Human resources work can be intensely rewarding, but as anyone who’s been in HR for more than a day knows, it also involves some challenges. Morale is one of the ongoing concerns HR directors face; let morale dip too low or stay marginal for too long, and you risk losing some of your top talent. Your workforce’s morale affects everything from productivity to employee retention rates. Negativity in a workforce can destroy morale, productivity, relationships, and even the fundamental chain of command and respect of hierarchy.
Here are some ways to infuse your workplace with more positive energy and manage morale for the benefit of your personnel and your organization.
Prevention is Key
The best way to keep morale high is to prevent lingering negativity from taking root and becoming part of the status quo. Taking a reactive approach to dispelling low morale is rarely as effective as taking preventive measures against it in the first place. Look at when morale has historically been highest and see what common factors these times had. Most companies feel excitement during a new product launch or a windfall profit, but look at how the organization’s morale was shortly after these events and how it sustained the enthusiasm. Could you start a sales contest or organize a group charity run to bring everyone together and recapture that feeling of unity that lifted everyone’s mood and encouraged productivity after your company’s last big success?
Avoid Too-Tight Restrictions
Unless you work at a day-care, you’re dealing with grown-ups most of your day. Morale is highest when the adults who work for you feel respected with greater personal freedom in the workplace. Overly restrictive policies can restore order to an organization in chaos, but they also smother high morale in one that’s otherwise thriving. Rules that take away privileges for the entire team because of one person’s errors or punish personnel for behaviors that have nothing to do with how well they do their work are surefire ways to send morale into a steep dive. Instead, look for ways to loosen some restrictions in ways that make sense for your company. Maybe it’s time to bring back casual Fridays or revisit flextime possibilities.
Another way to starve the negativity beast: Provide a viable forum for employee feedback and opinions. Listening to employees’ concerns can work wonders on morale, especially if you follow through and produce visible change based on the insight you gain. Ideally, you should provide multiple avenues of communication for your personnel. If they know they can come to your office to discuss issues face to face, write an email in their own time, or drop an anonymous letter in your suggestion box, you’ll be better able to take the pulse of your organization’s morale.
Just about everyone enjoys a little applause sometimes. Recognizing effort should be a top priority if you want to build high morale. When employees know their work is valued, they over-achieve for you. A financial bonus is always a welcome way to say thank you, but it isn’t the only way to celebrate great work from your staff. Public recognition with an employee-of-the-month award, a thank-you lunch at a favorite restaurant, or a personal letter of thanks from a supervisor are all excellent ways to acknowledge individual effort. There are many things that can be done in-house for little to no expense if this is a concern. The important thing is that employees feel valued for their efforts.
The better your team feels, the higher the standards they set for their own performance. High morale keeps them motivated to reach for more and leaves little room for negativity.