With the rise of tech and social media companies such as Facebook, Google and even WeWork in the early 2000s, the workplace seemed poised to change. To become a home away from home. Somewhere for creatives to thrive and for work and play to balance out under the same roof. We saw pictures of Google’s offices, heard talk of slides at work, massage chairs, games rooms and many more exciting features that made these new enterprises seem more like student unions with desks than traditional corporate offices. And yet, although these companies very much still exist, this bold vision of work has not completely taken hold. At least, most of us are not sliding into work or taking yoga breaks mid-morning. Why not? Mostly, it turns out, because such gimmicks are not the best way to boost employee morale.
The summary of a recent survey by Indeed-Forrester sites a key takeaway being that employees tend to be wrong about what makes them happy at work. Whilst benefits were thought to be motivating, what ranked most highly as being most important was being energised and a feeling of belonging.
As mentioned in our recent article on Attracting Gen Z To Your Workplace , real benefits for the younger generation are more basic. They want learning and development programmes, wellbeing support, pensions, holiday and sick pay. Not away days, memberships, freebies and other perks. In fact, according to a survey by the Workforce Institute, only 11% of those surveyed by the Workforce Institute saw such things as a priority.
Ways to boost employee morale cannot be separated from job satisfaction. However, although there are some overlaps, there are also some differences. Even when you have created a generally happy and harmonious workplace, there will be times when morale is low, for one reason or another, and you might look at ways of boosting this that go beyond the core foundation of a positive work environment.
Here are some ways we’ve found to establish, nurture and boost employee morale as a business leader:
Corporate Social Responsibility has been incorporated into businesses for some time now. However, company values have become more than policies and statements in recent years. With the rise of B Corps and purpose-led businesses, both employees and customers have become more interested in what businesses stand for. This has penetrated beyond the wider reputation of a company and nestled itself into many employees as a core motivation at work.
Devising, supporting and embedding values into all areas of a company is no easy task. To truly be successful, your values must be clear, visible and instilled from top to bottom. However, doing so can be a wonderful way to bring the vision together, work towards shared pursuits and boost employee morale.
For employees, working for a company that shares the same values as them makes it more than work. It becomes an extension of their beliefs and thus themselves. Therefore, work is not only an accumulation of repeated tasks but a place in which there is a sense of purpose.
Of course, values must be properly communicated and supported if they are to assist in attracting, retaining and bringing employees towards your vision. Here are a few ways you can ensure your values boost employee morale:
- Don’t be afraid to lead with your values, keeping them front and centre and included in all key communications so that your employees can see how important they are to you
- Ensure you support your values with your actions. For example, if you value sustainability you must take all possible steps to be environmentally friendly in the way you operate your business
- Be dedicated to your values in working with only others whose values align with yours
- Talk about the company values often and incorporate them into business decisions and practices
- Company values should be highlighted in job descriptions, interviews and employee handbooks and training to ensure you’re hiring those who will care about and benefit from working alongside these values
Wellbeing And Mental Health Support
Wellbeing and mental health support are particularly important. Employees are looking for employers who understand the pressures of work can inflict stress and exacerbate anxiety. Although generations Y and Z are very keen to work hard, they want to do so within organisations that will help and support them in ensuring they don’t reach overwhelm.
You can support employee wellbeing with:
- Putting policies in place for ways to manage wellbeing in the workplace
- Ensuring employees know who to speak to about stress, anxiety, etc
- Encourage exercise and healthy eating - giving proper time for lunch breaks and having healthy snacks available
- Encourage socialising, collaboration and teamwork to increase energy and social interaction
- Ensure regular breaks are being taken and that desk-based employees are having time away from their screens
- Lead by example - having a leadership team who balances their mental wellbeing with their work signals to employees that they will be supported in doing so also
Making your business a place where people feel supported is essential. Talking about wellbeing lets employees know their health is important to you. There are many wellbeing practices you can incorporate to build the right culture, such as lunchtime walking groups, meditation App subscriptions and on-site healthy food. However, it’s even more important that your employees know what to do if they do need support. For example, do your workers know who to talk to if they’re struggling with mental health or with anxiety or stress? Do they know what kind of support they might receive? Are they confident they will not be held back in their career progression if they do ask for help? It’s wise to never assume your employees know what to do, just because it was in the handbook they received on their first day. Reminders can go a long way.
