The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted workplace environments and caused much uncertainty amongst workers. For companies to stay competitive, as well as to attract and retain the best talent, they must shift from just providing paychecks, benefits, and advancement opportunities to a more cohesive role of “caretaker.” In this position, they can help keep employees happy and feeling valued for their work and contributions. Here’s why this is imperative in business today, and how to get started making it a priority.
Company leaders must learn all they can to boost and improve workplace morale— something exponentially essential to increasing workplace productivity and employee happiness. For starters, COVID-19 has forced organizations and their employees to adjust how, when, and where they work. For some workers, these radical changes have been a boon; for others who like a lot of structure, face-to-face interaction, and predictability, all of it has required a very uncomfortable shift.
Furthermore, leaders also need to recognize and acknowledge the external factors beyond the pandemic that may impact morale. For example, in 2020, Gartner Group conducted a survey that revealed that the U.S. presidential campaign was damaging employee morale, collaboration, and productivity many months before election day. The day after the vote, 64% of U.S. employees said the experience made them feel anxious.
The changing workplace—as well as employees that may continue to work from home vs. those employees who work in offices alongside coworkers and bosses—means that companies will need to reconfigure how they approach their entire workforces. A non-flexible, one-size-fits-all approach will no longer yield results. Instead, leaders need to be innovative in their approach to employees’ individual wants and needs, and take the mental health temperature of their employees often.
The Parallel Between Employee Morale & Company Success
The complexities surrounding employee morale are not so difficult to understand. In simple terms, employee morale is the overall confidence, attitude, and satisfaction of employees with their work environment. Here are a few ways for companies to infuse a morale boost into their workforce:
Teamwork is not only a vital element in increasing employee morale, but it is also one of the easiest benchmarks to achieve. By promoting teamwork in the workplace, organizations create a healthy environment and foster lasting relationships with their employees, both peer-to-peer and across management layers.
Teamwork keeps everyone in the loop; it enables employees to know their tasks and roles, and where they fit in the overall progress toward the company’s goals. Some strategies include introducing teamwork-based tasks, setting up peer recognition programs, and establishing communication practices.
O.C. Tanner, a maker of employee recognition software, conducted a survey that found only 26% of employees feel like their team works seamlessly together. It also offers a few examples of companies who do an exceptional job integrating teamwork into their culture, such as Adobe, which offers its employees a great deal of autonomy; Target, which regularly surveys employees for ideas and input; and Udacity, which unites its teams through fun activities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 3 million U.S. employees quit their jobs every month. While turnover is inevitable even in the most dynamic of companies, those businesses which experience significant turnover or are unable to keep top-producing employees can certainly have the wind taken out of their sails—and even fail eventually.
If an organization implements better retention practices, it immediately promotes and enforces better morale in the workplace. Organizations that have figured out how to retain good employees and have mitigated the risk of high employee turnover almost always have employees with a greater confidence level regarding their positions within the business.
When employees are assured that their jobs are secure, they will be happier. Additionally, if there are programs that inspire employees to stay at a workplace, overall morale will continually improve. Happy employees equal greater productivity and company success.
Have you ever seen how a kindergarten teacher is able to motivate and direct his or her students with simple praise and acknowledgment? It’s in our nature to crave appreciation, and that doesn’t change with age. Don’t underestimate the power of recognition for a job well done: more than half of workers are motivated to leave a job because they feel un- or underappreciated by their manager.
Simple gestures count too, often more than people realize. When organizations recognize and even give gifts to employees on anniversaries, birthdays, or for a job well done, employees tend to appreciate the gesture of gratitude and feel more content and loyal.
Often the most critical steps that a company should consider undertaking when wanting to increase morale and, therefore productivity, is to monitor employees for signs of burnout and embrace a healthy work-life balance. It starts at the top, according to a study by the Harvard Medical School, which found that nearly 96% of senior leaders experienced burnout symptoms and almost one-third of participants in the study reported feeling extreme burnout.
Since issues tend to trickle down from the top, burnout at the higher ranks can often work its way throughout the company’s culture, leaving employees feeling overworked and less satisfied. This, of course, thereby lowers morale and decreases productivity. Make sure your leaders are open with employees about their own stress and encourage them to ask for help when overwhelmed and, yes, take vacations.
It could be reasonably argued that employees have always benefited from working for leaders who also take on the role of caretaker, but never more so than in the post-pandemic workplace. Today, your team members need more from you than ever before. If you’re ready to embrace this important role, you’ll play a big part in keeping productivity and retention strong – and contributing to a positive culture of people who truly look after one another.