Your employees are increasingly apathetic about their work. They're taking more breaks, procrastinating on key tasks, and complaining about even the smallest of requests. If this sounds like your team, you might have a morale problem in your office.
"Low morale ... spoils everything, from the way customer service handles calls to the way project managers prioritize things," said Ben Pouladian, president of Deco Lighting and a member of YPO (Young Presidents' Organization). "When morale is low, mistakes get made, blaming and accusations begin and feelings get hurt. If we can't find joy in the workday, then why bother?"
To prevent situations like these, it's important for leaders to focus on keeping their teams motivated and confident.
Mark Aistrope, CEO of audio visual and event tech company Meeting Tomorrow and a member of YPO, reminded employers that happy employees means happy customers: Your team's positive attitude will influence the way they treat the customers, vendors and business partners they interact with. High morale can help recruiting efforts, too, he said.
"With the advent of Glassdoor, candidates have a window into your company," Aistrope told Business News Daily. "A long list of unhappy employee reviews could deter good people from applying. [Candidates want] to work with motivated, happy people on a winning team." [See Related Story: Want to Boost Employee Productivity? Offer an Incentive]
Tried-and-true ways to improve morale
Improving morale is challenging because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, said Rahul Taparia, founder of MyWorkNinja.
"It's far more impactful to cater to each employee's needs," he said. "While a fun team-building class may boost some of the team members' morale, it will not have much of an impact on others."
Based on real companies' initiatives and experiences, here are a few unique and effective ways to boost morale among your team members.
Celebrate milestones in special ways
It's important that your employees believe in and buy into your company's mission. Greg Matusky, founder and president of national PR agency Gregory FCA, used the company's 25th anniversary as a morale-boosting opportunity by celebrating each month of the anniversary year in a special way.
"I made it a priority ... each month to make a statement that we reached this benchmark," Matusky said. "One month, we had an ice sculpture made early in the morning, so when employees arrived at the office, it was the first thing they saw. In another instance, we bought a 25-year-old bottle of scotch and had everyone make a toast at the end of a long day of work. I wanted our employees to understand that we have stayed remarkably contemporary, embraced new technologies and made ourselves even more relevant to clients."
Matusky noted that the special celebrations gave his employees the ability to believe in the company, and be proud of the people they work with and the clients they serve.
Similarly, Pouladian said that Deco Lighting marks milestones like employee anniversaries, holidays and goal achievements with fun parties and team activities.
"Once a month, when we meet our numbers, we bring in a gourmet food truck and have a small block party in the parking lot," he said. "Activities [like this] allow us to take some time out from work to relax, bond and then return to the daily grind, feeling rejuvenated. Morale starts with the bonds between co-workers, and building those bonds is our top priority."
Choose assignments and clients carefully
Even if you, as an employer, treat your workers with respect and encouragement, there are still external factors than can impact morale. For instance, Andrew Barrocas, CEO of real estate brokerage MNS, said that some of his team members can feel down when they’re working with frustrating clients.
"Working with many clients often leads to many [conflicting] personalities," Barrocas said. "We need to adjust to [that] and ensure [the clients] are always happy, which sometimes leads to low morale amongst our employees."
For this reason, Barrocas doesn't make his employees work with every single one of the company's clients. When employees are given assignments (or clients) that fit their personalities and skill sets, it makes it easier for them to feel enthusiastic about their work.
"It's about working with the right people and enjoying it," he said.
Invest in their personal growth
As someone who works with business coaches, Taparia knows firsthand the value a great mentor can have for an employee. While it's common for C-suite executives to have access to coaching, offering it to all employees can show them that you're committed to their career development.
"Leadership coaches take the time to provide personalized action plans for each individual to help them define their goals, identify what steps they need to take to achieve their goals, and empower them with the resources and support needed to stay on course to finish what they started," said Taparia, whose company aggregates top business coaches from around the world. "[It's] an effective way to establish a deeper relationship with your staff based on trust and respect."
Help employees give back
Because corporate social responsibility is a high priority for many of today's companies and workers, enabling your employees to do meaningful volunteer work is a great way to raise morale.
Terri Bur, chief human resources officer at CBIZ, said that to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the company plans to initiate staffwide volunteer efforts to tie into CBIZ's core value: "We do the right thing."
"In preparing for this 20th-anniversary celebration, we looked for ways to further expand on that core value," Bur said. "In addition to the independent efforts of our local offices, we will celebrate our anniversary by collectively volunteering 20,000 hours in our local communities over the next couple of months. Our associates are excited to work in teams, thereby building camaraderie, and are proud to be a part of a company that wants to make a difference."
Ease employees' stress
Your team works hard every day, so it's nice to show them that you appreciate their efforts by helping to ease some of their stress. You can do this easily and inexpensively with simple things like team huddles. Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Shore, said this is an effective way to make people feel comfortable and enjoy their office environment.
"Don't just gather everyone in a conference room like a typical meeting – huddle your team up in a circle and motivate them" Ishbia said. "Deliver an inspirational message to pump up your people and get them excited to finish the day successfully. It's a great energy boost and can really boost morale and productivity."
United Shore also hosts weekly "dance parties" in the office as a way to break up the day and give the team a chance to have some fun.
"It's inspiring when company leadership can tell their team, 'What you're doing is really important, but take a break and have some fun,'" Ishbia added.
Similarly, Aistrope said that Meeting Tomorrow makes it a priority to show the company's appreciation for employees during very busy times.
"We have an annual tradition in the peak of our busy season to turn two conference rooms into chair massage stations for a day," Aistrope said. "At 10 minutes a massage, it's easy to step away when busy. On hectic days, we've also done a Starbucks run for the entire office."
But Aistrope noted that a latte isn't going to cure deeper morale problems: "If there are big issues at play — financial, staffing, leadership — it's important we're transparent about it instead of brushing it under the rug."
Ultimately, he said, improving morale begins with making employees feel listened to and respected.
"Each employee is different, but we all have similar needs in the workplace," Aistrope said. "We all want to be heard, feel valued and be treated fairly and with respect. When that foundation is there, then we can get into the fun stuff."