding their best work because they don’t feel appreciated. What we see, across countries and industries, is that employees inherently go above and beyond when morale is high.
This really isn’t surprising — humans usually respond with generosity, focus, and excitement when we feel heard, appreciated, and that we’re part of something important.”
⚡ Employee morale produces quality and quantity work
According to Dr. Pedersen, employee morale is “critical for both employees and the well-being and success of the organization”. She elaborates:
“Morale is critical to the quality and quantity of work that employees produce, as well as how willing they are to remain with the organization. Creativity, communication, engagement, motivation, teamwork, and efficiency are all shaped by employee morale.”
As an HR at Herrman and Herrman PLLC, Mary Alice Pizana, believes that employee morale can also lead to a more enjoyable customer experience in the long run:
“Employee morale is essential to every business because it directly affects how employees perform. Employees with higher morale perform better and are more likely to go the extra mile for their employer. High morale teams also provide a more enjoyable customer experience.”
In Kiner’s opinion, “people with low morale at work are at best just punching the clock.” She explains this further:
“At their worst, people with low morale may be negative, hypercritical, and bring down the morale of the people around them.”
Heath believes that employees have more influence than employers, especially in the post-Covid world:
“It’s important to not only pay employees appropriately and even above market rate to be competitive but to follow the trends we have been seeing that indicate that all employees want work that is fulfilling.
Fulfilling work rests on office dynamics and how it affects their personal self-view.”
⚡ Employee morale builds a healthier and happier company culture
According to Elisabeth Duncan, VP of Human Resources at Evive, “employee morale creates a healthier, happier culture where employees feel supported, encouraged, and experience high levels of job satisfaction”. She explains in detail:
“In an environment with high employee morale, employees trust that they have the resources and benefits to reach their goals, manage their health and financial concerns and their employer cares about their well-being.
As a result, they feel a strong connection to the brand, work collaboratively to solve real challenges, and are empowered to contribute their ideas and opinions.”
Davis thinks that “employee morale and engagement can help support an increase in retention and ensure a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture that makes employees feel valued.” She compares workplace culture to marriage:
“Most employees want to find a compatible employer — an organization they align with and can trust — one that has their best interests at heart.”
So, it would be wise for you and the employees to take your time to see if you are a good fit for each other. If your ultimate goal is to create a happy and healthy company culture, you should start by picking the people you see by your side in the long run and making sure you both support each other’s interests.
⚡ Employee morale makes a difference
Raygoza thinks that organizations that stand out from the crowd can enjoy higher employee morale:
“People have a lot of options — especially during this time (the Great Resignation). Showcasing what differentiates us (the organization) from others is valuable and increases morale.
Highlighting the personal approaches an organization is taking to understand each employee (their strengths, weaknesses, and being a personal cheerleader for them) is going to boost morale and encourage them to stay within an organization.”
⚡ Employee morale can save money and ensures business success
If employees aren’t satisfied where they are, they will be on the constant lookout for something better, says Elliot:
“If there is low morale, people will leave (or be constantly thinking of leaving, affecting their performance) for the allure of higher pay, a better job, better culture, etc.
This can cost a fortune in terms of employee performance, lost productivity, lost time, and costs training someone new — who may not work out.
Morale means people will usually do their best, commit to the team’s success, vs. just being there for the almighty buck and not really care about what they do — affecting customer satisfaction, revenue, etc.”
According to Schmittle, morale is “a foundational building block that can lead to engagement and company success”. She sums it up:
“People need to feel emotionally connected and treated well in their work environment; they need to feel positive about their leadership, peers, and the work that they’re doing.”
⚡ Employee morale makes room for improvement
Although Hudson thinks “employee morale is a major corporate problem, and it is one that we should address regularly,” she also believes it allows companies to constantly improve themselves:
“Employee retention is higher in businesses with excellent employee morale — happy employees want to stay with your firm for the long term. This is why organizations with good morale have higher employee retention rates.
