Staff morale is obvious as soon as you walk into a workplace: some offices are buzzing with activity and enthusiastic chatter, some places have uncommunicative staff with long faces and a desperate desire to be anywhere else.
Employee morale is not just about making staff happy. Morale affects everything in your business: it affects communication, teamwork, productivity – every facet of your work.
Take a look at those guys in Silicon Valley. They take staff morale seriously. Their offices are great colourful warehouses of hipster fun. Table football and ping pong tables intersect the workspaces. Coffee breaks are social affairs where people talk through their projects and network enthusiastically. And Silicon Valley is the most productive and successful environment in the world!
Now I’m not suggesting that you rip out that boardroom and replace it with a pinball machine and a mustachioed barista, but there are certain key lessons we could learn from.
Reward great work
This one should be obvious: let your team know that you appreciate their work. But it so often gets missed. Sometimes it’s as simple as a ‘well done’ and a pat on the back. Sometimes you may want to make a bigger gesture: can you reward a team with bonuses, or time off? Even something as simple as a free lunch can make staff feel valued and boost morale.
Communication should be a two-way thing. Sure – you appraise your team members, but do you ever give them the chance to appraise you? Maybe they’ve got things they’d like to get off their chest. This may sound intimidating, but it’s much better to encourage an open and honest conversation rather than let the thing fester, unknown to you.
Take the time to talk
Talk to your team. I mean… really talk. Not just about the project they are working on, but ask them about their life. Do you know the names of their husband/wife/children? Their favourite sports team? What they do at weekends? You should.
I’m not suggesting that you should be their friend, but you should at least show interest in them as a human being and have an idea of their skills and interests.
Hit that milestone? Let’s celebrate! Your team need to know that you value and understand the work they did to get you here. Instigate a rewards programme, or a staff night out. Some staff may not attend nights out – that’s ok. It’s not mandatory – it’s fun!
This is a great way to get your team to do the morale boosting for you. Give them the opportunity to shadow another team member, or temporarily swap roles for a few days. It gives your employees the chance to appreciate what other team members do, and it improves communication.
Even the most dedicated team member has other commitments: family, kids, appointments, shopping. Demonstrate your understanding and your trust in your team by offering more flexible working. As long as they are putting in the hours, hitting targets and arriving at meetings, do they really need to be so fixed on 9-5 hours? Studies show that a more flexible arrangement to working hours can actually improve staff morale and productivity.