Building Employee Morale, One Step at a Time

An atmosphere where people like to do their jobs and enjoy coming to work does not happen by chance. And, most of the time, this environment is not created simply by good pay and benefits, although these definitely help. Instead, good employee morale is often the result of a variety of factors, working together to produce a contented, motivated and productive workplace.

Promoting morale
A high level of morale is essential for a company to succeed, especially today, when we are competing not only with companies throughout North America and Europe, but also with very productive ones in India, China and around the world. As Admiral Ernest J. King, a celebrated World War II Navy leader, once said: "Machines are nothing without men. Men are nothing without morale. It (morale) is a state of mind where there is confidence, courage and a zeal among people united in a common effort to succeed."

Leading companies are constantly looking for ways to elevate employee morale and managers, supervisors, office personnel and others who can accomplish this are highly valued. Below are some suggestions for enhancing employee morale. Of course, your results may vary depending on many factors, including how effective your managers are. Also keep in mind that using several of these suggestions in tandem can help improve results and, to be truly effective, your efforts should be ongoing.

Communicate fully and don't hold back on information. Explain fully why things are being changed and how it will affect employees. Asking people to accept new equipment and/or change their work patterns blindly is often met with resistance. Fully explaining why new equipment is being installed or why there is a change in traditional work plans helps employees understand the motivations and goals behind the change.

Listen to employees. Listen to them early on, especially in the factory, where some workers often are unaware of different ways to do their jobs more productively. These employees frequently hold back from offering their suggestions because they believe they are simply "to do as told." Communication is not a one-way street. Sometimes top managers grow out of touch with how things really function in other departments or in the factory. Encourage employees to come forward with suggestions.

Act quick
Respond to suggestions and problems promptly. Along with listening to employees, it is important to respond to their suggestions and problems promptly. If an employee suggestion is not accepted, let the worker know why, but always express gratefulness for the suggestion. This will help encourage more suggestions in the future, some that may be very helpful to the company. The same is true of problems. Never overlook this sort of feedback. Doing so creates frustration and demoralizes workers - not to mention the detrimental effect ignoring a potentially serious problem can have on the company.

Offer praise and recognition. Several studies on what improves employee morale have been conducted over the years that have come to similar conclusions regarding the importance of praise and recognition in the workplace. Contrary to what many employers might think, money is not the most important motivator in raising employee morale. In fact, on a scale of one to 10, it usually ranks about five in most of these studies. What usually ranks first when it comes to raising employee morale is praise and recognition. People like to hear they have done a good job and are appreciated. The only qualifier here: be sincere.

Set an example. The mood, morale and direction of a company always starts at the top, with the leaders of the company. These attitudes become internalized by company workers, who then adopt similar behaviors and attitudes. It is crucial for managers, supervisors and the top executives in a company to acknowledge this leadership role and always conduct themselves in a positive and considerate manner.

The pay off
As with cultivating any good, long-term relationship, your efforts to improve employee morale must be ongoing. Once steps have been taken, you must implement ongoing measures to maintain it. One way to do this is to get employees more involved in the company. For example: turning top employees into part-time trainers.

When a worker is asked to become a trainer, that person becomes a role model to other employees. The selected worker feels more connected to the company and its operation, and this spills over to the employees being trained. This not only improves work quality and productivity, but also frees supervisors and managers to carry out other duties.

Another good motivator to get employees directly involved in company endeavors, you might, for instance, create small committees of employees to help develop department and company goals regarding safety, efficiency, productivity and improving employee relations. Stakeholders in an operation usually have much more enthusiasm for their company and their jobs, which helps maintain better employee morale.

Reward and award
One often overlooked morale booster is when the company is recognized for accomplishing a major goal in which employees played a significant role. If your distributorship is being recognized for an outstanding achieve in sales, make sure all departments are thanked for the role they played in the overall success of the company. When showing gratitude, employee enthusiasm for your products and pride in the company will reach all-time highs and make all of your employees responsible for a job well-done.

It's been said that nothing succeeds like success. But, success cannot happen unless a company takes the steps and makes the commitment to improve employee morale. Empower your employees. Make it known they are important to the company and that each member plays a role in the success and accomplishments of the company. Help them "own" their outcomes, be proud of their work and the company where they perform it and realize each person plays a vital role in how well a company performs and succeeds.

Doug Hauff is president of U.S. Products, manufacturers of professional carpet cleaning, floor care and restoration equipment.

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