In any random group, there are some with more energy, more spirit, more oomph than everyone else. That oomph factor can be a sign of high morale and high engagement. In the workplace, engagement represents additional discretionary effort above and beyond what is typically expected of an employee. Engagement can heighten productivity, enhance quality and accelerate results. It can factor into operating costs, sales and customer loyalty. On the flip side, dis-engagement carries a real dollars and cents downside for every organization. The stakes are high. To get a sense of how high, Spherion took a close look at engagement in its most recent Emerging Workforce® Study. The findings provide valuable insight into the level of engagement of today’s workers, but more importantly, they shed light on the hard and soft cost benefits to achieving high engagement.

How to Recognize Problems with Morale
There’s more to low morale than a lack of enthusiasm on Monday morning. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • More absences or late arrivals
  • Mistakes and inaccuracies
  • Uptick in customer complaints
  • Lack of staff participation in meetings
  • Higher incidence of employee conflicts
  • Increase in workplace accidents

The High Costs of Low Morale 
Low morale can hurt your business in several different ways, because it directly impacts employee engagement. Disengaged employees can drag down others and impact everything from customer service to sales, quality, productivity and retention. In fact, Gallup estimates that the overall U.S. economy may be losing between $450 and $550 billion a year in productivity as a result of widespread disengagement. 

With engagement low, you can expect to see retention tank as well. As more and more employees burn out and leave, you'll be left with an increasingly large number of vacancies to fill — and finding, hiring, onboarding and training talent is expensive.

The Work Institute estimates the average cost of turnover to be one-third of annual salary. Add to that the usually difficult to estimate costs, such as lost opportunities and the impact on other employees who may need to pick up the slack until the position is filled, among others. Difficult to estimate or not, it is clear the costs can quickly mount.

How to Raise Low Morale
If you’re starting to spot the warning signs of low morale, you need to ask questions in order to understand what employees care about, actively listen to what you hear and then take action to address concerns that dampen employee enthusiasm.

1) Start by Asking Questions
Before you can start taking corrective action, you need to get a good idea of the major and minor issues bothering your workforce. Our research consistently shows disconnects between what employers believe are the issues and what employees say they are.

  • Talk to your managers to get their perspectives on potential issues they may be seeing. Look for commonalities between their reports.
  • Ask employees. Conduct an anonymous employee survey to get honest, first-hand feedback from your team about areas they feel need to be addressed.
  • Create a channel for employees to regularly provide input to management all year round and to surface issues before they have a chance to escalate. 

2) Offer Opportunities for Growth
To improve morale and motivation, a good place to start is training. 

  • Provide upskilling opportunities, especially in areas where employees may be concerned about automation impacting their jobs. 
  • Offer training and development programs that focus on soft skills to show your employees you care about their success. 
  • Provide a clear roadmap of advancement and pathways to growth in your organization so employees can visualize the way forward. 

3) Provide Competitive Pay and Meaningful Benefits
Employees want to know they are valued for their contributions. The most concrete way to recognize performance is to provide competitive pay. Another important way to engender employee loyalty is to structure benefit packages in ways that go beyond traditional health and welfare options to address other employee needs and desires. 

  • Use a salary calculator to compare current pay rates in your area to your own to ensure you stay competitive.
  • Be as transparent as you can about your compensation strategy so that employees can understand how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • Focus your benefits and perks packages around incentives that enhance your employees’ quality of life. 
  • Tailor benefits to match the different life stages of your team members to improve satisfaction across all age segments of your workforce. 

4) Partner with a Staffing Firm 
Sometimes a problem with morale is hard to fix on your own or maybe you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to an issue that requires full-time attention to correct. If that is the case, partnering with a staffing firm can help. 

A staffing partner can:

  • Help you prevent poor-fit hires with an ideal match of candidate to job, to supervisor and to company. Problems with morale can often be avoided by hiring people that truly fit your workplace from day one. 
  • Provide you with insights about what motivates the workforce and what employers need to do to meet changing employee expectations.
  • Design workforce management strategies to help you avoid issues with morale in the future. 

Don’t Let Low Morale De-Motivate Your Team
Low morale can reduce productivity, decrease profitability and increase turnover at your company. If you detect that morale is slipping at your organization, get proactive. Takes steps now to avoid incurring the higher costs of a larger engagement or retention issue down the line. To explore ways we may be able to help you address morale and ensure a happier team, please connect with your local Spherion office.