Employee retention is critical to your business’s success. For a growing company, the expense of high turnover may be daunting, especially when you’re continuously seeking to replace individuals with specific and sought-after skill sets.
Employee retention and satisfaction are important performance factors for a company’s success. As a result, it is worthwhile to place a premium on employee morale to retain valuable teammates.”
🤹🏻 What can managers and team leads do to boost employee morale?
I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the previous two parts of this expert round-up, but I believe that managers and team leads will find this final part the most interesting.
As specialists in the fields of employee management, communication, and human behavior, the people we consulted for this piece made sure to list a bunch of useful and attainable tips to help you address the issue of employee morale in the workplace.
I’m well aware of how hard it can be to do something to reach people, influence them, and make them feel good about their place of work. So I feel compelled to warn you:
- There’s no magic formula for boosting employee morale.
- Reading all your theory means nothing if you’re not implementing it.
- There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
- Honesty and transparency do wonders in any scenario.
In view of this, I present to you the best tips for improving your people’s morale in the workplace.
▶ Understand and prioritize employee morale
Everything begins with understanding and prioritizing. Organizations that choose to prioritize employee morale over other matters can enjoy many benefits, says Duncan:
“Organizations that prioritize employee morale deliver personalized, consistent messaging throughout the employee journey, boost engagement, performance and attract high performers.
In the age of the Great Resignation, high employee morale reduces staff turnover and recruitment costs, lowers medical expenses and absenteeism, and improves brand reputation.”
▶ Take the pulse of your people to express genuine interest and care
Observing, listening, and judging the overall atmosphere among your people can help when the time comes to show care and interest.
Even if there’s nothing wrong and your employees seem to be happy and productive at work, Schmittle believes taking the time to understand how they are feeling is a good way to affect morale:
“It’s all about reading the room and showing care.
A manager can think they’re doing an amazing job, but if they don’t regularly take the pulse and truly comprehend themes from team feedback, it’s likely that morale will take a serious dip.
Since morale is tied to employee feelings, and it’s intangible, the keys to boosting it are:
Elliot supports Schmittle’s point of view:
“Care about employees, and prove it to them – take an interest in their lives, challenges, goals, and support them to get there.”
▶ Build personal relationships and don’t fear to be vulnerable
Although we are living in a time of social distancing, there’s never been a greater need for meaningful relationships. This translates to any workplace setting, especially if we consider remote or hybrid companies.
What Kiner finds essential to improving morale is allowing yourself to be imperfect and opening up completely. She says:
”Leaders have the power to set the tone for their teams and can focus on a few key things to boost or maintain high morale”
Build personal relationships. Know people’s partners’ and pets’ names. Treat people like people, not like cogs in a wheel.
Open up, share, and be vulnerable. When you admit mistakes and challenges, people know they don’t have to be perfect.”
▶ Get in the right mindset
Tending to the needs of your employees is a lot like parenting, Dr. Murdock notes. Having the right outlook and constantly working on improving your leadership skills can bring you one step closer to enhanced employee morale. She concludes:
“For all people managers, I highly recommend starting with leadership coaching, therapy, and/or meditation to prepare one’s mindset. Like parenting, your employees respond to how you’re being and behaving, not what you tell them.”
▶ Trust your people
Trust is one of the pillars of successful organizations — without trust, you can’t count on engagement, morale, or anything else for that matter. Both Erhard and Dr. Dool agree that fostering trust leads to high employee morale. Dr. Dool says:
“Employees want to be trusted. Leaders need to establish goals, boundaries, and rules of engagement and then get out of the way and let the employees get it done.”
According to Raygoza, you could build trust by paying attention to your people and showing them you are on their side:
“Make the time to have consistent check-ins with employees. document the conversations, and follow through with all questions and longer-term goals. Having this level of attention and motivation will boost morale and also help employees feel like they have someone in their corner.
Trust is a big factor in a relationship and can be done only through these strategic touchpoints. These are also special moments to highlight things they’re doing well, how they’re progressing in this career path, and encourage them to improve areas of weakness.”
