How to Improve Employee Morale and Engagement

 In Employee engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Employees, Leadership, Leadership Development

If you are trying to improve your employees’ morale or engagement by throwing money at the issue, you could be making a costly mistake. What really motivates employees? It is the #1 question I hear from managers. Frederick Herzberg answered that question with his research. He found six top drivers for personal motivation. Above all, notice money is not on the list.

  • Recognition
  • The work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Growth
  • Achievement

In addition, research today adds that many employees want affiliation and comradery or teamwork as well.

A Survey About Employee Morale

A total quality survey found five job satisfiers that increases performance: interesting and challenging work, appreciation for work done, feeling of being “in” on things, job security and good pay. Renwick and Lawler’s research found money was number 12 in a list of 18 items that contributed to work effectiveness. Furthermore, their research showed that employees want to feel good about themselves, accomplish something worthwhile, do their best, and learn new skills.

In above studies, which were conducted among managers and employees, the managers often thought more money was the best to increase employee morale. This misperception points out a problem in management practices today: It is not that employees are not willing to excel or go the extra mile; it is that too many managers do not understand motivation. This is a major reason employee morale and engagement scores are so low today, it is not just because of layoffs, fewer raises, or cuts in benefits. (See my post, 10 Success Secrets of Great Managers)

Daniel Pink in his book, Drive, asserts what good leaders always knew, employees are always motivated and most want to do well.

Improve Employee Morale: Give them Goal to Achieve

Performance unfocused and unrewarded becomes progress attempted. To prevent this from happening, managers need to start by setting clear goals and expectations. Regularly collaborate with employees in a positive team meeting. Likewise, do the same in one on ones to review both their job duties, goals, and results.

Furthermore, Lock and Latham, authors of the book Goal Setting: The Motivational Technique that Works, showed that in more than 110 studies, goal setting motivated employees to increase their performance. Why? Because goals create challenges for people and give them opportunities to win. Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of managers lead their employees in effective goal setting process.  Most importantly, see what is possible in tapping employee morale in this situation.

A medium-sized client obtained a big contract from a customer and needed higher performance from its employees to fulfill the order on time. The management team agreed to sit down with the employees, explain the situation, and ask for input. The employees designed this solution: “For every 5 percent we are able to increase production, we would like an extra day off with pay.” Consequently, management agreed to the plan; production shot up 25 percent and the company met the deadline.

Make Employees Feel Like Winners

How to Improve Employee Morale and EngagementAlmost all employees say that they want more recognition. In their book the Carrot Principle, authors Gostick and Elton demonstrate that employees appreciate and perform better with consistent recognition. Unfortunately, only the top performers in a company receive formal recognition-awards, trophies, incentives-leaving the rest feeling like losers.

For instance, here are a few informal recognition techniques for leaders that cement positive employee morale with management engagement.

  • Greet people daily.
  • Know employees’ names.
  • Talk non-business just to interact personally.
  • Say thank-you.
  • Praise progress.
  • Praise people publicly.
  • Buy an employee lunch or dinner for achieving notable progress.
  • Write employees thank-you notes or at least send thank-you emails.
  • Provide opportunities for on-going learning.
  • Encourage employees to recognize the exceptional work of other employees.

However, these approaches are not new, but they are often absent in so many workplaces. Similarly, good managers genuinely apply methods like these to instill a winning team environment.

How to Improve Employee Morale and EngagementBetter Leadership Increases Employee Morale and Engagement

Most employees want to know more about their company and want to be treated as partners in the business–this is not uncommon today. Meanwhile, worldwide, only 15% of employees are engaged according to Gallup. Companies often dismiss common sense ways to involve employees. For example, a new client was facing a production quality crisis, and company management had tried but could not fix the problem. I asked the management team if the employees had been consulted about the problem. Management replied somewhat perplexedly, “Why bother?”

Often it is basic things that can make a difference. One of our client partners recently held feedback meetings with its employees to identify problems and solutions within the business. One of the major items on the employees’ list for improvement was, “we need better communication.” They defined communication to mean “Let us know about vacation schedules. Plus, teach us more about the products we carry. Moreover, talk to us more about our customer satisfactions scores and complaints.”

To relate more effectively with your team work on your communication, coaching and meeting skills. Listen to your employees and use their feedback. Keep them informed about the organization, good or bad news. Admit when you are wrong. Sincerely empathize with your employees’ needs and problems, and they will reciprocate. As a result, they will also be more productive team members. They will trust you and want to do better. Further, these are all part of the emotional intelligence skills that Daniel Goleman teaches. As a result, employee morale will rise.

Pulling It All Together

In conclusion, this quote by the late Steven Covey summarizes a key to employee morale and engagement, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” In sum, if leaders do this and use the ideas above, employees will become self-motivated to achieve key company goals–guaranteed!

How to Improve Employee Morale and EngagementAlso, do you want more ideas on how to inspire employee morale and engagement? Check this out this eBook-How to Motivate-NO-Inspire People.

In addition, go here for our RealTime Learning & Training leadership and personal development website. Over 130 micro-learning and career advancement resources at your fingertips!

Finally, do you want to accelerate employee morale and become a servant leader? Go here for Rick’s Superstar Leadership eBook.


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