Employee Morale

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

It’s amazing to me how many places of business continually suffer from low morale. These are typically the companies that also provide low levels of customer service and either extremely high or low employee turnover rates. What I don’t understand is how the owner or upper management is completely blind to it.

 

What it really boils down to is a breakdown in the company culture. It isn’t that upper management is blind to it, it’s that they’re the ones who created it.

 

Have you ever noticed the difference in how people interact with you (or avoid you) when you’re in a good mood versus when you’re down in the dumps? That’s the affect owners and managers have on their staff, and over time it’s what creates what we call corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers have positive attitudes, are efficient workers, empower those around them to make decisions, allow their employees to make mistakes, regularly show appreciation and generally treat people fairly it creates a positive corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers are negative, expect more from others than they are willing to do themselves, demand that everything be done their way and are quick to criticize, it creates a negative corporate culture.

 

There are many more factors, however, that can affect corporate culture and thus employee morale.

 

What’s worse is that it began with the leaders, and although they may notice that their staff isn’t happy or behaving the way they would like, they don’t know what to do and ultimately wind up behaving in a more unsatisfactory way themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Sometimes the problem is that the person at the top is too removed now to notice. Sometimes they don’t have the authority they feel they need to make the decisions they think will change things.

 

So how you can turn bad morale around? Well, like everything else, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

 

One easy way is to invite someone you know will be completely honest with you to basically just wander around your place of business, strike up random conversations with employees, make observations, and ask absurd questions. Retail and restaurant businesses do this all the time, they call the spies ‘secret shoppers’.

 

Another way is to hire consultants who provide services that include keywords like employee relations, change management, process review, or human resources/relations. These consultants can offer data driven reports to help put the problem into perspective for absentee owners, removed boards, or oblivious managers.

 

Once the report is digested, it’s time to make a plan. Those same consultants can likely offer recommendations, best practices, implementation plans and strategies, and other assistance.

 

What can you do if you’ve noticed bad morale in your workplace but you have no authority? You could request a closed door candid conversation with your boss, you can take notes and make a report of your own that you share with the “powers that be” at your company, you could locate consultants in your area who may be able to help and find a way to discreetly introduce them to upper management, and ultimately you could decide to leave in search of a job in a better environment. But do me a favor? On your way out, tell them the truth about why you’re leaving. It could just be the wakeup call they need.

Benefits of Employee Turnover

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President  

 

We’ve all heard the reasons that employee turnover can be undesirable; it may indicate poor leadership, noncompetitive wages, or bad working conditions. As a current business owner, former manager of a large staff and previous employee several times over, I have learned to appreciate the benefits of employee turnover.

That’s right, I said benefits.

When I was an employee, which I was from the age of 14, I was constantly looking around, trying to find a way to advance, learn more, and earn more. It wasn’t that I didn’t work for any great companies. I was simply motivated and ambitious. Companies that I worked for longer than others typically recognized that spark and rewarded it with additional training, advancement opportunities, and regular reviews with the possibility of pay increases. But ultimately I would move on.

As the manager of a staff of about 25, I quickly noticed that many of the employees who had been with that company the longest were the ones who least personified the image and direction I had been hired to accomplish. They were complacent, and generally lacked motivation and customer service skills. As I came on board and started to shake things up, no one remained indifferent. Several employees decided that if the job wasn’t so “cushy” anymore, they weren’t interested and they quit. This gave me the opportunity to hire new recruits and train them to be more active and engaging.

Several of the employees who remained did so because they were inspired; they welcomed a fresh perspective and change, they wanted to be part of something that was improving. They were rewarded with new responsibilities, which they relished.

The problem with no or low turnover is that it creates a sense of stagnancy and complacency. Have you ever heard people say that you should hire the person who wants your job? Those people are interested, motivated, engaging, determined to do better, to seek more. Of course, they need to be skilled, intelligent and willing to do the work, but I believe every business owner and manager should want their staff to be made up of employees eager to learn new things, advance, make changes and improvements, to someday be sitting in your chair.

In many cases, this will mean that you will lose great employees. They will find new and better opportunities elsewhere. The best thing you can do is give your employees opportunities to learn more, to earn more, to implement change, nurture them to grow. And sometimes to shake their hand and congratulate them when they leave you to seek a new direction. Those employees will either become one of the best assets your company has ever had, or a wonderful ally in your business community.

If they go, it also gives you the opportunity to promote the next best human asset your company has and to hire new employees with fresh perspectives. If you foster the type of business atmosphere where employees feel comfortable speaking freely, where they are encouraged to introduce creative ideas and solutions and where growth from failure is as common as rewards for success, then every new employee you bring on board has the potential to become a valued asset, even if only temporarily.

Encourage your employees to keep learning and growing, rejoice in their successes both inside and outside your company and welcome every new opportunity to hire a worthy and fresh set of eyes, ears and hands.