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The impact of workplace morale on business success

The impact of workplace morale on business success

It’s often a term linked to military campaigns and keeping troops cohesive and focused, but the word morale has many more connotations, including being a substantial benefit to modern day business leaders.

What is good morale in the workplace, and how do managers achieve it? At the very least, exploring morale can provide insights into how to spot and avoid low employee morale, along with all the problems it can cause.

Reluctance to consider workplace morale could be due to believing it to be largely intangible, and therefore difficult to measure. Morale does largely refer to how a workforce ‘feels’ about the company, management team and business goals, and how ‘comfortable’ they feel in their role.

However, as this article will show, one of the best ways to identify if organizational morale is high is if the company’s performance is consistently good.

A business asset, not just an attitude

One of the workplace attributes most closely tied to strong employee morale is engagement, a concept that is now much discussed and valued.

A well-engaged workforce is one that trusts its employer and feels recognized and supported. They receive the inspiration and motivation they need to feel confident in their roles and responsibilities. Likewise, morale is often evident in the level of investment employees have in their organization’s values and business aims.

A project team with high morale is unified and interacts well, so it works together to deliver on shared goals. The primary benefits of building team and individual morale in the workplace are clear. It is key to improving company productivity and performance.

Staff with high levels of morale are also more likely to be innovative and creative, showing commitment to problem solving and critical thinking. Having a workforce that feels connected, valued and well-supported also means they enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction. This in turn boost employee loyalty and reduces staff churn and absenteeism. When times get tough, a workforce with good morale is far more likely to ‘go the extra mile’ as well.

Measuring employee happiness

It would be easy for a company to imagine that its workplace morale levels are buoyant, without ever checking to confirm.

A workplace ‘happiness’ survey by CNBC and Momentive reported that 72% of workers questioned felt morale was either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. That, and the percentage of people considering quitting their job, was a marked improvement compared to a previous survey.

However, this leaves two important questions unanswered.

Are the disaffected and disenfranchised workers employed by business leaders who are blissfully unaware of the issues they are experiencing? Also, how can companies keep morale high and move it from good to excellent?

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Ways to engender better workplace morale

Many of the tasks and processes that senior staff should use to create a ‘happy’ workforce are the same as those applied to better engagement and workplace performance in general.

These skills are encapsulated in a high caliber online course focusing on what it takes to be a strategic and ethical leader. For example, an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Rockhurst University provides students with insights into how to develop engaged teams. This dovetails with other organizational leadership skills delivered by the course, such as fostering an innovative culture in education, business, public or nonprofit sectors.

Authentic leadership will also deliver the communications excellence that underpins high staff morale. This will also run alongside emotionally intelligent leadership and creating nurturing, diverse corporate cultures; both of which stimulate good workplace morale.

Having clear opportunities for advancement can be a key element of staff morale too, including an employer willing to support both professional and personal development. This is true at all levels of employment, including managers who are encouraged to enhance their organizational leadership skills and experience.

Threats to workplace morale

Interestingly, the massive shift to remote and hybrid work schedules can both improve and lower morale. Which direction motivation and engagement goes in depends a lot on the individual, but also on the support they receive from their line manager.

Some individuals actively seek employment that enables them to spend most or part of their workday in a home office. They find that this helps their concentration, time management, and productivity, for example.

On the other side, remote or hybrid teams can also be fragmented and disjointed, with individuals who feel isolated, unheard, or generally ‘out of the loop’. Naturally, that can mean a drop in morale across the whole team, as well as disengaged team members.

Getting the balance right with hybrid work patterns can be especially challenging. It takes a purposeful blend of strong team support, good delegation, and trust, to keep everyone communicating and collaborating, while taking ownership of their individual roles and responsibilities.

Another way that workplace morale can suffer, is if an organization is going through change (even the good kind). Human nature is to be suspicious of anything new. Delivering extra information and support services can be a great way to protect team morale.

The impact of a period of stress and pressure in a business is well documented. However, it could be that managers invest management resources into bolstering their team through a busy or anxious period, only to find that morale drops off after the worst of the issues are over.

This could be because staff rose to the challenges they faced, only to feel under-appreciated afterwards. It is essential as a business leader to set up robust, fair, and consistent systems to recognize, reward and encourage achievement in the workplace.

Prioritize employee wellbeing

This article has covered aspects that can be detrimental to workplace morale, including periods of uncertainty and pressure. This creates demand for decision makers with strong organizational leadership skills to build ongoing systems to support employee well-being. They could include, for instance, access to mental health support and physical health benefits. Feeling valued and understood will then lead to staff with good morale, who are productive and loyal, making employee welfare initiatives a sound investment.

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