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Morale is the level of enthusiasm, confidence, loyalty, and satisfaction within an organization, and it has been widely recognized as having direct ties to productivity.

Because of the close relationship between productivity and company morale, companies are incentivized to keep employees happy and loyal. This responsibility typically falls on leaders and HR professionals, but the path to better team morale is sometimes vague. What initiatives make sense for your organization? What are the best use of time and resources?

Ultimately, loyalty works both ways. If you want your employees to be enthusiastic about coming to work each day, you have to give them a reason to feel that way. This article explores key efforts for improving morale that go deep to the heart of the issues employees have.

Individual Attention Reaches Far

Every person contributes to the collective morale of their company. We each have our own individual feelings regarding how satisfied and how enthusiastic we are, and we each factor into the overall morale of the organization to which we belong. 

Studies have shown that happiness and sadness are contagious, so working to improve the satisfaction and happiness of one employee can have far-reaching effects. Sometimes, just a few unhappy employees can ingrain an attitude of unhappiness throughout an organization. 

If an employee is unhappy, it's important not to blame them but rather to try to figure out the source of their frustration. There's something wrong in their environment and position that isn't working for them and it's worth investigating what the pain points are.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify who's unhappy – they might not be direct and vocal about their grievances with their manager. For this reason, it's important to give all employees individualized attention and private opportunities to express their resentments or concerns.

Ways to Implement:

  • Schedule private, weekly "checking in" time for every employee with their manager 
  • Foster a culture of empowerment where employees can speak up if they're unhappy about something (and be listened to, not judged, for their feedback)
  • Allow employees a course of action to resolve issues if they're unhappy with their manager
  • Run anonymous employee feedback surveys for employees that are reluctant to share feedback via direct communication

Define Your Values – and Stay True to Them

Some people are more likely to have trust and loyalty in a corporation or institution than others, and that's fine. Your company probably has a variety of people in it that are going to have more or less loyalty to your company simply by having a job with you.

The real achievement is to develop loyalty across the entire organization by having employees believe in the company's mission and feel like they're doing meaningful work that has a positive impact on the world. People are more satisfied when they feel a sense of purpose in their work.

Defining a set of values and a purpose for your company is not something that should be taken lightly. What makes your company's mission, culture, and services unique? Think about how your approach is different from that of your competitors.

Simplifying your brand into a motto (even if only for internal purposes) can be helpful to create clarity about your brand and company culture. For Google, it's "don't be evil." For Apple, it's "Think different." For TOMS shoes, it's "One for one."

If you already have your company values defined, examine to see if the values really being expressed on a daily basis: the projects that are chosen, the way meetings are conducted, the company's approach to community involvement, the budgetary allocation, and the events that are held for employees. People are sensitive to shallow attempts, so be authentic and full-hearted in your implementation to have the values be respected (and celebrated!) by your employees.

Ways to Implement:

  • Have a community giving initiative that reflects your company's core values. For example, if your values are all about being at the forefront of technology, you could establish a STEM scholarship to support the next generation of innovators.
  • Reiterate your mission/values frequently and meaningfully. Encourage leadership to truly adopt belief in it, so it will permeate through the company culture.

Benefits that Truly Benefit

This is the most straightforward of the ways to improve morale: be competitive with your benefits to have employees be satisfied, be exceptional with your benefits to have employees be delighted. 

If you can dream it up as a perk or benefit, there's a company out there that's done it – from ample parental leave to catered lunches; game rooms to company retreats. Compensation and bonuses are critically important as well, of course.

To show your employees some love, examine how you can make compensation, bonuses, benefits, and perks all fit together in a way that best provides for their needs. 

Ways to Implement:

  • Evaluate compensation regularly and make sure that you're where you want your company to be competitively. If you want to attract top talent and you have top talent on your team, are you compensating accordingly?
  • If you have a list of different ideas for perks that you're considering, have employees anonymously cast their votes to influence the decision making.
  • Make sure that you're promoting employees when it's been appropriately earned. 

Foster Team Togetherness

If all of the other pieces suggested on this page – that employees are individually feeling fulfilled in their work, that they believe in the vision of the company, and that they are well compensated – are in place, then morale should be strong for each individual employee. The final piece is to help employees share together in their enthusiasm.

To encourage employees to connect to one another and truly feel like a team working toward a collective goal, allow ample time for employees to get to know and respect each other. Don't make team activities and celebrations an afterthought – make the effort to have employees enjoy their time together and feel valued by the company.

Ways to Implement:

  • Do regular team building activities that aren't corny but are designed to promote authentic communication within and between departments.
  • Celebrate your team with fun parties, outings, and unstructured time together. Allow them to feel appreciated, and give a chance for employees to chat about something other than work and decompress outside of the office setting.

Reaching Further: Use an in-depth occupational and behavioral assessment tool during the hiring and selection process to make sure candidates will have passion for the roles for which you are considering them. If new hires love the work that they do, they will be energetic and enthusiastic about projects, which will have a positive impact on the team's morale as a whole.

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