Boosting Morale Improves Your Bottom Line

Many of you may be skeptical of “touchy-feely” HR-oriented attempts to boost employee morale. So was I, having been subjected to a host of morale-enhancing “initiatives” over my career. Most amounted to a “flavor of the month” approach that not only fell fall short but were met with derision. Yet my experience and research tell me that when employees are happy they perform better. No great mystery there. So why not try to create a positive atmosphere and enhance productivity by boosting morale? It actually doesn’t cost that much and the ROI is quite good. So, let’s examine how an organization can do just that.

First off, many business owners are Baby Boomers like me. We need to recognize and appreciate the differences, which are significant, between our demographic and the Gen Xers and the Millennials. This comes down to breaking the Golden Rule. What, break it? Yes! Treat people the way they want to be treated. They aren’t you, so what motivates you and makes you happy won’t work for them. The term situational leadership encompasses the ability of a manager or owner to understand what motivates each individual they have the privilege of leading. Yes, this requires some time invested in getting to know what these folks find motivating. For some it’s recognition in front of their peers, for others it’s a personal “thank you”, and for some it’s “show me the money!” i.e. cash rewards and bonuses. For those that want recognition, give it to them — praise is free!

Early in my career as a manager I assumed that everyone loved recognition like I do. Well, let me tell you a story about my wife Virginia, an elementary school teacher. A few years ago her principal singled her out at a grade level meeting for a great job on a specific project. I was surprised to learn that she was upset, no mortified, and did not appreciate Marcy’s public praise of her at all! So I asked, “What would you have wanted Marcy to do?” She responded “Have her come to my classroom and thank me one on one”. This is counter-intuitive to some people and makes perfect sense to others. The key is that you know what your direct reports want. And if they are in a leadership role be sure that they devote the time to understanding the individuals they manage so they can provide positive reinforcement that works. This leads to higher morale and a stronger bottom line as indicated by many studies correlating high morale and esprit de corps with higher profits, market share, and customer satisfaction indices.

Praise is Free How difficult is it to say “Ray, I really admire the way you handled Mrs. Thomas with a calm, professional demeanor and defused a volatile situation. That’s exactly the way we need to handle our clients, even when they are wrong. Thank you.” That might take 30 seconds and the ROI is great. Just be authentic and specific and it will positively reinforce the behaviors you want. I occasionally sent a hand written thank you card to an employee’s spouse “Dear Mary, Doug has been working a lot of overtime as we hurried to launch our newest product. I want to you to know how much we appreciate his hard work and that we understand it has meant time away from your and your children. Thanks for sharing him with us, he’s a great addition to our team”. I saw Mary a few months later at our holiday party and she said she showed that card to her kids and put on their refrigerator! How valuable was that?

Here are some other ways to reward your folks:

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Frank Manfre

Business consultant & coach w/ 35 years experience in leadership roles in for profit and nonprofit organizations focused on developing leaders & org health