20 Sep 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Is the mood in your workplace negative? Is absenteeism high? Are the employees who show up disengaged from their work?
If you answered a resounding “yes” to those questions, then it could signal that employee morale is an issue within your company.
Boosting employee morale is one of the most critical issues facing businesses in today’s fiercely competitive job market and it’s particularly important for small business owners as their employees often are their most valuable assets.
Employee morale can make or break a company and investing in creating a positive work environment can help the bottom line. Research shows that happy workers are more productive and are more likely to stay with a company long-term.
Conversely, unhappy employees can be detrimental to the health and vitality of a business. Yet it’s a crisis plaguing many American workplaces. A 2011 Gallup survey shows that a whopping 71 per cent of workers are not engaged or are actively disengaged from their work.
Such findings aren’t surprising to Cynthia Cobb, a human resources consultant from Gurnee, IL. Employee morale is an issue she routinely encounters in working with large corporate clients and small-to-mid-size businesses, especially in these uncertain economic times.
“You want to get at the root cause or you’re putting a band-aid on something you’re not healing,” says Cobb, president and principal of 3C-Cynthia Cobb Consulting LLC, and who has more than 15 years of human resources experience. “The most inexpensive thing a management team can do or a supervisor can do is to raise the level of communication.”
Leadership changes can often shatter employee morale. This was the case for Robin Erker when she bought out her business partner in her 14-employee rehabilitation and physical therapy business last year.
The change was unsettling for many of her employees and Erker knew she had to take swift action to keep the troops motivated. Erker is the owner of Grayslake Rehabilitation, Complete Physical Therapy & Wellness, a seven-year-old company based in Grayslake, IL.
“We spent the last year looking at each individual employee, trying to find out something about each and every one,” said Erker, who has 20 years of experience as a physical therapist. “If you don’t put that loyalty into your employees, they won’t return that loyalty to you.”
If morale is an issue for you as a small business entrepreneur, here are some key steps you can take to help keep your talent engaged:
Raise the level of communication within your company and address the issues that are of utmost concern to your employees, says Cobb, the human resources consultant.
“Be open and honest,” says Cobb. “Talk about the issues. Give employees an opportunity to ask questions and share some ideas about how the organization can be better.”
Make your workplace more fun and inviting. Simple strategies such as having an employee pot-luck lunch, grilling burgers and brats for everyone or sponsoring an employee softball game can go a long way in building camaraderie, says Cobb.
Erker’s best piece of advice: Allow your employees room to make mistakes and show appreciation when they solve a problem.
“I try to create a culture where my employees feel safe enough that if they make a mistake, they at least feel that they tried something creative,” she said. “If people feel comfortable to take risks, that way we can grow and expand the business.”
After all, says Cobb, socially responsible employers are in touch with the needs and concerns of their employees.
“They have a ‘we’re all in this together mentality,’” she said. “They still have an air of optimism.”