How to Measure and Boost Employee Morale at Work

Group of coworkers with high morale sitting around a table laughing and smiling eating pizza at work.

Employee morale is essential for ensuring high growth and low turnover.

According to a Gallup survey, only 36% of employees consider themselves “engaged” at work. This lack of engagement is costly. In the United States alone, disengagement costs up to $550 billion per year, according to the Achievers Workforce Institute‘s 2021 Engagement and Retention Report.

How would you rate employee morale within your company today? Is the employee motivation high and the team willing to go above and beyond for their company? Conversely, is your company willing to go above and beyond for its employees? Or is morale low with employees losing motivation to do anything productive?

The good news is that it’s not impossible to boost employee morale. You need to develop the right strategies and stick to that plan, recognizing that boosting morale is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s something that should become part of your company’s DNA so morale doesn’t dip to the lows that might’ve caused you to read this post.

Let’s get into exactly what those strategies are and how to implement them to get your team back on track.

What is employee morale?

Employee morale is employees’ overall attitude and feeling towards their work, co-workers, and company.

It’s a measurement–either quantifiable or qualitative–of how happy they are with their job. High morale may benefit your business in the form of better engagement, productivity, teamwork, communication, profits, and low turnover. On the flip side, low morale will harm your business in the form of low retention rates, high turnover, and an overall fractured business.

Employees who feel positively about their work are less likely to suffer from stress-related health problems and are generally happier with work-life overall. Employees are so eager to find meaning and have positive experiences at work that 9 in 10 employees said they’d take less money to do something more meaningful with their work.

That meaning and positive experience affects the employees’ overall morale at work.

When morale is low, “more bad things happen, more things slip through the cracks because people don’t care,” says Meghan Leonard, a Culture Development Leader for Compass, Insight Global’s culture consulting branch. “There’s more gossip, there’s more toxicity. People are more combative and tensions are running high because people are stressed.”

No one wants to spend 40 hours per week working somewhere where they don’t enjoy what they do and aren’t appreciated for their work. The low morale then causes them to become disengaged in the work that they’re doing, which can lead to mistakes being made due to lack of effort.

How to measure employee morale

In order to have a plan of how to improve morale, it is imperative to measure where the morale of your workers is. If you can’t see the problem from a tangible level (high callout or turnover rates, high levels of tension among team members, etc.), then you’ll have to dig deeper.

Eli Doster, Insight Global’s Chief Talent Officer, suggests to look at productivity, turnover, and get a grasp from employees via engagement surveys as the primary ways to measure morale.

“It’s triangulating all of these things” to get the full picture of where your company is at from a morale standpoint, he said. No singular way of measuring morale will tell you the whole picture.

In the following sections, we will explore the different methods of gauging the level of morale within your workforce.

Send a company-wide survey

One of the best ways to gauge morale is by conducting a survey or gathering employee feedback. Ask them about their work environment, your management style, and company culture to determine if they are happy. More importantly, ask them if they feel the company is living up to its purpose and mission.

At Insight Global, “part of one of those surveys is asking, ‘how are we doing with Everyone Matters (one of our Shared Values) and living out our purpose?'” Doster said. A low score on that crucial question would indicate issues, but a high score means that most of the company feels part of who you are as a company.

Employees might tell you what is causing low morale at the company right away. You can also ask for suggestions on improving employee morale in the workplace.

However, it may be wise to use an anonymous third party service or tool for this kind of questioning in some cases. If you try to run this kind of survey at a company where morale is low, you may encounter a workforce that isn’t willing to be as honest as possible.

Take note of employees’ actions & behaviors

Take note of your employees’ actions and behaviors to get an idea of how your employees are feeling. If anything has changed recently at your company (new policies, different managers, etc.), pay attention to how your employees react and if they’re doing anything differently.

Leonard says looking at an employee’s social cues and body language can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling on a day-to-day basis.

You should ask yourself, “Who’s engaged?” and “Who’s looking at their phone all day?” Leonard said. “Who is laughing with friends? Who has a pep in their step, and who is like slugging around the office and staring down?”

While poor or sluggish body language isn’t always an indicator of low morale at work (perhaps they had a rough night/week or something is going on in their personal life), as a leader, you should be able to identify these changes in behavior.

You can also look for patterns among disengaged employees or those who seem to be struggling with their workload. Pay attention to what type of language and tone your employees use when they talk about work-related topics and if that changes over time, too. Is their affect positive and excited about a task? Or do they seem annoyed and are procrastinating finishing a relatively minor task?

