It’s very difficult to overstate the importance of high workplace morale. According to an article from Vancouver-based go2 Tourism HR Society, “[d]isengaged workers are less efficient, miss more workdays and cost their employers thousands of dollars in lost productivity.”
“Keeping employee morale high is one of the best things you can do to instill loyalty and maintain a productive workplace,” the article continues.
A 2014 report from the American Psychological Association found that workplace stress — a proxy for low morale — costs the U.S. economy at least $500 billion annually and can be directly or indirectly blamed for some 80% of all workplace injuries.
Seasoned managers and small business owners don’t need to hear these stats twice. If you want to hire and retain top talent, you need to treat your team right. Try these 13 morale- and cohesion-boosting strategies, keeping in mind always that what works for someone else’s crew won’t necessarily do the trick for yours.
1. Increase Flex Time
Employees who have more time and flexibility to address family and personal matters are better equipped to do their jobs free of distraction and worry. Even a modest increase in flex time can make a difference for workplace morale — and if you tout it in job postings, recruitment and retention too.
2. Get Them Away From The Daily Grind
Nothing enlivens the daily grind like a few days away from it. In a pinch, even a few hours will do.
“We see the benefits of corporate retreats firsthand,” says Canadian entrepreneur David Janeson, whose family owns a small marina and inn on Lake Winnipeg, in Manitoba. “The corporate teams who come up here to unwind really seem to leave their cares behind in the city, and it shows in their step.”
Schedule permitting, plan a multi-day annual retreat or getaway for your team. Let the needs of your company and the preferences of your employees dictate its structure: a convention-oriented jaunt to Las Vegas, perhaps, or a rustic retreat at a rural ranch out in the boonies of Colorado or Alberta.
3. Cater Lunch Once Or Twice A Week
Food is a great equalizer, especially when it’s tasty and free. Make a point to cater lunch at your office at least once per week. Accommodate reasonable requests and dietary restrictions where possible, but don’t worry about making participation mandatory. Free lunch should be an option, not a chore.
4. Implement An Open Door Policy
Ditch the suggestion box for an up-the-flagpole feedback chain that actually works. Make it known to your employees that they can reach out to you — meaning senior management — with suggestions, concerns, and general feedback at any time, for any reason.
You don’t have to take every bit of feedback to heart, of course. You just have to acknowledge that you’ve received and internalized it.
5. Offer More Visibility Into Management Decisions & Company Performance
Closely held companies aren’t obligated to divulge too much about their financial position or performance, even to longtime employees. But keeping things too close to the vest can have unintended consequences: namely, loss of trust.
Demonstrate confidence in your team by sharing high-level results with them at quarterly, semi-annual, or annual all-hands meetings. Don’t worry about going into meticulous detail. Just give them enough so that they can draw their own conclusions — free from your personal spin — about where the company is and where it’s headed.
6. Take The Team Out To Happy Hour
Happy hours make happy workers, so schedule weekly or biweekly team-building confabs at your favorite watering holes. Avoid HR headaches by setting strict ground rules and making all off-campus activities voluntary.
7. Pay Out A One-Time Bonus
There’s never a bad time to pay out a one-time employee bonus, even if the holidays remain months off. Make bonuses commensurate on base pay, performance, and years of service — but make sure newer team members get a piece of the action too, lest they leave you prematurely for employers willing to shell out.
8. Bump Up Your 401(k) Or Retirement Match
What’s better than a one-time bonus? More security in retirement. If you already match your employees’ 401(k) or other defined-contribution retirement plan contributions, increase its size by a percentage point or two. If you don’t already match, get on it! Your competitors probably have already.
9. Add New Health Care Options
Employee health care benefits are complex, sure. But they’re among the surest signals that you have the well-being of your employees and their families at heart. Lean on your open door policy and poll your team honestly. Ask them: Do they feel like their healthcare options are adequate and fair? If not, talk to your human resources team about making things right.
10. Invest In Fringe Benefits
Healthcare, retirement, paid leave. In most industries, these benefits are non-negotiable. But they’re far from the only perks thoughtful employers can and should offer to rank-and-file employees. There’s a case to be made for employee stock options, life and disability insurance, moving expense reimbursements, health savings accounts, and a slew of other benefits. Before you finalize your package, determine its potential tax consequences and plan accordingly.
11. Give An Across-The-Board Raise
If all else fails, give the team an across-the-board raise. Sure, this can be an expensive proposition, though its ongoing cost may actually be lower than adding new healthcare options or doubling down on your retirement plan match. There’s a reason Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner advises business owners to do everything they can to boost employee morale without giving a raise.
Then again, an across-the-board raise — rather than a one-time or end-of-year bonus — is a great way to show your team that you’re committed to their prosperity for the long haul. It’s precisely the opposite of an empty, token gesture.
To Each Their Own
Every boss has his or her own management style. That’s the way it should be. Every corporate team is different. That’s also the way it should be.
You run your team differently than your peer across town runs hers. Your teams are comprised of different people from different backgrounds, endowed with different skills, harboring different dreams, juggling different priorities. It’s only natural to expect that your plan to boost workplace morale and cohesion will look very different from hers.
That’s the way it should be.
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