Ways to boost employee morale include giving employees autonomy, recognition, appreciation, avoiding burnout, respecting work-life boundaries, etc., per Catamentum leadership coach Rachel Burr.
Happiness and fulfillment is what we all want, in life and at work. Work forms a big part of our individual identities – our sense of who we are and what we contribute to the world. Work is also an important source of social contact.
Being happy at work is good for business too.
This article will consider three simple strategies to boost employee morale to create a happier, more productive workforce and increase your organization’s bottom line.
Increase Employee Morale by Fostering Autonomy and Agency
People generally like to feel a sense of being in control of their lives and destinies, not a powerless bystander. A simple way to boost employee morale, then, is to provide opportunities for employees to exercise autonomy and agency in the workplace.
Autonomy and agency can take many forms. The American Psychological Association suggests several simple steps, such as
· Giving employees some control over their schedules and working hours;
· Allowing employees to manage how assigned tasks are accomplished; and,
· Giving employees a voice in decisions that affect them.
Another important way is to allow employees to use their natural strengths and talents at work. An easy way to find out what captures an employee’s passion and interest is by having a conversation. The next step is to support that passion and interest with career development and training, as needed.
Recognition, Appreciation, and Pitfalls Thereof
As the Harvard Business Review points out, recognition and appreciation are very different animals. Both can be beneficial. Each offers a different way to connect with employees to boost morale.
Employee recognition is essentially transactional. It rewards a job well done, a goal achieved, or a milestone met. The reward may be financial but not necessarily so.
Employee appreciation is the acknowledgement of a person’s inherent value, regardless of goals or milestones achieved. It can be formal or informal, public or private, according to the circumstances. It can be as simple as remembering a person’s birthday or giving a note of thanks.
Celebrating both outstanding performance and inherent value provides the organization with more ways to reach out and interact with employees – to show them you care. As Maya Angelou says, that’s what they’ll remember.
Paradoxically, some studies have shown that financial incentives can backfire as a reward for performance. For example, an analysis by the London School of Economics found that financial incentives can reduce an employee’s natural desire to complete tasks, and the pleasure they feel in doing so.
An article by the American Psychological Association also found that competition to achieve unrealistic performance goals can lead to cynicism and disengagement.
While we like to receive financial rewards, organizations should handle them with care.
Addressing Employee Morale by Dealing with Structural Issues Leading to Burnout
Organizations have been hit with a number of challenges over the past several years. We’ve been through the COVID lockdown, the “work-from-home” and “return-to-the-office” disruptions, and now a tight labor market.
These stressors and disruptions can lead to exhaustion and burnout among employees – which requires a look at deeper, structural issues, with people strategies. The Harvard Business Review emphasizes the effect on middle managers, but any employee can feel the burden of being stretched too thin.
When demand on employees outstrips their resources, here are some steps to take:
· Re-assessing the work assigned – ask whether each employee has the resources to keep up;
· Re-prioritizing the work – make a list of the top three priorities and consider removing outdated issues, or putting them on the back burner;
· Re-distributing the work – ensure that the burden is equally shared and that no individual is bearing more than their share. If budgets allow, consider bringing in outside help, whether temporarily or permanently.
Respecting work-life boundaries
Another issue is to look at working culture and working boundaries. If the work intrudes on employees’ personal lives, it can add to stress and contribute to burnout. Consider reinforcing the boundaries between working life and personal life.
For example, implement a “no email on the weekends” rule to make sure employees get some real downtime to recharge. Another possibility is to make vacation time mandatory. If vacation is required, employees may feel less inclined to skip taking time off because they’re “too busy.”
These are just some of the ways organizations can build employee morale for the good of both their employees and their bottom lines. The key is communication. If you would like more ideas to keep your employees motivated and engaged, please reach out.
Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.
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