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We’ve already talked about employee motivation, engagement, and productivity in past blogs, but for this post, we want to talk about a principle that has a massive influence on everything mentioned above—employee morale. To get started, let’s look at an organization very similar to a business: the military.
Morale in the Military
In the military, morale is not only seen as a vital piece of the equation; it is the key to solving the entire thing. Napoleon Bonaparte (perhaps not a great person, but he was a brilliant tactician) had this to say: “An army’s effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than any of the other factors combined.”
Think of the Battle of Agincourt, where only 6,000 poor, unarmored English bowmen defeated an army of 25,000 heavily armored French warriors. Or the Battle of Little Round Top where a group of Union soldiers, out of ammo and energy, still charged a superior group of Confederate soldiers, winning the battle and winning the Civil War. Or consider the Battle of Okehazma, where 3,000 samurai snuck up on a group of 30,000 enemies, causing them to flee in disarray.
We’re criminally simplifying these stories, but the moral of each is the same: when an army feels confident in their abilities, their skills, their teammates, their leaders, and their mission, and they believe that they can succeed and win—in other words, when they have high morale—they can find success in the face of overwhelming odds.
Morale in the Workplace
Doesn’t every leader want employees who have those same qualities? When the morale at your company is high, employees believe in themselves, their coworkers, their leaders, and the company. They are engaged and dedicated to their work, optimistic about their direction, and they focus on quality.
Sounds great, right? But what exactly is morale, and how can you improve it at your company?
What Is Employee Morale?
Morale is the overall outlook of individuals and teams in a company, including emotions, attitudes, and satisfaction levels. Let’s let the professionals at Merriam-Webster explain it even more. According to them, morale has a few different definitions:
- “The mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand.”
- “A sense of common purpose with respect to a group.”
- “The level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future.”
Do your employees feel happy, confident, and enthusiastic at work? Do they feel like an important part of a functioning, effective team? Or do they feel burned out, frustrated, grouchy, or unsatisfied? These emotional undercurrents of your company are what make up company morale.
Why Is Employee Morale Crucial for a Company?
As Bonaparte stated, morale is vital to any army, and what is an army but a group of people with a common goal? A company is the exact same type of organization (though hopefully your goal isn’t to conquer a neighboring office), and so morale should be just as important to you as to any general.
Employee morale can have a huge influence (positive and negative!) on many different aspects of your company and workforce, and we’ve listed some of the biggest below.
1. Work Performance and Productivity
Employees who don’t feel satisfied, excited, or purposeful at work won’t put as much effort into their daily work. And the worst part is, this loss of productivity and lowered performance will spread—low morale usually doesn’t affect only one employee, so expect a chain reaction of underperformance as everyone feels the effects.
On the flip side, a positive work culture and high morale creates companies that are more effective and productive.
2. Employee Motivation
Motivation and morale are closely related. When employees feel appreciated, valued, and supported in their work, they’ll feel motivated to put their best effort in. However, when employees feel underappreciated or unimportant, they won’t be motivated. And when this becomes a company-wide issue, workplace motivation in general will sink.
3. Communication and Collaboration
Low morale means that people don’t trust or care about others’ success as much. When morale isn’t high for a team, they don’t believe their work is important, and they don’t put much effort into it. That means less collaboration, less brainstorming, and worse results.
Remember, one of the definitions of morale was “a sense of common purpose with respect to a group.” Without that sense of common purpose, teamwork, trust, and enthusiasm, teams won’t be as effective nor as communicative. They just won’t care.
According to different studies, the biggest reason employees have been quitting their jobs recently is a toxic work environment. In fact, that is 10X more important than pay when it comes to turnover. Another study shows that 57% of employees quit because they felt disrespected or uncared for at work.
Employees feel cared for when they’re recognized, appreciated, and supported in both their work and personal lives. And when that type of employee-centric culture exists, morale will be much higher, and employee turnover rates will drop. After all, who would want to leave a company that cares for and supports them?
What Affects Morale?