▶ Be a part of the solution
To make a difference for employees and impact their morale and engagement, Zahner thinks leaders should always be aware of their role in the whole matter. She advises:
“Employee morale is a serious consideration for organizations and should be at the forefront of considerations around how we lead our teams.
High morale will go leaps and bounds in creating high-performing teams and workplace cultures, resulting in better overall business performance.
Leaders must understand that they play a role in maintaining employee morale and must be part of the solution when deciding on how to get employee feedback, coach and develop their team, and recognize them accordingly.”
▶ Communicate as much as possible
According to Dr. Pedersen, “morale can be improved with open communication, direct and frequent acknowledgment, and by providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow professionally.”
Pizana also thinks that “the most simple way to improve employee morale is through communication.”
Woods reminds us that in communication, “timing is as important as content.” He says:
“Be strategic in not only what you say, but when you say it. The more transparent you can be, the more your team will trust and follow your lead.”
Just like trust, effective communication is the backbone of any healthy and happy company — embrace all the overcommunication and never stop perfecting your communication skills.
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▶ Strive for transparency and consistency in communication
To achieve that high morale in the workplace, Dr. Dool believes that you should start with transparent communication:
“Leaders need to create a positive environment, where employees feel valued and respected. This starts with open, active, and transparent communication.”
In addition to transparency, Raygoza believes that consistency in communication should be enforced, too:
“It’s also important to ensure consistency around communication is occurring. When people feel heard and understood — they’re more likely to feel like they’re part of something bigger.
They should be acknowledged for wins, and areas of improvement. Only then, does the line of trust and morale grow.”
▶ Practice active listening
As Duncan sees it, active listening is the foundation of a supportive and nurturing workplace:
“Employers that listen and use the input to develop a culture aligned with people’s values and beliefs create a future-ready organization where employees feel cared for and supported and don’t want to leave.”
Elliot supports this point of view as well, reminding leaders to “listen and be present with employees and their needs.”
Active listening is much more than just listening — it’s about reading between the lines, interpreting what employees aren’t saying or what they might be unwilling to share. Dr. Dool concludes:
“The employee wants to know their voice matters, so leaders need to be good listeners and actively seek employee input.”
▶ Ensure weekly one-on-one meetings to provide nurture
According to Heath, managers should be focused on developing their team. She points out 1:1 conversations as one of the most effective ways to do that:
“People managers should dedicate blocks of time (one hour per week per employee) to not only review the output of the team and its individual members but to nurture each team member by:
- Brainstorming opportunities to connect with them based on their interests.
- Reviewing onboarding personality assessments provided by DISC or another organization.
- Dedicating time to think about what may be happening in that person’s personal life (based on what was shared by the employee) and go out of their way to follow up.
- Dedicating time to review/remind themselves of the ideal career trajectory of each team member and ask themselves if their current project is in line with this person’s long-term goals.
- Preemptively suggesting and getting approval for continuing education, technical development, or leadership opportunities per member unrelated to their work output. Not needing to earn these opportunities but have them provided because they are a valued member of the team.”
Now, to be able to conduct effective one-on-one meetings and act on their employees’ input, leaders should up their empathy skills, Heath continues:
“People managers need to enroll in an empathy course to develop empathy skills so that caring about each member becomes more natural than what was the norm in previous years.”
▶ Explain expectations and roles clearly
According to one Gallup estimate, only 50% of employees know what their managers expect from them. While recognizing how important communication is in a professional setting, Pizana also highlights the significance of explaining expectations and roles clearly:
“High-quality managers clearly communicate their expectations for each team member and provide quality feedback for their team.
These interactions help improve the work environment by making it clear to team members their role and how they contribute to the organization’s overall goals.”
Similarly, Zahner finds that understanding the WHY behind underperforming employees might boost employee morale in the long run. She advises leaders to focus on bridging this gap between where the employees are and where managers need them to be:
“Identifying the gap and coaching it can help boost employee morale when the issues are associated with skills-based or self-efficacy issues. Low employee morale can be a result of the employee underperforming in their role.
