Boost Employee Morale In 3 Easy Steps

The best leaders use these low-cost tactics to create happy, engaged employees.
people doing yoga
Employee wellness programs that include yoga or gym memberships are a great way to boost employee morale. (Photo: EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock)

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s more than likely that you currently have disengaged staff on your payroll. The good news is that some of the most effective ways to boost engagement happen to be the simplest and least expensive.

The American workforce is plagued with chronically low levels of engagement. In its most recent “State of the American Workplace” report, Gallup Research found that 70 percent of employees are either not engaged in their current job or they’re actively disengaged. The data reveals that Millennials are the least engaged at work, a problem of particular concern to small business owners since just last year, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the American workforce. Studies show that disengaged workers can wreak havoc on your company’s bottom line.

To put some pep in their employees’ step, many companies resort to material perks – wellness programs or fitness classes, beverages and snacks, a ping pong table and even bonuses – in the hopes of making staff happier. While these efforts certainly aren’t futile, they can be costly, and research suggests that such initiatives do not actually address more effective drivers of long­-term well­-being. Instead, leaders should do these three things to boost morale:

Give purpose to the work

Everyone wants to feel that his or her work has a higher purpose, but oftentimes, that purpose gets lost in the day­-to-­day grind and workers develop a “ho­-hum” attitude. But studies show that people who have a sense of purpose are more focused, creative, and resilient. Leaders should help employees see the bigger picture by reminding them why their work matters and how it’s ultimately improving their customer’s quality of life.

According to Harvard Business Review, when leaders act selflessly, proving consistently that they care more about the greater good of the group than themselves, workers are more trusting, cooperative, dedicated, loyal, collegial and committed. Fostering this sense of purpose at the individual level starts from the top with the leadership team. In this TED Talk, Simon Sinek makes a powerful appeal to leaders to inspire action:

Foster a kind culture

Leaders are often taught to lead with their head and not their heart, that kindness equates to weakness and that it is better to be feared than to be loved. And yet research on leaders suggests that those who exhibit kindness, compassion and empathy are the most effective bosses. A growing body of research suggests that warmth, not fear, helps leaders influence. It facilitates trust, communication and creative thinking. Small gestures – a nod, a smile or asking staff how they’re doing and truly listening to their response – go a long way in showing your staff that you care about them as a human being, not just someone on your payroll.

In the book “It Worked For Me,” Colin Powell talks about how the best drill sergeants have a reputation for kindness and respect, which is how they instill strength and confidence in their soldiers. Then, when tough decisions are delivered, the news goes down easier with those on the ground.

Prioritize kindness and show your team that you’re there for them, that you truly care and that you can be trusted by them.

Prioritize self-­care

Employee wellness programs can look like many things, including flu shots, yoga classes, on­-site fitness center, discounted gym memberships and so on. But these programs can be rendered entirely ineffective if you’re not creating a culture where it is acceptable to prioritize self-­care. We know that healthy, fit employees handle stress better, are more productive and are more engaged, but many workers simply don’t have the time to take advantage of such programs. According to Sabine Sonnentag from the University of Konstanz in Germany, exercise, breaks from work, relaxation practices, and boundaries between work and home can reduce job stress and increase employee engagement. It’s crucial that leaders practice what they preach: By showing staff that you prioritize your own wellness this will inspire them to take time for self-­care.

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