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You’ve heard of quiet quitting?
Giving up on the work you do, putting in minimal effort because the work you do doesn’t feel appreciated, it doesn’t spark excitement or energise you and you don’t feel like you’re getting anything in return?
It’s the modern term for talking about low employee morale.
Team morale can feel like one of those terms that middle managers use, but the rest of us wonder what does that really mean? And also, does anyone else actually care?
Well, we’ve got one huge reason you should care: A Gallup Workplace Report demonstrated that low engagement, morale and dissatisfaction is expected to have cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
Now we’ve got your attention, let HumanX’s HR experts give you the rundown on employee morale, why it matters to your organisation and perhaps most importantly, how you can go about rejuvenating and rebuilding team morale if it’s already low.
What is employee morale?
Employee morale is the collective outlook, attitude, contentment and confidence employees experience at work. As a metric, it considers the overall workplace experience, employee’s emotional state and sentiment towards the business, as well as job satisfaction and employee engagement levels. Employee morale also considers employees' enthusiasm for their roles and overall team cohesiveness. Some of the common characteristics to employee morale, including strong leadership, competitive compensation, a healthy work environment, work-life balance, opportunities and job security.
Morale is so interlinked with high performance, but the key is sustaining it. For this, you need a strategic HR strategy that is proactive and seeks to understand the needs and sentiment of employees. But first of all, let’s establish the difference between productivity or performance and morale.
Morale is the emotional and mental state of the team or individual.
Productivity or performance is the work they do and the product or service they produce.
Another crossover to consider is the fluid relationship between employee morale and employee engagement, which is also an emotional state. An engaged team member is more likely to be a happy one. Whereas, you already know that a disengaged, dissatisfied member of the team is not going to be motivated and bring the best of themselves to work.
Understand How Employee Morale Impacts Your Business
One of the key things to understand about low employee morale is that it can feel infectious. Employee morale is most noticeable when it affects a group or a specific team. This can actually cause the team to silo-off and isolate.
On the flipside, high, positive morale at work is also infectious. As you read these benefits, think about the trickle-down effect of this on your business.
When a business curates a culture of high morale, employees are more likely to surpass the baseline expectations of their role. The increased motivation stemming from high morale helps to boost company-wide productivity. Gallup's State of the American Workplace report states that organisations with high employee engagement show a 21% boost in productivity compared to companies with low engagement.
A workplace with high morale helps to increase employee job satisfaction, reducing the likelihood of staff leaving the company for another position. The cost savings from reduced turnover may surprise you; the Australian HR Institute has stated that replacing a skilled employee can cost approximately 1.5 times the staff member's annual salary. Read more about the actual cost of high employee turnover here.
A workplace that experiences strong morale is more conducive to creativity and innovation. Teams with a high morale that feel they work in a positive environment will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and taking calculated risks, resulting in a more innovative work environment. There’s no need for us to tell you that this could be invaluable to your organisation and could be the difference between you being an industry leader or an industry follower.
Lower recruitment costs
The impact of high team morale expands to recruitment and the accompanying costs. A company with a positive work environment will experience higher retention rates, lowering recruitment costs.
A more enjoyable work environment
Beyond the measurable impacts, high employee morale fosters a more enjoyable and positive work environment for all employees. A motivating atmosphere spreads throughout an organisation — when employees are happy to come to work, this sentiment radiates outwards, positively affecting productivity and team dynamics. When employees are comfortable within a work environment and feel valued by a company, they are likely to go the extra mile in the workplace.
External changes impacting team morale
In 2021 and 2022, we saw something that the HR world (and LinkedIn) are calling the Great Resignation. This is where there was a mass handing in of resignations by employees who worked for their company throughout the pandemic. This phenomenon can be boiled down to a loss of morale and engagement with work.
Firstly, this emphasises the very real ramifications of waning team morale. Secondly, it highlights how companies cannot be desensitised to the impact of changes in the workplace and their impact on teams. The standard workplace has changed a lot since 2020 - out of necessity and mostly for good - but as HR experts, we are only just beginning to understand the long term impact on people in the workplace. Read on to see if you identify with any of the following challenges, and remember HumanX HR consultants can be on hand to support with challenges that you can’t quite put your finger on, as well as helping you to develop long term vision for your organisation.
Remote work arrangements
Like many advances in the business world, the widespread shift to remote or hybrid work arrangements presents opportunities and challenges for an organisation. While remote work arrangements have the potential to increase employee satisfaction with flexibility, the decrease in face-to-face contact within an office environment can sometimes result in employees feeling disconnected and isolated.
Current economic conditions are impacting many businesses. Companies worldwide are reducing their workforce, with many employees being made redundant. Uncertainties around job security and the future can affect employee satisfaction and result in low morale.
When companies undergo significant organisational transformations, like mergers or acquisitions, the stress of these changes can take a toll on employee morale. This is especially prevalent when a change management strategy has not been considered, or has been devised - but did not fairly consider HR and the impact change will have on individuals and their working environment..
Factors destructive to employee morale
It's essential to recognise the factors that can negatively impact staff morale. Ignoring these issues can lead to a toxic work environment and hinder productivity. It’s worth mentioning that no business wants to admit that they have any of these contributors, but for the long-term health and success of your organisation, it’s imperative that you are honest and believe what the data tells you.
