High employee morale is vital to any business. Happy employees, as I always say, mean a happy business. According to George N. Root III of The Houston Chronicle’s small business blog: An organization experiencing high morale also benefits from fewer work hours lost to unscheduled days off, and higher productivity from employees satisfied with their company.” Additionally, “low morale can cause additional expenses, such as employee turnover and a drop in production.”
There are real effects on your business if your employee morale is low. Unhappy employees mean unhappy customers which means unhappy sales, loyalty, et cetera. Customers are more likely to come back and spread the word about your business or brand if they’ve received positive customer service experiences. Further, customers are even more likely to publicly criticize and pledge disloyalty to your brand or business if they’ve had a negative experience. Further, employees with low morale are more likely to quit, skip work, or perform at a level that requires termination. Employee turnover costs money as well as whatever resources have to go into readjusting schedules and allocating training to new employees.
There are many events that can decrease employee morale.
When there is a change in management or supervision, you’ll need to be prepared for a morale shift. Ideally, this will be a shift in a positive direction if you are making such a change in order to solve existing problems. Even if you feel that your choice to change up the management team or the way that it functions is definitely for the best of the company and is even for the best of your employees, employees have likely grown accustomed to the way things have been and the mere fact of a change can often cause a dip in morale. One solid strategy for counteracting this dip in morale is to be open with your employees when changes of any type are going to be happening.
“If a manager was perceived to be effective and appreciated by employees, then letting that manager go without explanation can have a negative effect on morale.” Root recommends explaining why a manager is being let go and I add to do so with as much transparency and humility as possible. It is the default for many general managers or owners to keep their employees in the dark in order to consolidate power; this can lead to condescension to, and alienation of, your employees. Both of those types of treatment have negative effects on morale. It creates a lack of trust and can even create hostility between you and your employees. Giving a believable and ideally truthful explanation to your employees will minimize gossip and resentment about the change and will help to maintain employee focus which will need to be at its peak during any type of transition and change. If they are distracted by a change that upsets or confuses them it will be more difficult for new managers to find their sense of control and respect at the head of your team.
This advice can be applied to almost any type of change taking place within your organization. Take the time to help your employees understand why changes are happening, what their goals are and so forth. This will give them a sense of investment in the organization which boosts morale and their willingness to work for the success of your business. This will also instill a sense that they can rely on you and trust you, because you are willing to keep them in the loop.
Employees are unlikely to continue to work hard without some sense that that work will be rewarded. This goes beyond your basic wages, because the majority of employees, especially in jobs that they have merely for bill-paying purposes, are only going to maintain a work-ethic that gets the minimal job done and earns them their paycheck. If you want employees to go above and beyond, not get burned out and to maintain an ideal work ethic, rewarding hard work, innovation and excellent performance is vital. Offering promotions, bonuses or awards shows employees that hard work and excellence are noticed and honored by your organization. In doing this, make sure you and your managers are aware of the resentments that unfair reward practices can instill. If a certain employee doesn’t ever seem to do enough to garner a raise, bonus, promotion, et cetera, you should have a system in place that makes it safe and comfortable for that employee to seek or receive feedback that can optimize their chances of having their work recognized. Open and honest communication, regular feedback, and supervisors who are readily available to their subordinates will minimize resentment and maximize excelling work performances.
Make sure your management and supervisors are competent at the very least. I’ve worked for, and had friends work for, managers and supervisors who were overseeing industries they had little-to-no actual experience in. For example, having a manager in a restaurant who only has experience in corporate fundraising isn’t ideal. Having a manager who has first-hand experience with the job you’re doing or the industry you’re working in is reassuring, it instill trust and respect because it makes the employee feel that their work is understood and appreciated. Further, a manager who makes decisions with the type of blindness that can come from not having actual first-hand experience only leads to frustration and resentment when your employees feel like they’re not being heard, supported or that they could do a better job than the manager. Whether this means hiring managers and supervisors who have experience specific to your business or ensuring that your management training is comprehensive and solid, do what you can to ensure that your employees will be able to rely on and trust your managers.
Nicole Long also writes in The Chronicle: “When you allow employees to be involved in the process, they often feel appreciated and valued. This can increase employee morale and create a positive work environment and company culture. Staying in touch also helps you get a handle on rumors and address concerns before they impact morale and the bottom line.”
Small efforts, such as allowing employees to wear their own clothing if that is conducive to your business model, instituting reliable feedback routes and honestly considering employee input, and even doing your best to give your employees a reliable schedule can go a long way in creating the sense that you view your employees as human as well as as assets to your business, all of which boost morale and serve to strongly benefit your company!