Taking time to understand if and where employees are struggling in their roles and helping them to bridge the gap from where they are to where we need them to be will help build their own self-belief that they’re capable (self-efficacy) boosting their motivation and satisfaction and show that we care and value their contributions.”
▶ Eliminate mass email practices
Duncan believes email to be an old-fashioned and time-wasting practice:
“Mass emails are often seen as employer spam. As a result, this kills morale, wastes people’s time, and leads to disinterest.”
What she proposes instead of email is to “distribute personalized messages to the right employee at the right times based on their preferred communication, showing employees their time and opinion matters.”
▶ Encourage employees to ask for feedback
Despite managers’ and team leads’ reluctance to give feedback, HBR found that 72% of employees believe that constructive feedback could improve their performance.
When constructive, feedback is a great morale and engagement booster. You don’t have to limit your feedback sessions to suggest improvements or point out mistakes — normalize feedback by making it a desirable practice in your organization.
From Dr. Lombardo’s perspective, managers and team leads should support their employees to actively and independently ask for feedback:
“Employers and supervisors can give employees the skills to ask for feedback to boost employee morale. Managers have led the feedback process to assist staff in course correction and growth.
However, the greatest method to improve the free flow of feedback is to encourage people to seek it out independently.”
▶ Act on the feedback
Mangrum believes that leaders should act on the feedback they have collected but also reminds them of the importance of joined decision-making:
“Welcoming your team’s feedback and acting upon it is another significant morale booster, the exact opposite of a demoralizing attitude where employers suppress their staff’s voices and act as sole decision-makers.”
▶ Take accountability for feedback
Zahner goes a step further and invites team leads to take responsibility for the feedback they get from their employees:
“It’s important for all leaders to understand that feedback from employees may feel uncomfortable but accepting radical responsibility for addressing employee morale happens at all levels — as leaders, we’re part of the problem and the solution, so we need to take accountability for this.”
▶ Conduct Monthly Pulse Surveys
Duncan believes that conducting monthly surveys to gather information on what needs improvement can help in boosting their morale and making them feel valued and acknowledged:
“Distribute monthly pulse surveys to managers and employees to track employee morale and gain feedback on employee benefit packages, recognition programs and improve internal communications.”
▶ Recognize and acknowledge individual efforts and contribution
Implementing respectful communication and showing your people you genuinely value what they bring to the organization is one of the easiest ways to reach them. Praising someone for their input leads directly to employee morale and empowerment, reveals Dr. Pedersen:
“Employee morale increases when people feel they are respected and acknowledged for the important contributions they make to the organization – and they are empowered to do their work.”
▶ Rely on incentives to inspire and motivate
Mangrum supports the use of monetary stimulus together with verbal praises:
“If you need your workers to do their jobs well and on time, it’s worthwhile to make efforts to heighten overall team morale. In my opinion, employee recognition is a key factor in boosting morale. Making your hard workers feel valued with verbal praise or cash incentives provides a great performance boost.”
While he supports the idea of recognizing and rewarding people for their work, Elliot also urges managers and team leads to “make work fun.” He explains further:
“Take responsibility for people’s results (this does not mean you actually have to DO the work) and find ways to help them to get there/ask them what they need/help them figure out what they need.”
▶ Ask your people how they want to be rewarded
Asking your people what they want as rewards is one of the best ways to boost their morale, Zahner suggests:
“Providing recognition and acknowledgment are essential in letting our employees know we see them and value them. This doesn’t necessarily mean rewarding using cash or monetary bonuses — the latest data suggests that money-related bonuses are less effective than other means.
Ask your employees how they want to be rewarded and what they value, this might be flexible working arrangements, rostered days off, contributing to local charities or volunteer work, or perhaps monthly and quarterly team recognition days.
Many organizations fall into the trap of thinking cash is king when it comes to employee recognition and often miss the mark with what motivates employees and makes them feel good about their work.”