Address the body language and social cues, and ask the employees what’s going on. Make sure you do it with care and “100% empathy,” Leonard says. Your employees should feel connected enough to you that they will share what’s making them feel a certain way. That leads to…

Conduct employee interviews

Conducting employee interviews is another good way to know if employees are happy or not. You can ask your employees if they enjoy their work, what keeps them motivated, and how you could improve company morale.

Your employees deserve a workplace where they can enjoy coming to work every day. Once you know what makes them unhappy at work, find out how the problem started, and try your best to fix it right away.

Analyze performance metrics

Analyzing performance metrics is one of the tangible ways to measure work morale.

Pay attention to how employees are performing (meeting goals, accomplishing tasks, attendance at work, etc.), what they’re working on, and if there’s anything that needs your immediate attention. If productivity drops or there are more blunders, it’s possible morale is down and employees have become uninterested. It, of course, could mean other things are going on in the employee’s life, which is why it’s important to also talk to employees.

What does Your Turnover look like?

Maybe the most important of these measurement is looking at what your turnover (or retention) looks like. Turnover is how many employees left your company over a certain period divided by the average number of employees you had in that time.

For example, if you have an average 100 employees over a six-month period, and 30 left during that time, your turnover rate is 30%. That’s not ideal. Turnover rates differ by job and industry, so understanding how your turnover relates to the industry average is important. Generally, though, if turnover is over 25%, that might be a red flag that morale isn’t great.

Remember, though, you should be taking all of the aforementioned factors into account when measuring morale.

An employee has his hands clasped over his neck, head down in front of his laptop. He has low morale at work and his stressed with all on his plate.

Causes of low employee morale

To fix the problems of low morale in your organization, you need to know what causes low morale in the first place. If you’re unaware of the causes, fixing the problem will be a challenge.

Doster said that some causes of low morale are when employees don’t:

  • Feel connected to the bigger purpose of the company
  • Feel connected to the business results or that the work they do positively impacts people or other groups
  • Understand where they stand in the career arc
  • Have an opportunity to grow in their role
  • Get the training or development they need to grow

All of this stems from poor leadership and culture. Poor management often occurs due to lack of communication or issues with delegation. Managers need to have the ability to communicate well – both verbally and non-verbally — and convey messages in a clear, concise manner.

Let’s dig into some of these causes a little more.

No clear direction of what’s expected

If an employee feels that there’s no clear vision and direction where the company is trying to go, it can cause a drop in morale.

Employees need to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. If they don’t, there may be greater levels of frustration among team members, leading them to look for other opportunities outside your organization.

Employees want to feel that their work has a purpose (remember that stat that most employees would take less money to have purpose in their work?). You need to make sure that this purpose is clearly defined within your business. It’s up to leadership to supply the purpose and continually make employees feel connected.

Employees also need clear instructions on what you expect from them, so there are no misunderstandings regarding tasks and responsibilities. Those who feel they’re not given enough freedom or authority might feel bored or underutilized, which can cause frustration among staff.

Lack of career growth opportunities

Career progression is a vital part of keeping morale high for many employees. When the growth opportunities are limited, it can lead to a drop in employee morale and employee engagement. Some organizations might not offer as many promotions as they used to, and team members who feel stagnant will likely start looking for other opportunities.

When employees feel that their hard work will not result in a promotion or growth, they will feel less motivated to work harder.

Low Pay/Lack of Raises

Along with career growth should come a growth in salary. Employees who are paid less than their contemporaries at other companies often become discouraged about working for you. It’s also difficult to maintain high morale when financial pressure reach across personal and professional lives.

Toxic work environment

A toxic work environment is one of the leading causes of poor morale at the workplace. It’s important to take care of your employees and ensure they’re not exposed to negative vibes or bad energy in their working space since this can cause them a lot of harm.

Workplace bullying, harassment, intimidation, gossiping, and other types of toxicity should be avoided. Managers need to take quick, strict action whenever they notice and hear of any of these occur at the workplace.

Lack of resources

If employees do not have enough resources for their work or feel that the management doesn’t care about them, they may not be motivated to work hard for the company. This can cause complacency and, thus, lower morale.

