The Lee Group Owners Walt Graham and Eric Kean

Morale matters. It’s no surprise that employees who feel motivated about getting up and going to work every day and enjoy their time there perform at a higher level. Likewise, negative, unenthused workers can affect company culture and ultimately, the bottom line.

No one has a bigger impact on morale — the attitude, satisfaction and overall outlook of employees — than leadership.

Strong, engaged leadership sets the tone in making morale a consistent priority, so coming to work matters for a company’s best ambassadors, its employees.

Live your vision

You have communicated your core values and mission statement to employees, and both are documented on your website. Are they only words, or do the words matter? If transparency is important, your company must share its decision-making process with employees.

Management at all levels must embrace the values and vision through their everyday actions. Encouraging employees to follow your core values only works if leadership sets the example. When employees feel engaged in a company’s larger goals, they feel they have a stake in overall success, which raises morale.

Empower and engage

You have hired a candidate to do a job. Trust that employee to do it well. Don’t micromanage decisions, which can make employees feel devalued and contribute to poor work performance. Create a harmonious environment that invites collaboration and offers flexibility. Both raise morale.

Of course, communication is essential. Upper management should be accessible to employees with an open-door policy. At particularly large companies, it’s important to put a process in place to solicit employee feedback and follow up. Surveys can help do this.

Managers should not fall into the habit of only chatting with employees through email conversation or during an annual evaluation. Be purposeful about scheduling times to meet one-on-one, and ideally, set the cell phone aside so you’re not disturbed. Be an active listener and open to any feedback you receive.

Say thanks

Incentives can bolster morale, and who doesn’t like extra money in their paycheck or a holiday bonus? Even if neither is a feasible option, expressing gratitude to those who work for you is always a win-win. Even a verbal “thank you” pays off.

Despite the digital age we live in, nothing replaces a handwritten, personal note that highlights an employee’s accomplishment or contribution. Give credit to others. Show appreciation for those who work hard for you.

Other types of incentives, depending on the culture of the workplace, can also increase. morale. Dress-down Fridays or spirit weeks might be options. Many companies give birthdays off — a nice perk.

If your company has an in-house awards recognition event, consider rewarding tenure. Employees with impressive longevity should not be overlooked.

Room to grow

Leadership should make employees aware of growth potential. Inspire your employees by helping them achieve their long-term goals. Invest in their success, and they, in turn, will be invested in company success. Offering full or partial tuition benefits is one example. Consider a mentoring program between senior leaders and newer hires if one is not already in place.

Make sure employees have both the training and resources they need to do the best possible job. Set aside money in the budget so your employees can sharpen their skills through training and development.

Workers enjoy fresh challenges and enhancing their skillset. Leadership gains from grooming employees for upper management positions, which reduces turnover.

Schedule an activity

More and more companies are making the effort to be part of the fabric of the community they serve. When management mingles with employees outside of  the office, relationships form. Meaningful connections can’t help but contribute to morale.

Offer the opportunity for employees to participate with upper management in a charitable endeavor. Ideally, schedule this during a workday, so you’re not asking your employees to give up a weekend. If you’re able, sponsor your own activity — a company golf or tennis tournament, for example. If there’s a local 5K benefitting a cause, take the lead as a leader to form a team of your own employees to create bonding away from the office.

Finally . . .

Companies weather ups and downs. The best ones rely on their employees to ride them out together. Even if morale is high, it’s up to leadership to make sure that morale stays high. Make it a priority. That can only be done by taking a proactive approach. The most successful companies have happy, engaged employees who look forward to coming to work.

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