Boosting Employees' Morale

Boosting morale can be a difficult task, but it can make the difference between an efficiently run operation and one that falls apart — and loses clients.

It's not easy greeting every day with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Some days are cold and rainy. Some days you feel lousy. But if you're the guy who owns the company, you'd better find a way to keep your spirit and the spirit of your employees on a high. That means making sure employees feel appreciated.

"Everyone wants to be recognized for their achievements, to work independently and to make decisions," says Greg Miedema, CGR, CAPS, CGB and president of Dakota Builders Inc. in Tucson, Ariz. To his mind, nothing proves that the work is appreciated better than cold, hard cash.

"If you asked employees (about morale boosters) when their managers aren't around to hear the answer, they'd say they want some money," he says. "But they want it to be based on tangible performance marks that show they've accomplished something significant."

Dakota Builders provides this boost by giving each lead carpenter a percentage of the gross profit achieved on each project. An in-house employee who serves as the project manager for a particular job, the lead carpenter also receives a list of other employees who worked on the project and how much time they put in on the job. This might include office personnel who prepared order forms, picked up special orders, coordinated schedules or answered client questions. The lead then designates how much of the money should be allocated to each individual, including himself, as a bonus.

More Than Money

Money isn't the only answer. Even without cash involved, ensuring that employees realize their contributions are important and appreciated is the key to improving morale, says Lori Severson, president of Severson & Associates in Galesville, Wis. "Salary levels are less important to employees than work satisfaction. You really can't overdo recognition as long as it's sincere." The recognition should be specific about what was done so that employees recognize what they’ve done well.

A Wall of Fame or Employee of the Month program can work well — if the recognition is sincerely deserved. Including employees' photos and activities in a newsletter sent to clients can also boost morale.

Keeping employees in the loop also helps. This can reduce productivity-destroying rumors and gossip and will boost their connection to the company. Regularly scheduled meetings to address any arising problems or concerns can ensure that things get nipped in the bud.

Company events, including picnics and birthday parties, build camaraderie in situations that aren't work-related. Social events can also expand employees' perspective on fellow workers. But managers must buy in if they expect employees to do so, Severson says. Cookouts where the president flips burgers work well. "When you give something personal, employees respond."

To determine which morale-boosting programs will be most effective, brainstorm with employees, Severson suggests. Having fun at work doesn't mean work isn't getting done — often, it's just the opposite.

"If employees love what they do, they find ways to make it work successfully," Severson says. "It can be very powerful if you can show them that they are an integral part of the company's success and they can have fun making that success happen."

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