When it comes to boosting employee morale and fostering leadership, you’d be hard-pressed to find an environment as demanding, and potentially damaging, as the military battlefield.
For centuries, commanders and leaders have been asking men and women to charge into battles resulting in the loss of life or limbs.
When you think about how to boost employee morale and motivation from this extreme vantage point, it may seem strange that so many workplaces struggle to build this up. It’s not as if they were asking your desk-bound compatriots to take that hill in the parking lot, or to sabotage a competitor’s photocopier, right?
But this question is becoming a sort of scourge for the modern-day office warrior.
So, how does one not only boost employee morale, but sustain it throughout a project or in times of seemingly endless stress?
Read on to learn 9 effective strategies that military leaders and the like have consistently employed over the years. It’s time to bolster and boost troop morale and build effective employee empower programs for those hard times.
What Is Morale And Motivation? Going Beyond The Paycheck
In brief, morale is the overall mood and belief of an individual, or a group of individuals. Often, morale determines how successful you’ll be at achieving some sort of outcome. It can also be a proactive way to assess whether a group, team, or workplace is willing to continue their struggle in meeting a deadline.
The bottom line when it comes to morale is that without ‘it’, an organization is likely to fail.
But what can a manager do to reverse a toxic work culture? How does a new team lead know how morale is doing? What are the circumstances causing the current high or low in employee engagement?
As a leader, when confronted with an employee turnover crisis or worse, start with a strategic-level assessment of one’s current organizational climate. That is, before putting into place programs to stem unhappiness in the short-term.
In keeping with the military theme, here are 7 ways of how to boost employee morale and motivation.
7 Proven Tactics And Procedures To Boost Employee Morale
1. Identify why employee morale is sinking
Many leaders may struggle with pin-pointing why they have high turnover or such poor work performance. Some may even be left pondering, ‘What more could my employees want?’
The simple answer is that the modern work mindset is to work for inner achievement and progression. Not working for the sake of working. That’s why managers should look at what their coworkers want. Do they want a promotion? Further education? Are they tired of seeing external hires?
Low morale can be hard to detect. Here are some warning signs to look for:
- Rates of absenteeism
- A change in cooperation and commitment
- Bad performance
- Apathetic employees
- Implement these ‘tactical’ examples
- Hire the right people
If you believe this is happening at your workplace, it’s time to move onto the next point to learn how to re-inspire them.
2. Learn how to make the workplace fun and fulfilling
Everyone wants a work environment that promotes growth and success. But is your office feeling like people are unmotivated or stuck?
Anything an employee does 40, 50, or even 60-hours a week is going to be work. That said, happy employees are more productive. Poll the workplace and perhaps start a ‘Bring Your Family to Work’ day where each (corporate) soldier gets to brag a little bit in front of those he or she goes to work for every day.
Or maybe the fun starts in the office itself. At Advesa, we enjoy a ping pong table for some fierce competition, a sofa and lounge area for taking a break and a large kitchen space for coffee, snacks and a change of scenery. Ensuring everyone takes regular breaks away from their desks helps keep the team motivated and on track.
If employees are feeling unfulfilled, Salesforce is another company that gives employees more than 1 week of paid volunteer time to fulfill some cause bigger than their job. It’s become one of the reasons talent is attracted to working for the company.
3. Communicate your mission
It’s little wonder that both military and private enterprises value clear mission statements. To keep morale up, it helps when people know why they are showing up somewhere or taking on an additional burden.
They are far more likely to recommit to the overall vision. That said, managers should survey their workplaces to ensure that every one of their team members understands what it is they are looking to achieve.
Take marketing gurus, HubSpot, as one example. They decided to communicate their core values to employees in a slidedeck that’s now been shared with the world. It clearly outlines the expectations and values the company abides by, creating a sense of camaraderie and purpose.
For inspiration, read the slidedeck here.
4. Avoid burnout
It’s important for managers and leaders, even at the company-level, to admit to their own challenges and encourage employees to do the same. Once employees feel safe enough to admit to potential burnout or fatigue, then the faster the organization can begin to resolve the problem before morale and motivation start sinking.
It might come as no surprise that Forever 21 recently filed for bankruptcy – their staff worked until fatigued, working through lunch breaks and way past their shifts ended. Forever 21 was even sued by a former employee in a $2m lawsuit after she was allegedly filmed in an employee bathroom.
If you recognize this as an issue, why not talk to the management team about implementing flexible hours, work from home days or vacation days, all in the name of improving employee morale!
You can read our 10 tips for creating an excellent company culture here for further insight.
5. Implement these ‘tactical’ examples
Sometimes firing through a number of different tactics toward increasing employee happiness is the only way to get everyone on board. A tailored approach can sometimes work. Some employee programs and schemes include:
- Allowing employees to work on special or passion projects
- Simply saying ‘thank you’ to show appreciation
- Providing after-work networking opportunities
- On-shift training courses
- Birthday parties
- Tuition reimbursement programs
These tactics will not only improve employee well-being, but most likely boost overall productivity when there’s a feeling of positivity in the workplace.
6. Hire the right people
Sometimes employee turnover can be attributed to hiring the wrong people to begin with. Writing more accurate job descriptions means a stronger candidate pool with less employee turnover, brain drain, or skill loss. Once the immediacy of a crisis is overcome, it is important to avoid repeating the same mistake in a future battle, er, board room! If looking to hire externally or to promote from outside the department, leaders should take care to involve both formal and informal leaders in the process. That ensures that the selection criteria and decisions are made obvious to all.
Shoe retailer, Zappos, has become renowned for its hiring strategy to ensure they have the right team members. Beginning with a ‘cultural fit interview’, this is said to carry 50 percent of the decision as to whether someone gets hired or not. Once hired, new employees are offered $2000 to quit after the 1st week of training if they feel the job isn’t suitable.
On top of that, as part of their onboarding process, they hold a 3-day culture camp to introduce team members to all parts of the business.
7. Cut out the fat
Sometimes, and sadly, the only way to rid an organization of poor performance, low productivity and a general sense of cynicism, is to cut out the root cause. It’s never pleasant having to terminate someone. While firing someone should be a last resort, sometimes the loss of one can improve the lot of many, or the rest of the department.
Building a company requires more than economics – it relies on a team that is functioning as one. Sometimes that means letting go of employees dragging everyone else down.
Before firing, there are some last resort tactics that should be employed first:
- Feedback reviews
- One-on-one training
- Performance Review 3-month plan (we have a plan for that here)
Key Takeaways for Boosting Employee Morale
In summary, and for ease of reference, remember that the top management strategies when it comes to boosting employee morale fall into 3 categories:
- Critically assess the current organizational climate: It’s time to take an honest look at the emotional state and wellbeing of your team members. If you’ve identified there’s room for improvement, it’s time to think of ways to up the happiness and satisfaction levels in the office.
- Take action, but remain flexible: That means analyzing your company benefits, the calendar, events and the hours of operation work culture. For example, are you running people into the ground expecting them to work after hours? If so, it’s time to discuss how to become more productive with the hours that you have. Otherwise you’re risking burnout and poor employee morale.
- Recruit smarter, not harder: Sometimes the issue lies with some bad apples. If there are problem employees, there’s no shame in trying to work with them to improve and grow. But if the going gets tough, and you’ve exhausted all your options with them, it might be time to fire them for the sake of the company.
So, even if your organization isn’t on the frontlines in the fight to win hearts and minds, it’s never a bad time to get out from behind the desk and empower employees.
Who knows, they just might command the front office one day!