Employees need to be given adequate tools and equipment to carry out their responsibilities effectively. They also need the proper benefits to make sure their mental and physical wellness, as well as a healthy work-life balance, are prioritized. Without proper resources, it becomes difficult for employees to perform well, which can cause frustration and other issues.

Insufficient recognition/feedback

“Praise and affirmation is so basic, but a lot of people don’t do it,” Leonard said. “I’ve heard leaders all the time say they don’t do it enough,” which often means leaders don’t do it at all.

If employees don’t know that their work is valued and recognized, it can lead to a drop in morale. The feedback goes both ways. If something needs improving and no one in management addresses the issue, it can cause low performance, which will also lower the mood of your workforce.

Benefits of high morale in the workplace

As we’ve touched on, the benefits of high morale are both abstract and tangible. Team morale boosters in many ways can lead to higher productivity, less last-minute call outs of work, and lower turnover rates.

Overall team morale also directly impacts the customer experience in your business. Customers can sense when they are dealing with an unhappy employee or team member. This could lead them to believe that you run a discouraging workplace environment, turning them away from wanting to do business with you.

Let’s break down a few benefits that high employee morale brings to a workplace.

Increased productivity and work performance

Happy employees are more productive and efficient at work. They do not waste time on trivial things that they find upsetting while taking pride in their work. Good morale can also affect absenteeism in the workplace.

If employees are unhappy, they will not want to come to work and be around other upset colleagues. That then has an affect on other employees who do show up, as they may feel they have to take on the burden of employees who call out.

A happy workforce means less stress in the office environment as employees are more comfortable with each other and their jobs. They also find it easier to work together due to having similar goals of making your business a success. This problem won’t arise with employees with high morale who strive for more productivity, thus boosting their performance.

Better teamwork

Good teamwork is a positive side effect of healthy morale at the workplace. Having employees who work well together allows them to collaborate, share ideas and motivate each other in common goals achievement. But in order to have solid teamwork, you usually first need to have a workforce that wants to be there and is individually motivated.

Furthermore, when people support one another at work, it can make them feel like they matter and that their work means something. People want to know that what they do at work is essential, valuable, and makes a difference in the organization.

Less turnover

An employee with high morale will also have less desire to look for another job elsewhere. This leads to lower turnover rates, which saves you money on things like backfilling roles, onboarding new staff, and training them to be as knowledgeable as staff who left.

Increased employee engagement

High morale workers are also known to be more engaged with their jobs. They work harder and put in more effort, which will ultimately lead to better final products or results than if you had low-morale employees working on the same tasks.

The engagement of high morale workers will also benefit employees outside of the workplace. Those with high morale at work often develop a better work-life balance, which helps reduce the risk of burnout.

Motivated employees

Having high morale employees can also motivate your other workers to work harder and engage with their jobs. Employees with high morale lead by example, whether intentionally or not. You may see a positive domino effect in the workplace where everyone is pushing one another, ultimately leading to better results for your company.

Ultimately, a workforce that has higher morale leads to happier and fulfilled customers as they produce better products and services of value.

How to boost your team’s morale

As we’ve discussed, good employee morale keeps employees engaged in the work they do and happy with where they spend their time working. When you keep the workplace morale high, you’ll see outstanding results from everyone who works within your organization. It should be one of your main priorities when creating a positive workplace culture for all team members.

Leonard says there are three main pillars on ensuring good morale at your company:

  • Trust and connection between leaders and employees
  • Clear vision from the company and impact employees will have
  • Praise and affirmation

This next section will break these down into different ways you can boost morale among employees.

Be transparent

Companies that are not transparent with their employees can expect to see a decrease in the morale at their workplace.

When there are significant or even minor changes on the horizon, be transparent with your team. Let them know what is happen, why it’s happening, and how it might affect their day-to-day work. When decisions are made, communicate the process behind the decision.

Transparency is important so employees know what’s going on and don’t feel left out in the dark about anything that could impact their job performance or future at work. By being transparent, you’re sending out a positive message to your employees and shows they can trust your judgment.

Establish a consistent meeting schedule

By establishing a consistent and regular meeting schedule, you are giving your employees a clear and consistent idea of when they can talk about issues. You can also share personal and company updates in this meeting, too. The more they know about upcoming events and changes, the better they’ll be able to deal adjust to them ahead of time.

Some managers will choose to meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Your business can also set company-wide meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis to inform everyone at once of positives and changes. Try not to make your regular meetings any more infrequent than that. This will help create stability within your company. Everyone will know where they stand and where the company stands. The trust and openness will help with team morale.