A lack of leadership within an organisation has a detrimental effect on team morale. While a strong leader can motivate a business, a poor leader can dampen the mood of an entire organisation with unclear communication, inconsistency and unfair practices.
Lack of recognition
All employees appreciate being recognised and rewarded for contributing to a company's success. When staff feel their efforts aren't recognised or appreciated, it can affect morale.
If employees are overworked, burnout can arise within a company. Burnout and chronic overwork can severely impact team morale, causing employees to reconsider their positions.
How To Measure Team Morale
As with employee engagement, team morale can feel like an intangible “thing”. A buzzword or just a general feeling around the office. Like it can’t actually be measured, understood and analysed. Well, it can.
Our HR Consultants can show you how, through a series of feedback frameworks, employee surveys, appraisals structures and 1-to-1s, workshops and team coaching sessions. Exit interviews are also a great touchpoint for understanding where low morale might have developed and impacted an employee’s working experience.
We will also show you how to harness the data - the hard facts - that you likely already have access to. This includes:
- Absenteeism, number of sick days
- Staff turnover
- Individual performance against targets
- Team performance against business targets
- Rate of growth and development within teams
Once a foundational understanding has been established, businesses can begin to build a blueprint to rebuild team morale or make improvements.
Somethings To Consider When Diving Into Employee Morale
Measuring the current state of team morale is the only way to logically move forward. It’s also important for measuring the impact that improvement is having on the organisation. However, before you get started, one thing to bear in mind is that feedback can make morale appear artificially high. Independent surveys report that this is because employees are not always comfortable or confident giving their honest thoughts.
This research suggests that this is because employees do not believe that their company actually wanted to receive honest feedback and feared that providing it would have a negative impact on them. Many individuals who do not provide honest feedback said they didn’t believe their company cared enough to act on the feedback, if it were provided.
This is why a communication strategy is vital for improving suspected low morale in the workplace. It’s imperative that your teams know why you want the information and they genuinely believe that
Tips for getting honest feedback regarding employee morale
- Anonymity - As well as other feedback methods, we highly recommend a truly anonymous feedback form. This can be sent out at regular intervals, but also an ‘open’ feedback form that can be submitted to HR and accessed at any time. This is a great way to be proactive and head off any problem with low morale or disengagement before it has time to develop.
- Train managers to ask the right questions - Working as outsourced HR teams, we so often see companies who believe they are ‘ticking all the boxes’ by providing regular 1 to 1 meetings between team members and their line manager. However, are the managers and leaders in your organisation prepared to ask the questions that really matter? Do they know how to spot low morale or a lack of engagement within these meetings? Perhaps more importantly, do they know how to rebuild morale with an individual?
- Communicate & Act - Once you’ve sent out your feedback form and leadership has reviewed the information you’ve received, share it with the company. This can be as simple as an announcement in a team meeting or a company-wide email. Thank your teams for their honesty and highlight any trends. Reassure them that HR and leaders are going to work to address those issues - if you already have an action plan, great! Share that, too! A reminder that HR doesn’t have to be secretive - share the progress you’re trying to make to build trust with individuals in the workplace.
The art of rebuilding employee morale
Rebuilding employee morale requires slightly different methods than simply improving it. Certain situations within a business can profoundly impact morale, for example, conflict within the team, major organisational changes or toxic managers. In these cases, specific strategies are required to rebuild team morale.
The first step in how to rebuild team morale is similar to boosting morale; it includes diagnosing the root cause through surveys and feedback channels. It's essential to understand what aspects of the workplace negatively affect employees.
Once you have diagnosed the cause of low morale, you can tailor a solution around the specific issues. Often, solutions can include leadership training, conflict management for workplace disputes, work-life balance options for employees or providing additional support and training for all employees during times of change.
Leadership plays a critical role in reviving employee morale since company leaders set the example for behaviour and communication within the workplace. A leader who celebrates their employees' contributions, gathers feedback, communicates clearly and promotes positivity in the workplace can help boost morale and productivity.
Rebuilding employee morale can take a little time. But despite the frustrations associated with restoring team morale, it is both achievable and worth the effort to ensure the long-term success of a business and employee satisfaction. If your business could benefit from learning how to boost team morale, HumanX can help. Our outsourced HR solutions allow businesses to manage conflict, improve employee relations and boost team morale.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do we identify low morale?
A business leader or HR professional can identify low morale by organising regular check-ins with employees, accessible and anonymous surveys (sent to employees' emails, for example) and monitoring performance metrics. It is wise to partner with a professional HR company, like HumanX, to help your business implement effective strategies for monitoring team morale.
What are the key signs of high employee morale?
Generally speaking, high employee morale will lead to a healthier and happier work environment. High team morale may present itself through increased productivity, low turnover rates and a supportive and positive work environment.
How does leadership impact morale?
As with many aspects of a business, leadership plays a crucial role in team morale. The behaviours, communication techniques and attitudes of those at the top of a business will undoubtedly trickle down to all employees; hence, leaders have an essential role in establishing positive workplace morale.
Is it possible to rebuild morale after significant organisational changes?
Yes. Rebuilding team morale may be necessary for many reasons, including poor management or making a significant organisational change such as a merger or acquisition. It is vital to tackle poor team morale with a tailored approach that targets the specific issues that led to the decline.