Every good sports tale needs a final rally that leads to the climax. You know, when the coach solemnly offers profound words to boost morale, urging teamwork, a fight to the finish and justice for all. The music soars, the faces beam, they shout in unison! It’s exciting, invigorating and so darn heartwarming. 

While your work team may not be shooting for a championship cup/title/trophy, employees appreciate a shot of encouragement, too. KSL Jobs outlines a game plan for writing your own winning narrative.

Morale of the story

We spend an average 8.28 hours at work or doing work-related activities each day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while happy and discontented employees work the same number of hours, a study by Oxford University’s Säid Business School found that the former are 13% more productive at work. Clearly, there are reasons to build team morale.

In addition to getting more done, positive employee morale — their enthusiasm, optimism and commitment to the job — leads to lower turnover, according to Gallup. That means you’ll spend less time and money on training newcomers. 

Also, there’s more dynamic teamwork when employees feel safe. Because they feel comfortable, they have the courage to reach out to coworkers when there’s a problem, which may ultimately result in more innovative solutions.

That positive attitude carries over to your customer base, too. Gallup found that when employees are satisfied, there’s a 10% increase in customer loyalty. Bottom line: Good employee morale means everyone is happier and your business thrives.

It’s not personnel

Building that team morale can be one of the most challenging aspects of management. You are tasked with finding ways to help individuals — sometimes with quite diverse backgrounds — feel like equally contributing members.

Simple, everyday efforts can make a difference. For example, instead of saying, “My door is always open,” conduct stay interviews to learn what they like and don’t like about the job. During meetings, call on employees who haven’t spoken up yet. When employees seek help or advice with a project, readily support them.

The ideal way to help your employees feel valued is to actually care about them. Former Yahoo! chief solutions officer Tim Sanders said the most powerful force in business today is not competition or greed, it’s love. That’s not to say you need to start picking out curtains. But you do need to recognize that they are individuals with their own wants and needs.

Growing gains

Doing the same tasks everyday can get boring, even for the most focused employees. Keep them invested and motivated by offering ways to grow. That could mean creating different types of projects to work on, giving new responsibilities or transferring people between departments.

You can also promote learning by investing in professional or personal development courses. Encourage employees to take online or in-person classes or send them to a conference. They’ll be challenged, and you’ll get a better-trained team in return. It’s a win-win!

Shout it out

Is everything running smoothly? You have your employees to thank for that. Tell them! A Gallup poll found that employees just want their work to be appreciated. That could be as simple as sending a thank you card or giving a shoutout on a company Slack channel. Even making note of their exceptional work during regular evaluations helps them feel valued. Formal recognition might include an official award or a bonus. 

Perhaps it stems from childhood, when we actively sought our parent’s approval, but people tend to especially treasure getting praise from their leaders. Indeed, Gallup found that 28% of people said their most memorable recognition was from a manager, while 24% said praise from a CEO or other company director stuck with them. In contrast, researchers found that those who feel their efforts aren’t noticed are twice as likely to say they’ll quit within a year.

Balancing (is no) act

Whether it’s the everyday tedium or consistent late nights, burnout happens when work-life balance is askew. Encourage your employees to take time away. Offering paid time off, but then openly praising Tom for always working late into the night, muddles the message. Instead, ask about vacation plans or talk about what everyone did over the weekend. Let your team know that you are as serious about their time off as their time on.

Another way to get people off the clock is to institute office hours for messages, i.e., no emails should be sent between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. If possible, don’t reach out to the employee at all outside of regular work hours and especially on their day off. Anytime they are pulled back into work, it takes away from that sometimes fragile balance.

Actively engaged

Simple activities, say an occasional pizza party, might be fun, but it doesn’t usually motivate anyone older than 14. That’s not to say you should skip social events. Instead, focus on creating meaningful ones that build team unity.

Consider fun activities where people must pull together to accomplish a task — a ropes course, an escape room or relay races. Or learn something new together, such as attending a group painting class. 

Shared experiences, such as working for a common cause, naturally build camaraderie. That could be volunteering at a local food bank or doing yard work at a domestic violence shelter. 

Remote possibilities

If your team works fully remote or on a hybrid schedule, there’s an additional challenge to keeping employees happily engaged. Keep in mind any special issues when working from home.

  • Be conscientious of schedules: Choose meeting times that work well for all employees
  • Hold regular video meetings: Seeing actual faces builds connections
  • Make collaboration easy: Use interactive tools, such as shared documents or spreadsheets, so everyone can contribute
  • Include socializing: Hold a Monday morning trivia challenge or a virtual happy hour on Fridays to allow team members to be less formal
  • Suggest nonwork Slack channels: Employees can share their interests and build unity over random topics

Face value

The only thing we do more than work is sleep, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so we want to feel like our time is well spent. As a business owner or manager, you can help employees find that satisfaction at work as they learn to trust you and other teammates, and as their individual needs are recognized. And, maybe throw in that free lunch once in a while.

Learn more ways to keep your employees working well together, from using personality tests to dealing with employee conflict, on the KSL Resource Center. Need to expand your team? List your openings on KSL Jobs.