Blog Managing People

10 ways to improve employee morale for better engagement

It's fair to say that everyone's been a touch stressed out. Even in normal times, workplaces can be high-pressure environments. An important managerial skill is the ability to keep your team in a positive mood. So if you've ever wondered what to do to start improving employee morale, then look no further.

  1. Offer encouragement and highlight employee success
  2. Invest in a culture of trust
  3. Start listening
  4. Prioritise staff wellbeing
  5. Invest in professional development
  6. Make time for casual interaction
  7. Limit office hours to discourage presenteeism
  8. Flexible working
  9. Provide effective management training
  10. Take the time to do something nice for your employees

1. Offer encouragement and highlight employee success

When it comes to improving employee morale, a little praise can go a long way. In fact, positive reinforcement from managers has been found to be more effective in the long run than financial incentives. Complimenting your employees on their performance makes them feel valued. While work is still work, it really does help to know your effort is appreciated.

But you don't have to be the only one highlighting the success of your employees. Giving them a space to recognise each other's accomplishments strengthens their ability to collaborate. Just as importantly, it can help make a supportive workplace culture self-sustaining.

2. Invest in a culture of trust

Low-trust workplaces struggle with engagement and productivity compared to higher trust workplaces. So it shouldn't be too surprising that a lack of trust can damage morale as well. If you can't trust your colleagues, you can't rely on them to get things done. That means you won't want to open up to them if you're struggling with something like personal wellbeing.

But a culture of trust has to go both ways. If you want your employees to trust each other and you, then you need to conduct yourself transparently. But that's not all.

You also need to show your employees that you trust them. Assigning them meaningful projects and letting them work without micromanagement isn't just essential for freeing up your own time. It also lets your team know that you actually have faith in their abilities.

3. Just listening immediately improves employee morale

If there's a guaranteed way of reining all the great work you've done improving employee morale, it's ignoring the needs and suggestions of your staff members. When you hear the word "feedback," you might imagine guiding employee performance, helping them to improve their skills. But proper workplace feedback should go both ways.

Our employee check-in system is the perfect thing for keeping an eye on how your staff members are doing. Each week or month, depending on your preference, employees submit an update that takes them just minutes to fill out.

Our check-in utilises a wide variety of customisable question types. On top of that, you get your choice of SMART Goals or OKRs for objective tracking. You'll also be able to respond to each of an employee's answers when you review their update. That may sound like a small thing, but it makes starting a dialogue around employee experiences and issues incredibly easy.

4. Prioritise staff wellbeing

We thought 2020 was the most stressful year ever. But then 2021 rolled around with record-breaking stress levels. So the issue of how to improve morale at work means taking drastic measures to support employee wellbeing.

If you're serious about improving employee morale, you need to do four things:

  • Open up the dialogue around mental health.
  • Support staff with physical illnesses and disabilities.
  • Encourage employees to take time off when they need it.
  • Be transparent about the state of the business and the security of employee roles.
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5. Improve employee morale with professional development

Very few people like the idea of being in a dead-end job. Employees generally like to feel as though they have room to advance and opportunities to improve or add to their skillset. So a key part of how to improve employee morale is supporting professional development however you can.

You can accomplish this through an emphasis on employee upskilling and education. Done right, this offers a transparent and accessible route to promotion. To really help this take off, you should also support it through the implementation of mentorship programs.

6. Make time for casual interaction

How enjoyable your job is can often depend on the people you work with. When you're in full-time employment, you often end up spending more time with your colleagues than your actual family. So a lack of connection with these people can really hurt your sense of social wellbeing.

Taking the time to reinforce your team's social connection can do a lot to make them happier, and improve employee morale, too. Even if it's just setting aside some time at the beginning of a meeting for a bit of a catch-up. Optional out-of-work activities can also provide a great opportunity to bond.

7. Limit office hours to discourage presenteeism

It's not unusual to pull a bit of overtime every now and then. But overdoing it puts employees at risk of burnout. Some workplace cultures, especially in high-pressure sectors, can be toxic in the sense that employees wear their job stress like a badge of honour. This makes it difficult for people to be honest about their wellbeing for fear of seeming weak or unreliable. 

CIPD stats show that, pre-pandemic, businesses lost an average of 30 days-worth of productivity per employee to the effects of presenteeism. Setting some kind of limitation is a way of protecting your more over-zealous staff from their own best intentions. That might take the form of a limit on office hours. Or you could try a cap on the amount of overtime individual employees can work.

8. Flexible working improves employee morale

There are few quicker ways for an employee to lose morale than through a poor work/life balance. Look at improving employee morale by considering the different issues your people deal with on a day-to-day basis. For many, the typical nine-to-five in a centralised office just don't work any more.

Out-of-work obligation like raising kids. Living with a disability or long-term illness. Or simply having life goals beyond your 9-5 office job. There are a lot of reasons why someone might need flexibility in their job. If you want to keep your people happy and motivated, it's in your best interests to provide them.

Job flexibility is becoming more popular, and more expected. And if 2020 has proven anything, it's that remote work in particular is very effective. When employees have adequate time for their own personal lives, they're much more likely to be content in their work.

9. Provide effective management training

The "sink or swim" mentality works fine for ducks, less so for people. Unfortunately, however, sometimes people get promoted into management roles without getting much formal instruction. This leaves them with the unenviable task of cobbling together their own approach to their new position. Usually, this ends up being based on how they were treated by their old line managers.

We're not saying that nobody ever takes to managing people like the proverbial duck to water. Just that it's a bit of a gamble to assume that's what will happen. Implementing a management training program for your business means that anyone you up-skill into the position will gain a working knowledge of their responsibilities. That includes important skills like impartial conduct and conflict de-escalation and resolution.

10. Take the time to do something nice for your employees

We thought we'd round off our advice on improving employee morale at work with our simplest point. Just doing something to make your employee's day can make a world of difference. Take them out for drinks, or give them a little non-financial bonus like a gift card or some chocolates. While not earth-shattering, it can be a nice little way to let your team know you appreciate them.