Positivity And Encouragement
More than anything, most employees on a career path want to know they are going to be able to progress with you. They’ll want to understand the progression path, the milestones they’ll need to meet along the way and what will happen when they do. The old 'carrot and stick' approach to employee retention is very unpopular these days. Not only do employees feel undervalued but it can also take a toll on their wellbeing (see above). Having your progression stalled without knowing why can lead to feelings of self-doubt which isn’t going to boost employee morale and can make it hard for staff to focus.
We work best when we feel good about ourselves. So positive reinforcement and encouragement can go a long way. However, it should be working towards something, if that’s what the employee desires. Such things should be discussed in employee reviews. Rather than them simply being a list of ‘things X does well’ and ‘things x can improve on.’ Appraisals can be an opportunity to put together a progression plan (or not to progress, if the employee is happy where they are) with a proper timeline and fair and realistic goals.
Often, if an employee seems to lack motivation, it’s because they don’t feel they are getting where they want to be or they need help working out their next steps.
Where generation Y were likely to move companies every few years to progress, generation Z favour more stability. They are not looking to work for multiple employers in their careers. Rather they wish to work their way up within one company over a number of years. This relates to the path for progression and how this can infuse a positive work environment. Now that retention is far more possible, employers will be rewarded with loyalty so long as they are providing a fair wage, real benefits and a properly mapped out career path.
To achieve a stable environment there must be no culture of fear. For example, a feeling that jobs may be under threat if targets are not met is neither useful nor will be tolerated. The old ‘if you can’t do it we’ll find someone else’ is less effective when you have a generation of employees who crave stability but will go elsewhere if they do not feel valued. Or worse still, if instability is used to nurture an authoritarian environment.
Good relationships in the workplace are the building blocks of a stable environment. Nurturing a family feeling amongst employees and also between employers, management and leaders is essential to creating a workplace where everyone feels they have a role to play and that they are valued.
Work And Social Events
One way to bring people in the workplace together is by creating situations whereby they can enjoy themselves together and build relationships. When done right, events can be a great way to boost employee morale. There is a sense of reward and recognition. Plus, it allows everyone the opportunity to get to know one another outside of their roles. Events might include:
- Away days and team building
- Celebratory lunches
- Wellbeing days
- Fun activities such as escape rooms or immersive experiences
Inclusivity is especially important when planning events because if members of
the team are unable to attend or fully participate then it can have the undesired effect of bringing morale down. Perhaps not only for the person or persons unable to join in but also for others who may see this as unfair or exclusionary. Furthermore, with more employees working remotely, events are becoming an essential way to bring teams and even the wider company together. This keeps everyone feeling they are part of the same team, working towards the same goals and vision.
Events can also be work-related. This can work particularly well for companies who have a wider purpose as it can be an opportunity to build support for company values. For instance, if you’re a food-based business, then food fairs would not only be fun for employees but will hopefully refuel that passion for the business you’re all involved in, which is a great way to boost employee morale.
Corporate Employee Gifts
As highlighted throughout, gestures without the foundation of substance will reap only short-term rewards or even breed resentment. However, corporate gifts and rewards can be an effective way to boost employee morale when it’s seen as genuine and supportive. For example, giving a gift to an expectant parent in the workplace, a corporate gift as a reward for hitting a milestone at work or a corporate birthday gift can go down very well.
Lots of businesses give out flowers as standard. However, this can come across as unoriginal and a box-ticking exercise. Something more unique will make the receiver feel more valued. And talking of values, the gift should align with yours. If you’re an eco-friendly company then eco-friendly corporate gifts are a wise idea. In addition, if you are looking to support wellbeing at work the corporate wellbeing gifts are a good way of rewarding staff with something that will encourage some self-care and a well-earned treat. Furthermore, they’ll be even better at boosting employee morale.