A happy employee works harder. It seems like a simple concept, but many companies struggle to create workplaces that influence employee morale in positive ways.
Ignoring this problem is a mistake. Happy workers generate a significant return on investment. A 10 percent increase in employee engagement investments generates an additional $2,400 in profit per employee annually, according to a study by Glassdoor. So why aren't more businesses focusing on keeping workers happy?
Global banking conglomerate JP Morgan Chase announced that it would raise its corporate minimum wage to increase retention and improve quality of life for its workers. Similarly, international coffee chain Starbucks recently announced a blanket raise for U.S. employees in an effort to combat low morale.
"As the job market continues to tighten and the labor pool shrinks, we are seeing some companies raise their corporate minimum wages in an effort to retain employees," says Jason Guggisberg, regional vice president for staffing firm Adecco Staffing USA. "Many businesses are ultimately looking at wage increases as a solution that will help them remain competitive. Similarly, many advocates of increased federal minimum wages are interested in addressing pay inequality so that workers feel more engaged."
The Quick Fix
If you've decided to give out raises as a means to improve the attitude in your workplace, talk to your employees. Be sure that a raise alone will be enough. It may be that pay isn't the only problem -- or possibly isn't the problem at all.
"Wage increases can improve office morale when employees are disgruntled over the size of their paychecks, but employers should be cautious of larger issues that may be at play," says Guggisberg. "Unmet salary expectations aren't the only reason why someone decides to look for a new job -- company culture also plays a big role in employee happiness. If culture is the problem, raising salary is only a Band-Aid solution that won't address the heart of the morale issue."
The Permanent Fix
There are other ways to improve morale around the office aside from raises -- which is good news for those employers that can't afford blanket raises. Even better news is that addressing non-pay factors often results in longer-lasting boosts to employee engagement and happiness than the boosts caused by simple raises.
"Even if they can't afford pay raises, companies can still influence other workplace factors to keep their employees happy and engaged at work, such as company culture, work-life balance, and management style," says Guggisberg. "Businesses should encourage a trusting environment and empower employees to treat their personal lives as a priority, but with the understanding that work needs to be completed as well. Evolving beyond the typical nine-to-five schedule and evaluating team performance based on the content and quality of their work, rather than the number of hours spent behind a desk, is a great way to help boost employee morale. In addition, companies should regularly show gratitude and highlight internal triumphs to cultivate a supportive and encouraging workplace culture -- this will especially help to retain top talent."
When employees don't feel engaged, they'll put less into their work and will probably end up seeking more fulfilling opportunities eventually.
"Employers need to strive for employee engagement consistently in order to optimize the skill sets of employees at all levels," says Guggisberg. "To keep employees happy and minimize turnover, some companies have embraced unique programs such as four-day workweeks during the summer; unlimited vacation time; or regular group outings that support camaraderie, like paid time off to volunteer as a team. People are naturally more engaged when they are able to pursue both personal and professional goals, as well as when they are recognized for their hard work."
The Preemptive Fix
Among the simplest ways to keep office morale high is making sure you hire the right people in the first place. When an employee doesn't feel like they are a valuable part of the company, they can bring down the mood of the entire office.
"One of the biggest ways a company can hinder its culture is by making rash hiring decisions," says Guggisberg. "It's crucial that careful thought goes into every hiring decision. During the interview process, consider asking questions to assess not only a candidate's skill set, but also their behavior and interests. It's also beneficial to seek out trusted resources to help determine if a candidate is a strong culture fit before bringing that person on as a new team member."
Ultimately, office morale is a subject that can be looked at from many different angles. To get the most out of your workers, make sure your company is doing everything possible to keep them happy. Your employees will thank you -- and so will your bottom line.