▶ Give employees more than they expect
Employee morale can’t be enhanced by providing everyone with the same perks and benefits, such as free membership to the gym or a birthday gift card — it only makes you look lazy and indifferent. Try this instead:
- Perhaps your employees would benefit from a few extra days off but are reluctant to ask — give it to them without them asking.
- If an employee expects a 5% raise, surprise them by making room for 10%.
- Make a few adjustments to add more days to your PTO program.
- Surprise all the parents with a “Bring Your Family to Work Day” or similar family activity.
- Arrange for each employee to get a day off on their birthday so they could spend it the way they want to.
Dr. Murdock believes companies can stand out by choosing wisely their perks and benefits programs. According to her, “morale is tied to compensation and title to some degree, but significantly more to meaning, appreciation, and true teamwork.“
“Smart companies understand that generic perks like parties or swag won’t help much with morale. Instead, smart companies invest in benefits, bonuses, and professional development.
But companies that are really leading understand that even money and benefits only go so far. After all, if compensation were the key to employee morale we’d see high success rates in finance, tech, and other highly lucrative industries.”
If you make an effort to be one step ahead of your employees’ desires and expectations, you’ll convince them that you truly have their best interests at heart and they will respond by doing their best for the organization.
▶ Make sure all employees are given a voice
Erhard finds it vital that managers and team leads “give employees a voice in their workplace environment.” He elaborates:
“A good place to start is with employee pulse surveys that “take the temperature” of your current work environment. You may find it helpful to make these anonymous, especially if you think some employees may be dissatisfied but fear reprisal if they speak up about the issues they’re having.”
When you allow your people to voice their desires, concerns, and requests, you’re on the way to discover the cause of low morale, Zahner claims:
“Understanding the cause of low morale is an important place for leaders and organizations to start when trying to boost morale. It’s seemingly simple but connecting with employees and providing them the opportunity to voice their challenges and concerns will help uncover the root causes of low morale.
Think about it. No one likes to feel unseen and unheard If there’s no mechanism in your organization for employees to contribute their opinions in this way, this is where you need to start.”
▶ Celebrate even the smallest achievements
When we get praised for our accomplishments and contribution at work, our brain releases oxytocin and we feel instantly happy. And when we are happy, we find it easy to go above and beyond at work and in life — obstacles to success become mere pebbles in the road.
Department heads and chief executives should bookmark this and use it as part of their strategy to boost employee morale. It’s not only about acknowledging the achievements and milestones, it’s also about celebrating them, observes Pizana:
“Managers taking the time to recognize and celebrate their team’s achievements help show the team that their bosses are invested in their work and appreciate their effort.”
Boniecki also believes that celebrating your people’s achievements can allow them to flourish:
“Employee recognition is about identifying and communicating their accomplishments. Particularly important is to explain how it impacts their team or company as a whole.
As a result, employees know their efforts were noticed and their work matters, making their effort truly rewarding.”
▶ Find the right approach to address error-making
Hudson acknowledges that many employees prefer to be compensated for their hard work. But she also warns managers against keeping a score on employees’ mistakes — it can have undesirable effects:
“Workers want to feel that their hard work is appreciated, and many prefer to be compensated for it when feasible. Managers who consistently point out employees’ faults, on the other hand, create a breeding ground for employee unhappiness.”
▶ Cultivate a thriving work environment
Having a positively framed work environment isn’t just about having enough space and the right equipment to work — it’s a bit more complex than that, thinks Dr. Dool:
“Leaders must create an environment that offers value, drives learning, promotes cohesion, and is positively framed. This will increase morale, which leads to higher job satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and retention.“
For Kiner, a nurturing workplace is also the one that clearly outlines its mission and vision:
“Set a clear mission and vision. Clear direction is energizing and allows people to remain focused.”
▶ Establish an employee-first culture
Prioritizing the employee-first approach seems like a logical next step in any workplace arrangement, don’t you think? Taught by the Great Resignation, managers should be actively looking for ways to keep their best people.
