Every company goes through periods of low morale. That doesn’t make it any less stressful. Whether triggered by a difficult staffing decision, a restructured budget, an interrupted project, or an internal conflict, low morale can strike quickly and linger for weeks.
While individual periods of low morale happen to the best of us, they all tend to resolve eventually. With a little help, your team will go back to normal. But if you’re in the midst of a troubling long-term pattern of low morale, there are a few things you should do as a leader to get your team back on the positive track. These ten tips can help you get your employees engaged, inspired, and productive once again.
Employee recognition is the number one tool in your arsenal when it comes to fighting low morale. Surprisingly, many CEOs and managers still think of recognition as an activity you participate in whenever you get the chance, and not as a full-scale ongoing initiative to shape company culture. To be truly effective, valuing and appreciating your employees should be a measurable practice company-wide.
A few stats for you: According to a recent Glassdoor survey, 81% of employees say they work harder when their boss shows appreciation. 53% say they’d stay longer at a company if they felt more appreciated. And 32% don’t feel recognized enough by their managers. That’s a third of your workforce, primed and ready for a serious boost.
Increasing employee recognition on an individual level is easy. Across an entire corporation… that’s an entirely different challenge. Consider solutions like custom employee recognition programs which will integrate seamlessly with your existing company structure.
2. Team Building
Team building is the catch-all term for activities that accomplish the goal of building community—but we’re not interested in bringing Monday morning icebreakers. Instead, design new and innovative team building activities around your employees’ specific interests. Crowdsource ideas through an anonymous survey and have your teams vote on which activity they’re most excited about. In my experience, popular winners have been rotating happy hours, city-wide scavenger hunts, and themed potluck meetings.
If morale in your company is low due to poor work-life balance, it’s time to consider adding flexibility to your list of employee benefits. Contrary to popular assumptions, research from HubSpot shows that employees who work from home actually work harder—making this a productive option for everyone involved. Try offering one or two days per week as optional WFH time, and encourage employees to use it. Experiment with flex hours so your team members can plan for a smoother, shorter commute. If you’re not able to be flexible with the actual place and time your employees work, give their roles a little bit of slack. Set aside one workday per month for employees to work on passion projects and encourage them to cross-train with other departments.
4. Good News
As a corporate leader, the best way you can spread positivity during times of low morale is by doubling down on your efforts to share good news. We all celebrate the big wins in business—landing a big client or closing a crucial deal—but it’s the little things that matter even more to your managers and employees. Personally, I like to communicate good news on a weekly basis through a warm and positive email. If you’re not sure what to highlight, work anniversaries, small profitability spikes, and YOY comparisons are all fair game. Good news is a powerful antidote to the doubt and uncertainty that plagues us during times of low morale, and you’re the best mouthpiece to deliver it to your company.
Healthy interpersonal competition seems to always be on the menu when it comes to motivating a sales team. It’s one of many ways to gamify the work experience and keep everyone engaged and enjoying the daily grind. Why not extend a competitive invitation company wide? Prepping for competition helps everyone keep their focus on the future—a positive future—and makes your company into a more fun place in general. Consider hosting a company-wide tournament in a moderately-accessible athletic sport (kickball always wins in my book) or an indoor-friendly game like poker or ping pong.
6. Branded Apparel
Building an external brand identity is something CEOs think about often enough. However, the smartest of us apply that same campaign idea to our internal teams as well. Customized brand-name apparel gives your employees a sense of pride in their corporate community. It brings belonging and legitimacy to team members from entry level all the way up to the C-suite. Moreover, it unifies all of those individuals together under a common banner and a common goal. To avoid the standard low quality “company swag,” make sure you partner with a custom uniform company that personalizes garments from brand-name sources like The North Face and Nike.
7. Giving Back
I can’t say it enough—volunteering as a company is one of the best ways you can spend your team building time. This one activity is almost guaranteed to boost morale for everyone who participates. Whether you sign your team up for a local trail cleanup, a food pantry restock, or a children’s Special Olympics event, you and your employees will enjoy building each other up while making a big difference in your local community. It feels good to give back. From an employee’s perspective, it feels even better to know that the company you work for is dedicated to doing meaningful work.
8. New Benefits
We’ve already suggested adding flexibility to your competitive benefits package, but why not add on a relatively inexpensive fringe benefit to get your team excited? Especially if you’re launching this new initiative after the first of the year, fitness programs are at the top of the list. Consider subsidizing gym memberships or bringing in a personal trainer or yoga instructor to lead classes in-house. On the professional development side, tuition reimbursement is always greatly appreciated by those looking to go back to school—and since that’s a relatively small percentage of employees, this is one program that makes a significant impact at an individual level without breaking the bank.
When morale is low, asking for feedback can be the last thing in the world you want to do as a CEO. But now is the best time to take an honest look at your company from the inside. Get ready to ask hard questions, like:
“Would you recommend our company to your job-seeking friends? Why or why not?”
“If you could change one thing about our company, what would it be?”
“What can we do to make your job easier or more enjoyable?”
Plan on getting some harsh answers. But know that through requesting feedback and following up with meaningful changes, you’re showing your employees you really listen to them and value their opinion. For perspective, try asking the same questions after 6 months have passed. When morale is up once more, you might get a very different set of answers.
10. Rewards and Incentives
You might already have an employee rewards program—maybe a points system, or a president’s club, or a travel incentive. But if you’re dealing with low employee morale more than just occasionally, your reward system isn’t doing its job. That’s because most incentive programs only target the top 5% of achievers in a company, leaving everyone else feeling undervalued and underappreciated. This is the perfect opportunity to give your employee rewards and incentives a serious overhaul.
Tackle low employee motivation and morale by launching a program that rewards employees at all levels of success. Choose one that automatically raises the bar by reachable increments, so dedicated participants can be rewarded again and again. And don’t forget to choose one that offers high-value name brand items your employees will drool over. That’s why good incentives are so much better than cash bonuses—they come with serious bragging rights.
Boosting morale in the workplace requires a tactical approach and a strategy that considers influences from all sides. The wide variety of tips here will provide a great starting place for addressing your low employee engagement, no matter what its root cause might be. But if you’re looking for more, consider partnering with a company of experts who can help you revamp your organizational culture from the ground up.
At Inproma, we create employee rewards programs that have been proven to increase engagement across the board. We’ll create a fully custom plan that fits your company’s goals so you can quickly get your employees motivated and happy to come to work again. That’s our biggest goal. Want some help making it happen? Let’s talk.