Employee morale is the relationship that a particular employee or a group of employees have with their work and the organisation they work for. High employee morale means that employees are happy and this is reflective in the kind of work they produce. On the other hand, low employee morale results in less productivity and pessimism among employees. It is important for every organisation to continually keep employee morale high.
Most of the managers I know are focused on keeping their people committed and loyal because they know that engaged, empowered employees perform to their highest abilities and produce exceptional results. But every so often, I come across managers who seem hell bent on doing just the opposite. They say and do things that completely destroy their employees’ self-confidence, drag down team morale and create a negative
In these hectic, overworked, understaffed times, it’s easier than ever for managers (who are usually even more overworked than their subordinates) to come across something like the Quintus Arrius line to Roman slaves from Ben-Hur, “ . . . we keep you alive to serve this ship, so row well and live!” It demonstrates how easy it is to come across as a leader who believes that everybody is lucky to have a job, so you better suck it up, keep your nose to the grindstone and do not complain.
Sadly, this view, while maybe effective during a struggling economy, is killing your company’s productivity today and will lead to significant retention, recruiting and training costs down the road. The moment that your employees begin to feel that you don’t appreciate them and that they’re only on board to row, you have amplified the root cause of low employee morale and it’s going to cost
you big time.
Compared to the employees who are motivated, disengaged workers are less efficient, miss more workdays and cost their employers thousands of dollars in lost productivity. Keeping employee morale high is one of the best things you can do to instil loyalty and maintain a productive workplace.
Morale provides unity and taps the inner strengths of individuals. Most important, it prevents them from faltering when the stress increases due to harsh market conditions. Then there is another reality: Some cavalier owners and managers never seem to worry about morale. No obstacles seem to bother them. “Here’s what I want you to do. I don’t care how you do it but do it!” is a familiar command.
Most often, however, they experience incredible disorder in the follow-on moves. They are the good managers for a day, performing well, until the moment when some negative outcome overwhelms them. This is especially so with the many daily incidents that go unseen, especially when you are drawn to the more visible competitive conditions that grab your attention.
Morale connects with the power of unity
Don’t let individuals fend for themselves. In absolute terms, that means they must know that support exists within their group — and from you. Also, they must see and feel your physical presence to absorb the psychological comfort and confidence that would sustain their morale and motivate them to keep trying, especially under adverse conditions.
As for the power of unity, it is not the “Rambo” effect of individual actions that makes high-performing employees; it is the collective efforts of individuals within teams interacting among themselves that cultivate unity. It is for you to encourage
Once again, this is the fundamental purpose of teams. In the end, it is up to you to know your people best and understand the reasons behind highly-charged displays of behaviour such as anguish and fear — or at the other extreme, courage and dogged determination.
Therefore, you cannot be a stranger to your employees; it is your personal influence and nearness that affect morale. If they feel themselves no longer supported, it creates an uncertain situation for you.
Unity requires that you sustain confidence in your ability to lead. If, on the other hand, you are habitually gripped by fear, then you should give second thoughts about leading your group.
Unity is also nurtured by a cohesive company culture, which is reinforced by an ethical climate built on core values. A healthy culture fortifies your leadership role and helps guide your organisation or business unit.
Morale aligns with innovation
Innovation is the new differentiator. Therefore, use all your efforts to keep jobs stimulating. Should something significant result from the employees’ creativity, immediately express appreciation publicly for jobs well done. Your approach is to be even-handed, open-minded and fair-minded.
Further, in all initiatives associated with innovation, support your people, communicate a vision of growth, provide them with the resources to do their jobs and motivate them to learn and grow. As important, stand by them if something goes awry, or else you shut them down - along
How would you establish criteria for evaluating innovation?
You need to let the staff know how they will be measured. The frequently used measures for innovation include the following: (1) Overall revenue growth attributed to innovations, (2) Percentage of total sales from new customers/products or services, (3) Level of customer satisfaction, (4) Improvements in market share, (5) Comparisons of innovations measured against chief competitors by product category and market segment, (6) Actual number of new products or services launched, (7) Ratio of new product successes, (8) Other criteria required by your company.
Morale links with trust
Trust supports morale. So, too, are your supportive words of encouragement, as well as the image you project of reliability, integrity and competence. Make certain that such expressions are group-serving and not self-serving. Festering below trust, however, is the potentially explosive behaviour of individuals, which is due to the impulsive nature of people. They nervously shrink back and find danger where they don’t see any possibility of success.
When embroiled in a difficult situation, try to maintain momentum and keep the probability of success on your side. At times a problem may seem insurmountable. Nonetheless, you must act against this probability even when the likelihood of success is against you.
Often, the determining factor for climbing out of a tough predicament and regaining the initiative is to lean heavily on the quality of your personnel. This is possible, however, where (1) you address key issues affecting their morale, (2) take initiatives to provide for their growth and (3) create a feeling of unity within the group.
These three areas have as their underpinnings — spirited leadership, a clearly understood vision or objective and competent business strategies. These attributes make individuals carry on in spite of any inclination to concede defeat.
Developing and maintaining good morale starts with hiring the right people in the first place. Thereafter, your employees’ morale affects how motivated they will be to work for you, suggests how much they will do while on shift and influences how long they will stay with your organisation. As a manager, much of the mood within the organisation is in your hands. Make sure you do your part to keep morale levels high.
Most importantly, be an effective leader. Be honest, fair and accessible, interact with staff frequently and display a positive demeanour whenever possible. Show your employees that yours is a workplace to be proud of, where great things can happen and that their efforts are a major factor in its success.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at email@example.com)