Both Duncan and Mangrum advocate for the employee-first approach. Duncan remarks:
“Organizations need to create new opportunities for diverse talent, change business processes, help employees form respectful social connections, and create a culture where differences and similarities are appreciated and embraced.”
“With an employee-first approach, not only will you notice a peak in your employees’ performance, but you’re likelier to observe a smoother workflow with lesser things that need fixing later.”
▶ Acknowledge the multi-generational workforce
With Gen Z slowly entering the workforce, embracing multigenerational workplaces can result in increased diversity and inclusiveness.
Balancing the generational gap can be beneficial for boosting employee morale, but Duncan also believes that companies should prioritize “a cross-generational approach in their benefits selection to meet the diverse needs of each generation of workers.”
▶ Provide flexibility and agency
“There are some things that are often successful in improving morale. One of these is giving employees more agency and flexibility to work when and where is best for them.”
More flexibility and allowing employees to make important decisions positively impacts morale, Dr. Pedersen implies:
“Building flexibility and decision-making into the workplace culture also generates empowerment and morale.”
▶ Adapt to the work model
While many companies struggle to preserve employee engagement and morale in hybrid and virtual arrangements, Davis is doing her best to maintain workplace wellness:
“Keeping employees engaged in a hybrid work environment involves meeting them where they are and prioritizing their needs, which then become prerequisites — and the foundation of an overall wellness strategy. “
She shares handy tips on adapting to the preferred work model:
- “Be purposeful in connecting with colleagues.
- Offer grace in acknowledging that we all work differently, especially when doing so remotely.
- Always offer flexibility to your teams, particularly because everyone’s personal and professional lives are now intertwined.
- Support and promote mind, body, and financial wellness with your employees.”
As the pandemic shifted everything, Davis’ company came up with practices to keep employees motivated and engaged:
- “To boost employee morale, we created weekly company-wide emails to offer business and pandemic updates, encourage transparency, and ensure company-wide alignment.
- We kickstarted monthly company-wide strategic briefing sessions with our leadership team, which provided insight on business priorities and changes in strategy and empowered us to launch new initiatives.
- Lastly, we surprised all employees with a series of monthly brand box mailings, ranging in value from $150 to $200. They were carefully curated and included items based on the season, well-being, and an element of doing good or giving back to the communities we serve.”
Managing hybrid, remote, and distributed teams can be challenging — but with the right approach and enthusiasm, you can make it work.
💡Pumble Pro Tip
If you opted for a remote work model, here’s a first aid kit from our blog to help you bridge the rocky start:
▶ Invest in well-being, financial wellness, and mental health
Difficult work conditions in the previous few years drew attention to many challenges, including employees’ mental health, financial issues, and overall well-being.
Addressing these issues and minimizing the stigma around them gives more room for improving employee morale, Duncan says:
“Mental health, financial challenges, and wellness challenges have impacted the workplace.
Yet, people with health or financial difficulties often don’t get the help they need because of the stigma and discrimination they face. Dedicate the time and resources to expand employee mental health, financial education, and well-being benefits.”
▶ Provide opportunities for learning and development
Zahner thinks that high morale employees thrive on opportunities for improving their knowledge and skills:
“Providing ongoing training is also an essential consideration for organizations and will continue to keep employees engaged through learning and skill development.”
▶ Shun micromanagement and bias
With so many other workplace issues lurking from the darkest corners of the business world, avoiding workplace micromanagement is a good start. In Erhard’s opinion, “some of the biggest morale killers are micromanagement and bias/discrimination within the workplace.”
Also, if your organization employs people from sensitive groups, normalize it. You’ve got to settle the bias to give your employees reason to feel good about where they work and who they work for, summarizes Erhard:
“Fixing these problems is a very effective way to increase morale across your organization, especially among employees who belong to marginalized communities.”
▶ Investigate if employees are satisfied where they are
To get to the bottom of employee morale, Duncan advises the upper management to always question themselves and the practices they employ:
“Managers and team leads must ask themselves:
- Do employees feel appreciated, rewarded and do they align with the culture?