Give regular feedback and recognition

Regular feedback and employee recognition are perhaps some of the most important things you can do for your employees. Employees are human beings with feelings who want to know how they’re doing on their current projects.

Leonard offers a few tips of how to give feedback with intention: “Describe what happened and the positive impact the person made, and also describe what it did for the customers (or whomever their action impacted).”

In addition to letting them know how much you appreciate their work ethic at present, provide honest constructive criticism, too. This will help employees understand what it takes to succeed in future endeavors. Your leadership should be there to serve your employees and assist them in progressing in their professional careers. Regular feedback and recognition is part of that process.

Woman on a meeting on her computer smiling at the screen

Promote a healthy work-life balance

It doesn’t matter how much you let your employees know they are appreciated or how often. If their work-life balance is unhealthy, their morale about working may be affected.

Offer flexible hours if possible and allow them time off to take care of themselves when necessary. Respect their PTO and don’t contact them on days off. This will go a long way towards boosting morale at the office. Much of respecting work-life balance comes back to the leader, though.

“If you have trust and connection with your leader, you feel you can have work-life balance,” Leonard said.

Leaders need to set the example, too. When leaders don’t take their time off, and they get online at 6 a.m. and work until 8 p.m. every day, that makes it hard for employees to feel they can do those things.”

Create a comfortable work environment

Culture is vital to morale. You can boost morale at work by creating a comfortable environment for your employees.

Doster shared a story of Insight Global’s poor culture in the past, saying that people “didn’t feel like they mattered.”

“New people would come to work, and their laptop wouldn’t be ready. Their desk wouldn’t be set up. Sometimes it’d have the name of the person who used to work there.”

All of this resulted in “horrendous” turnover, and leadership knew change was desperately needed.

Almost everyone knows what it feels like to exist in a job where you don’t feel appreciated, don’t feel like what you do matters, and don’t feel respected. If you’ve ever been there before, then you’d understand that people won’t want to stick around for long under such conditions.

On top of this, everyone has a unique personality and their own set of needs. Respect that by ensuring your company fosters an environment where everyone can have some space to breathe, are fully accepted for who they are, and can exist without being micromanaged.

Ask employees for their feedback

If you want to boost morale at work, it is essential to ask employees for their feedback. The feedback loop goes both ways. Employees are the ones who are in the trenches every day. If they find themselves dissatisfied or confused about anything, ask them what can be improved.

“Constantly get feedback through not only surveys but people as well,” Doster says, highlighting that surveys and direct conversations will help give you a better overall picture of what your company is doing well and what you can improve on.

Take action on items your employees suggest, especially if those suggestions come en masse. Your employees will appreciate knowing that management listens to them and cares about them.

Offer growth opportunities

Nothing can kill morale at work more than stagnation. For some people, growth opportunities are vital to becoming a better worker, which is essential for getting excited about their daily tasks.

“People need to feel like they’re going somewhere,” Leonard said. “It doesn’t always have to be a promotion, but they should still feel they’re learning and growing in a positive way and with support.”

“They need to feel like there’s a purpose.”

Having ample growth opportunities will make your employees feel interested in your organization in the present and as a continued career option. Pair them with mentors. Ask where they want to grow to, and provide ways to help them reach their goals.

Provide employee incentives

Incentives are major office morale boosters! Make sure to reward productive employees. Offering them a bonus or some sort of incentive can make them feel like they’re valued and that their work is appreciated. All employees work for money, so naturally, it is also a driving factor for them to be more productive. When employees financial situations are comfortable, their morale about working will follow suit.

Conclusion

Never underestimate the power of positive employee morale at work. An employee who is excited to get out of bed and step into their workday will be productive, enthusiastic, and stay at the company for the long haul. This happiness is infectious and can quickly spread around an office.

To boost morale at work, analyze why morale is low in the first place. Try to measure both the tangible and emotional reasons why employees have become less motivated to work. Once you figure that out, listen to your employees and make the necessary changes.

“If I have a career path and a leader and a company that focused on my development to continue to grow me, that is far and away when you’re going to have the highest morale,” Doster said. “Then you know you matter. Then you know, ‘I can be here long term, my leader cares about me, my company cares about me, and the work I do, it matters.’”

If you need help adding top talent to your team, head over to the Insight Global hiring page, and we’ll help you get started today.

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