Working conditions are one of the biggest influencers on employee morale. Employees have to feel good about their work environment, feel confident in their goals and objectives, and feel respected and appreciated by their leaders in order to maintain a high morale. Put simply, the biggest factors that affect morale are:
- The work. If the work is the same monotonous, unfulfilling, and uninspiring tasks each day, employee morale will be lower. Work should be purposeful and engaging, and employees should have the chance to grow and improve.
- The organization. This is all-encompassing of your company: the values, mission, and culture of your business can have a massive impact on employee morale.
- The people. Coworkers can affect employee morale, but this is mainly about leadership. Do managers and leaders appreciate and respect employees? If not, morale is going to be lower.
When employees feel satisfied with their work, comfortable with their culture, and cared for by their leaders, morale will be high. When those aspects are lacking, morale will sink, which can be terrible for your business. (Just take a look below!)
4 Tools & Strategies to Increase Morale at Work
Morale has a huge effect on all businesses; luckily for all of us, there are ways to boost employee morale that anyone and everyone can try. We’re going to break them down into strategies that cost money and strategies that are completely free so that you can boost employee morale no matter what your budget is!
1. Free—More Open Communication
Do managers often talk with their employees? Are 1-on-1s regularly scheduled for everyone? Do company leaders communicate business goals, updates, and news in a timely and open way? This type of top-down communication is an easy change that can instantly improve company morale.
Another benefit is that when you talk with employees, you can ask them questions such as:
- How do you feel about your work?
- Are you facing any challenges or roadblocks that we can help with?
- How do you feel about your coworkers and leaders?
Once you have honest answers to these questions, you’ll have greater direction to increase morale even more! But keep in mind that communication shouldn’t always be serious—encourage sharing wholesome jokes, gifs, pictures, and memes, and let employees share their interests and hobbies.
2. Paid—Good Tools and Equipment
You should strive to make work as comfortable and easy as you can for your employees. That means ergonomic office equipment, cutting-edge software and tools, and even things like healthy snacks, natural light, and walk breaks.
Updating your workplace to be more employee-friendly will not only boost their mood and happiness at work, it will help them be more productive and healthy as well. Morale will automatically shoot up as employees realize that you care about their happiness enough to invest in their comfort and convenience.
3. Paid & Free—Frequent, Effective Recognition
You have to recognize employees for their achievements and their efforts in order for them to feel valued and cared for. There’s no getting around this fact. And the better and more personalized the recognition is, the better employee morale is going to be.
Recognition comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of the ways you can recognize that cost money include:
- Service awards for each employees work anniversary
- Birthday and holiday celebrations and personalized gifts
- Points, gift cards, food, or cash for hitting goals or accomplishing awesome things
- Reward compensation given just because employees are amazing (learn more about Awardco Pay to see how you can implement reward compensation in your workplace.)
But you don’t have to spend a dime for other recognition options. You can simply have managers provide handwritten notes to their employees, thanking them for their work; you can feature employees in a company newsletter; you can give them an extra day of PTO or the best parking spot; or you can take them to lunch.
4. Free—More Purposeful and Rewarding Work
Two of the definitions of morale mentioned a feeling of purpose, and purpose is just as important for employees as for anyone else. One thing you can do is to ensure that each employee feels that their work is contributing to something greater, something they believe or feel invested in.
Whether that means creating a company mission statement and then tying each employee’s responsibilities into that mission or it means being more open with business results so that employees can see the fruits of their labor, you can easily help employees have a greater purpose at work.
There are all sorts of other strategies you can try, such as providing professional development opportunities or offering more flexible work arrangements. The best thing you can do is ask your employees what they want, and then implement those changes.
Outfit Your Army
Successful military groups have a strong sense of belonging and purpose, and each soldier is engaged in what they’re doing. You have the chance to create an organization that is just as effective as the greatest army in accomplishing its goals. When you invest in your employees, morale will go up for everyone. And when morale is high, effectiveness and productivity increase as well.
That’s what we call a win-win-win.