- Are you confident your employee’s well-being, health, and financial wellness are top-of-mind?
- Does your organization listen to their concerns and apply employees’ ideas?”
Only after you have thoroughly examined these and understood what you can do to ensure the best experience for your people, you’ll be able to motivate them to be the best versions they can ever be.
▶ Create an integrated and seamless experience
There’s no magic formula to creating a unique experience for your employees, but if you read between the lines, you can understand what to do and how to behave to ensure your employees are enjoying the time spent at work.
High morale can be contagious — when employees feel comfortable in the workplace, they are happy enough to inspire high morale in others, too.
💡Pumble Pro Tip
To improve overall employee experience, start with addressing some common issues and establishing reinforcing practices in your organization. Start by reading these:
▶ Encourage authenticity and personalization
According to Duncan, “leaders should inspire a strong supportive culture” to ensure that the “employee experience is more authentic, meaningful, and inclusive.” She explains:
“Engaging and listening to employees demands a level of personalization throughout the employee experience that builds trust, encourages open communication, and boosts productivity.
Adopt an integrated communications platform to highlight their total rewards package, aid in listening to employees, send and receive personal benefits communication and tailor the employee experience.”
▶ Avoid generic HR practices
Moreover, Dr. Murdock advises against “generic HR policies” to ensure uniqueness and personalization in the workplace:
- “Design your team’s experience to support their specific needs — after all, teams are made of actual people with distinct strengths and life circumstances.
- Start by asking your people what they need, work with them to try things out, and co-create a phenomenal working environment that makes it easy for them to feel great and do amazing work.
- Cultural differences? No problem — be humble, bring in help, or better yet, empower people to design their own working environments.”
▶ Provide opportunities for fun activities
The famous 17th-century saying goes: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Fast forward to the present day and the proverb rings truer than ever. There’s no way employees can maintain their morale and motivation if they don’t get a chance to relax and unwind from time to time. Mangrum argues:
“Providing opportunities for employees to have fun and bond leads to the development of a positive work environment where they get along and facilitate each other’s jobs.”
▶ Create a Culture Committee
Duncan recommends managers and team leads to form a culture committee that would ensure that each employee has a unique and fulfilling experience in their organization:
“Form a culture committee that is more than a cross-functional and multilevel team but representative of employees with different personalities, education, interests, hobbies, race, and sexual orientation.
The committee’s goal is to plan programs, actions, and events that support the company’s mission, purpose, and values and help employees discover common interests and values and views.”
▶ Use the right tools to measure and improve morale
Moreover, Sorey puts forward the idea that certain tools can help measure employee morale and improve it. He mentions SCALE, a specifically-designed human behavior framework, that his company uses:
“S – Status — Ensuring that employees have a sense of importance in their role, a sense of potential, and recognition of success. Also a respectful feedback loop on challenges.
C – Certainty — Providing certainty regarding company direction, role expectations, and individual professional development opportunities.
A – Autonomy — Give employees freedom of choice wherever possible. Break down top-down management silos and empower employees with decision-making, options, and flexibility.
L – Likeness — Create opportunities for individuals to feel part of a group or community. This could be project teams, or even less formal.
E – Equity — While there is a greater conversation to have about workplace equity, at its foundational level ensure that all employees are treated fairly, have a voice, and feel heard.”
💡Pumble Pro Tip
If you’re eager to examine how engaged your employees are, we have prepared an Employee Engagement Survey to help you do that. You can access and download it here:
Final thoughts: Be passionate about the way your employees feel at work
I hope this expert roundup finds its way to your bookmark list — it’s packed full of significant information and expert advice on improving employee morale in the workplace.
While I believe this might be a lot for you to take in, I encourage you to approach this issue with utmost enthusiasm. Open up your mind to new perspectives and always be aware of your ultimate goal — to create and maintain an engaged, motivated, and happy workforce.
Once you set your mind straight, “I have to do this” will probably turn into “I want to do this”, letting you embark on a long-term journey to committing passionately to your employees.
Enjoy the ride!