Posted on July 14, 2014

5 Tips for Keeping Morale High

The U.S. workforce took a major hit during the Great Recession of 2008-09, when the labor market lost 8.4 million jobs. Recovery is a work in progress, and many organizations find themselves doing more with less—whether it’s less revenue, a smaller budget, fewer people or a combination thereof.
Because of such cuts, many workplaces struggle with morale. Employees are worried and stressed, and even successful organizations find their staffs battling cynicism.

Here are five tips for keeping morale high even when resources are tight.

1. Emphasize the mission

A corporate mission and vision give employees a reason to come to work beyond the paycheck. Make goals clear, and be confident in your communication about strategy, tactics and what success will look and feel like.

This requires excellent management, which can be supported by the performance review process. Include mission and corporate values in your evaluation metrics. Are your managers and employees living by your core tenets? If not, what are the consequences?

When you place a premium on mission, you take the focus off what you don’t have and put the spotlight on what you do stand for.

And remember: your demeanor matters! According to Mind Tools, “50-70% of how employees perceive their organization's climate is attributed to the behaviors and actions of their leader.” Are you modeling the mission?

2. Celebrate accomplishments

Maybe raises or bonuses are out because of financial concerns. Even so, make room in the budget for simple, small things and personalized acts of acknowledgement, such as thank you cards, gift baskets, cookie parties—high-touch signs of your appreciation for your employees.

It’s amazing how far a $10 gift card can go! The point is less about the amount and more about the thought behind the gift itself.
In addition to awarding employees’ good work, make a habit of spotlighting birthdays and anniversaries so your employees know you care about them as people. Be creative. Mix up your tactics periodically so your recognition doesn’t come across as rote and formulaic—it must be meaningful!

3. Have some fun

Organize corporate parties, outings, games or other events during work hours—don’t obligate employees to cram more into their packed personal lives.

Empower an employee committee to stage competitions, such as a chili cook-off or a bake-off, and allow employees time to taste and vote on the entries.

Though these events do have a price tag, think of it this way: the turnover of even one employee can cost you $20,000 or more!
Another option is to give employees an extra day off, perhaps before or after a weekday holiday or as a non-financial bonus for hitting a team goal. Perhaps you introduce a summer hours policy, allowing employees to leave early on Fridays or to work four 10-hour shifts in a week.

If it seems like granting an extra day off will hurt your productivity, remember that unengaged, unhappy employees use more sick time and are more likely to be tardy.

4. Get your employees involved

Involving employees gives them a sense of power, which is more valuable than ever in an unpredictable job market.

Engage your employees internally by including them proactively in the performance review process. Allow them to set their own goals, helping them tie their goals to those of the organization overall. Make sure your review conversations—and any 1:1 meetings—are two-way streets, in which the employee’s voice can be heard.

Outside the office, encourage your employees to get involved in community service or philanthropic efforts by offering paid time off for volunteering with the cause of their choice. Suggest that departments take on volunteer projects as a group to build teamwork.

5. Keep your promises

Employees might not like it, but for the most part they understand the new realities of the business world. Of course they still want raises and would love to see new equipment purchases and investments. But what’s worse than not having those things is being told they will—and then being let down. The breach of trust is irreparable and will contribute to an already difficult situation.

Be open, be honest and be genuine.

Are you struggling to do more with less and keep employees engaged and productive? Download our two free whitepapers, Employee Engagement: Why You Can’t Afford to Get It Wrong and Doing Well with Less: 5 Ways to Address Workplace Inefficiencies.


Sources: Entrepreneur; Mind Tools; “The State of Working America,” Economic Policy Institute; Employers Resource Council