Cause and Effect
The causality between morale and stressful situations, especially in situations over which we have little control, is well accepted. The feelings of helplessness, anxiety and stress make morale an early casualty.
In a survey of 2278 HR professionals in April 2020, SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), USA, found that nearly 65% of employers felt that maintaining employee morale has been an issue of concern.
The current uncertain times and disruptive work environments have impacted the confidence of almost everyone. Organizations recognize the problem, and HR departments are hard-pressed to ensure that the spirits of their workforce remain buoyant.
There are many factors that impinge on morale. The behavior of leaders, bosses, peers, family, and friends are some impactful people-related factors. If the environment is not conducive, one feels lost and unanchored, then negativity and loss of confidence is a consequence.
While methodologies may vary across industries, the broad strategies that organizations may consider to mitigate the deleterious impact on morale should revolve around
- Assurance: Employees must be assured that their jobs are protected, and their interests will be taken care of. Anxiety about job security, salary deductions, continuity of service, furloughs, lay-offs, well-being, health and safety concerns, etc., are huge morale dampeners. Companies need to exhibit visible ground-level action that assures the employees that apprehensions on these scores are misplaced.
- Communicate: Employers should open and widen communication channels with their employees. Providing enablers that ensure being in constant touch with two-way correspondence is a must. An omnichannel system must be put in place and must be made known to all concerned. Employees that realize that the company is available for them at all times will have less anxiety.
- Empathize: Companies must listen to their employees with empathy. Open communication channels will help only if the organization listens. Employees who know that they will be heard, that the company is willing to give them time and space, to attend to their grievances and issues, personal or official, is receptive to them, will have a strong positive impact on morale. Just knowing that their voice matters is a morale booster and will make them feel valued.
- Responsiveness: The company should put in place systems and teams to ensure that it responds to each and every communication. This should be monitored, and follow-up actions, as required, be taken to their natural conclusion. An unresponsive organization does not appear supportive. In these trying times, employees look for any support available to allay their fears.
- Being Real and Truthful: Organisations should not hide the true state of affairs or convey half-truths. Building/ rebuilding trust is necessary for employee commitment. Knowing the real facts will enable informed decisions, and employees can work out their options based on facts. This will also find resonance with commonly held values and foster a more dedicated workforce.
Employers understand that low morale will adversely affect productivity and employees’ contribution to the organization’s purpose and objectives. This has serious cost implications for any business.
Engage and Involve
Engaging with the employees is a good step in preventing morale from flagging. To do this, organizations should first determine the baseline of employee morale. Employee surveys, feedback questionnaires, satisfaction studies across various tiers will give a good understanding of how the employees are placed. In addition to formal methods, informal interactions will also reveal a degree of dissatisfaction and satisfaction. Areas that require to be improved should be attended to. When employees see that their inputs have been recognized and acted upon, it works as a good motivator. This, of course, should not be a one-time exercise. Dynamic circumstances call for periodical review so that the organization is aware of the pulse of its human resources.
Measures that fulfill a sense of self-worth provide a good fillip to morale. People should perceive that they are not alone. That the organization has its back and a collective, the collaborative effort will see them through these tough times. Team building OD(Organisation Development) interventions will also help improve effectiveness and overcome the downsides of the current pandemic. Work from home, remote working, lockouts, and quarantines have isolated people. They long for the warmth and connectedness which collaborative working with their colleagues provided. Morale takes a beating when one is in isolation. Companies would do well to replicate the collective working atmosphere for morale-boosting. Technology today enables the setting up of events and sessions that disrupt the status quo. Remote offsites, socials, specific team meetings and discussions, celebrating successes and achievements, group sharing of important company information and updates, games and parties, etc., should be arranged so that the participants perceive themselves to be part of a whole. A more participative and engaged set of employees will maintain their own morale but also help out colleagues who require support.
Push for Success
An uninspired worker is a liability. Organizations function on the premise of worker loyalty, commitment, and efficiency. Impaired morale leads to poor productivity, increases absenteeism, and adversely affects teamwork. Business performance and prospects suffer, and reputational risks sharpen. The need for a workforce with high morale is therefore imperative for business success.