When an employee's feelings towards their workplace go sour it can negatively affect not just their productivity but it can also be toxic to the team, ultimately impacting the company's bottom line.
While boosting employee mindset and motivation is a fairly complex topic involving many factors and moving pieces, generally the best approach is to look at the factors that data has shown most closely align with employee satisfaction. Multiple studies show the following factors as the greatest contributors (or detriments) to an employee's overall satisfaction with their workplace.
1. The employee’s relationship with their direct manager. Surprisingly, the research tends to support that this may be the number one factor in terms of job satisfaction, often ranked higher than compensation and benefits. Thus, if you have employee morale concerns trending in your workplace, one of the first places to look is at your team of managers and supervisors. Employees tend to highly value a manager who is forthright, honest, respectful, and consistent. Additionally, it is critically important that your team of managers consists of clear and concise communicators who are comfortable with providing direct feedback, whether it is positive or constructive. If your management team is lacking in any of these areas, it may benefit your organization to enroll in some management skills training programs, or even consider making some changes in your management staff.
2. The employee’s salary. Of course compensation level highly influences an employee’s job satisfaction. You may need to evaluate some salary survey data (such as the Occupational Employment Statistics website, salary data from competitors, or via a private company that conducts salary research) to determine whether your organization’s compensation is aligned with the market rate for comparable positions.
3. The employee’s benefit plans. Another factor not surprisingly in this list includes employer-sponsored benefit plans. Benefit plans available to employees play a key role in satisfaction. This includes not only health and retirement plans, but also paid vacation, holidays, sick leave, bereavement leave, educational assistance, health club memberships, etc. A segment of benefits that many employers fail to consider here are those that help promote a healthy work/life balance for employees. Certain segments of the workforce value flexibility benefits more so than any other aspect of employer provided incentives. You may, therefore, wish to take into consideration whether a telecommuting benefit or flexible work week schedule may be beneficial to your employees.
4. The employee’s opportunity to use their skills and aptitudes. It is important that you place employees into roles in which they are able to utilize their skillsets. Employees who feel like they are able to apply and exhibit their strengths and talents tend to be much happier at work.
5. The employee’s sense of feeling valued. Rather than implementing formal, across-the-board recognition programs, we generally recommend focusing on employees feeling valued and recognized by the management team. There are so many ways to express to employees that they are valued. Some of our clients have reported excellent morale-improving results from providing employees hand-written thank you letters for exceptional work, and giving gift cards to local restaurants, movie theaters, etc. For more ideas on how to tell your employees you value them check out our blog on "10 Ways to Express Your Gratitude to Your Employees."
6. The employee’s opportunity for advancement. Employees who see a clear path for professional growth within the company certainly are happier and tend to produce a higher quantity and quality of work. You may want to analyze your organization’s career paths and perhaps institute some career planning/mentoring systems. This will also help the organization to prepare for succession planning as well as focusing on employees that may be suited for fast track career paths.
If your employees are generally discontented, negative and disengaged in their jobs, it follows that work performance and production will reflect these morose feelings. Employees with low morale tend to perform more poorly than their motivated colleagues; on average, disgruntled workers produce less output, miss work more frequently, and service customers with less enthusiasm and effort than do their contented counterparts.
So, if morale is suffering in your workplace, gather your management team to evaluate your organization and grade its results in each of the six aforementioned factors, especially as they relate to your top performing employees. Once you have calculated the results, consider making adjustments within your organization’s management style, pay structure, benefit offerings, job duties and career planning based on the outcome of your informal workplace morale audit.