Avoiding workplace burnout and increasing employee wellbeing are shaping up to be major focus areas for HR leaders. A critical component in achieving both of these goals is employee morale – a concept that’s proven to have a powerful impact on various aspects of the employee experience, including retention, engagement, and productivity.
Below is an overview to help you understand what employee morale is, who influences employee morale, and how to boost it at your organization.
What is employee morale?
First, let’s define exactly what employee morale is:
Employee morale is a description of the satisfaction, outlook, and feelings of wellbeing an employee has at their jobs.
This is not to be confused with employee engagement, which goes hand-in-hand with employee morale but is not the same thing.
The easiest way to think about employee morale is as a component of employee engagement. For instance, consider all the factors that go into maintaining your physical health: you need to sleep well, eat healthily, and exercise consistently. You can’t achieve optimal physical health without having all these factors aligned. Similarly, there are many pieces you need to have in place to achieve high employee engagement - and one of those is high levels of employee morale.
Who impacts employee morale?
It can be easy to assume that employee morale is solely an “HR problem.” While People teams do influence how employees feel about their jobs, they’re not the only ones who have an effect. Below is a breakdown of other workplace groups to consider and the effect they have on employee morale.
Even though most employees don’t interact with the C-suite on a regular basis, they’re still heavily impacted by the decisions made by leadership. For instance, if your company is going through an acquisition, a communicative, empathetic, and supportive executive team will maintain – or even boost – employee morale during this transition. But a secretive C-suite that suddenly announces this decision with no context will lead to suspicious and unhappy employees.
This one is no surprise. This relationship can be one of the most significant bonds in the workplace because a manager is the one who is most familiar with an employee’s workload, strengths and weaknesses, and career goals. While we more support the idea that people leave companies, not managers, it’s difficult to dispute that this group has a considerable impact on employee morale.
The individuals that employees interact with on a daily basis are likely to color the way they view their jobs. When people work with colleagues they respect and can laugh with, they’re much more likely to enjoy their work. On the other hand, if employees have colleagues they clash with on a daily basis, going to the office will feel like a stressful endeavor.
How to improve employee morale
There are an endless number of things you can do – regardless of whether you’re an executive, manager, or peer – to boost employee morale at your company. To make the recommendations easier to digest, we boiled everything down into three pillars and shared actionable tips that map to each one.
Keep employees looped in. It’s important to keep employees looped in on everything from team updates to product changes, even if it seems minor. People don’t like to be surprised by changes that everyone else already seems to be aware of, and it can cause feelings of isolation and negativity.
Explain decisions. This one is especially relevant for managers and the C-suite. Don’t make decisions in silos then expect everyone to be on board. Provide context, communicate early and often, and take everyone’s responses into consideration.
Ask for feedback. Communication is a two-way street. Give employees the opportunity to share feedback with you on a regular basis – and act on it! Seeing this will make employees feel like valued members of the team.
Regularly provide positive feedback. On the flip side, providing positive feedback is equally important to keeping employee morale high. Consistency is key – don’t let several months go by without sharing words of appreciation with your team.
Reward good work. This goes a step beyond providing feedback. If your employee or team works extra hard on a project or produces exceptional results, make sure to reward the high-quality work with a lunch out or a small token of appreciation.
Create a culture of collaboration. Encourage everyone to be generous with praise and recognize each other’s good work. Feeling part of a team that’s collaborative and supportive of one another is much more conducive to high employee morale than in a cut-throat environment.
Trust your employees. Employees want to feel like they’re adults who are trusted to get their work done. Constantly checking in on their progress or questioning their vacation days is a surefire way to cause resentment. Instead, if your responsible employee needs to take a day off, approve it without hesitation and know that they’ll finish their project when they’re back.
Be supportive of goals. No matter if you’re a manager or a peer – make it clear that you’re there to support your employee’s goals. Whether it’s by providing learning opportunities or serving as an advocate, feeling supported by the company is healthy for employee morale.
Provide autonomy. If your employee consistently produces high-quality work, encourage them to take creative risks and spearhead challenging projects. This is a great way to empower them to really take ownership of their work.
While it’s tempting to focus on the big picture of employee engagement, don’t forget that employee morale is a piece of the puzzle. If you’re interested in learning how Culture Amp can help you track employee engagement at your company, be sure to request a personalized demo below.