4 Subtle Changes That Will Boost Employee Morale

Organizations put a lot of effort into boosting employee productivity, often by offering perks like free food or coffee. Unfortunately, companies tend to pay a lot less attention to what really matters: employee morale.

According to The Engagement Institute, disengaged employees cost organizations up to $550 billion annually. It also doesn't help that 51 percent of employees are looking to leave their current jobs, according to Gallup.

Can you imagine the impact it has on your bottom line when half of your employees do not even want to be at work?

The situation is not hopeless, however. The following subtle changes, based on research and expert opinion, will go a long way in boosting employee morale at your company:

1. Show Concern and Empathy

In a recent feature detailing grueling conditions at Tesla factories, production worker Richard Otriz told The Guardian, "Everything feels like the future but us."

While Tesla workers believe in the company's vision, many report feeling uncared for. Employees believe the company is putting production numbers ahead of well-being and safety. For example, one worker reports that when managers were made aware of employees' pain at work, they responded with, "We all hurt. You can't man up?"

When managers treat employees this way, morale is bound to plummet.

Research shows that 80 percent of employees would work more hours for more empathetic employers. Simply showing care and concern for employees can go a long way. When an employee is in pain, trying to understand what they are going through and letting them know you care will not only make the employee feel valued, but it will also send a strong message to other employees. When workers know they are valued, they will go to great lengths to help achieve your goals.

2. Avoid Criticizing Employees

When you feel passionate about what you do, it's easy to flare up if an employee seems to be "sabotaging" your efforts through their performance. Before you chastise that employee, stop and remember what Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People: "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do."

When an employee's performance is not up to par, caustic criticism isn't the way to get them on track. It may feel good for five minutes to "show them who's boss," but afterward, your employee will feel crushed. They certainly won't make much progress if that happens.

Instead of criticizing and complaining, think about ways to more creatively give feedback. Try starting conversations by inquiring about an employee's personal well-being to ensure everything is okay. Often, you'll get to the heart of the matter in no time. If you take this approach to feedback, you'll win the respect and admiration of your employees.

3. Don't Treat Employees Like Cogs in the Machine

A key culprit behind low employee productivity is the feeling workers may have that they are just numbers, anonymous units to be used and ignored at the company's whim. While many managers do not feel this way about their employees, they often give off the impression that they do.

For example, when an employee sends you a message and you do not respond for days, that makes them feel ignored. Similarly, when you promise to review an employee's task by keep blowing it off, you send a very strong message: "You don't matter."

When you give an employee a task, be sure to review it in a timely manner. When they reach out to you, get back to them quickly – or at least give them a genuine reason for not getting back. Be responsive to and considerate of employees' needs, and morale will shoot through the roof.

4. Acknowledge and Praise Employees' Efforts

It can be difficult for managers to praise employees for their work. Many managers feel it unnecessary – after all, employees are being compensated for their effort, right?

It doesn't quite work that way.

"Simple words like, 'You are such a valuable part of this organization' or 'You're making such an impact, and we're fortunate to have someone as committed as you are,' can go a long way toward boosting employee morale and motivation," says Nicholas Dutko, CEO of Auto Transport Quote Services. "The employees work with passion and spirit; they feel like an essential part of the organization, and they become committed to the organization's goal."

According to Officevibe, 60 percent of workers would like their work praised more frequently. If you are not used to acknowledging your employees and praising their work, it's time to build a new habit.

Importantly, you should try to offer recognition publicly. Research has shown that 76 percent of employees find peer praise to be extremely motivating. If you make them look cool in front of their peers, you are a winner!

John Stevens is the founder and CEO of Hosting Facts.