Employee Morale is a delicate thing.  The slightest change in routine, procedure or guideline could throw your employees’ state of mind into a tailspin.  Think back to negative experiences in your past roles.  What events put you and your peers into a negative mood? Did your manager make you do something that you didn’t want to do, or you didn’t believe in? Did management take away Casual Friday? Did John from Accounting get a totally undeserved promotion (and a raise!?!?!)? Did Nancy take full personal credit for the group project?  How did that make you and your co-workers feel?  How long did those feelings last?  How about when you get into a fight with your significant other or family member?  Do you walk away feeling neutral, or are the rest of your actions influenced by your bad mood until the argument is resolved.  Mine are for sure.  Most people don’t bounce back very quickly from negative experiences but only receive fleeting emotional impact from praise or positive events.  It turns out that this may be an evolutionary trait, helping early humans understand and adapt to the actions that are most likely to reduce their survival rate (“Bad Is Stronger Than Good”), causing them to ruminate about certain negative events, cementing them into their psyche and sharing the information with others.

This is one of the things that makes managing people so difficult, the fact that every positive experience and interaction holds significantly less weight and creates a less lasting impact on the fuel that powers your company’s performance engine.  Like Sisyphus from Greek mythology, the King of Ephyra, punished for his power-hungry actions and dishonesty by having to push an enormous boulder up a hill only to have it roll back to the bottom just as he gets it to the top, a people leader can provide all of the praise, work-life balance, recognition and energized leadership possible just to have morale undermined by poor corporate communication, an organizational misstep, or worst of all, a toxic co-worker.

To add to all of the above negativity, Morale has a huge impact on performance: companies with high morale are more productive (Weakliem and Frenkel 2006), Salespeople with high morale deliver higher sales (McClelland and Burnham 2003); companies with high morale have larger stock price gains than their low morale competitors (Sirota et al 2005) and countless studies on how morale impacts turnover.  So it pays to measure, manage, and act on factors that create a sustained increase in overall morale (Hardy, Alcock Malpass, 2016).

So how do we improve our morale?

There is an unending supply of articles and research papers attempting to identify and communicate the factors that influence morale in organizations.  However, they are all wrong… or right… or both.  Who knows?  This is because each employee, employer, and direct manager are unique.  We could know generally what is good for morale, implement that practice and totally disengage an entire workgroup.  No, the key to this is not generally accepted principles.  The key is to listen. Create a continually open conduit for your employees to share how they are feeling.  A 24/7 real-time data gathering system for your employees to share the things that delight them and disgust them.  At Qualtrics, we call this the “Digital Open Door,” and many of our clients yield huge gains in actionable input and performance from an Employee Listening Program.

See how VW Australia is focusing on employees to delight customers

Enter the digital open door

The digital open door takes many forms and just because you offer an on-demand feedback system, does not mean that the majority of people will provide input.  As a pull mechanism, always-on listening mechanisms provide an avenue for employees to bring up issues voluntarily and provide unsolicited feedback where they otherwise may not have the opportunity. In fact, On-demand, anonymous employee feedback is an increasingly popular method for leaders and managers to gather employee feedback. However, it is important to layer in other methods of primary employee research in order to gather the right data and provide actionable input for managers.

The digital open door spans several categories of information gathering techniques.  From always-on to yearly engagement census.

By Leveraging Qualtrics flexible form to initiate surveys at the exact right moment in each individual employees’ lifecycle and pulse surveys around hot topics and trending themes, then analyze and report on the findings in real-time; companies with all levels of engagement and morale can democratize employee feedback and empower every leader to drive results for their department and team.

As a workplace strategist, your challenge is to understand what is going on in your company and place the answers and actions into the hands of your executives and people leaders.  Setting up a cadence of feedback points throughout the year and employee lifecycle will allow you to gather the right data and access to easy-to-use, robust, analysis tools will help you bridge the gap between information and action.

In addition to helping uncover factors that raise or lower morale  The Qualtrics analytics platform enables you to identify key drivers of performance and engagement and automatically decipher text responses to pinpoint recurring themes and underlying sentiment.  The action planning resources derived from these findings create a roadmap for people leaders and executives to effectively maintain/raise morale and increase performance by aligning corporate culture and strategy around key drivers.

The impact of this type of program is immense.  Qualtrics’ recent Pulse Study found that workers who say their employer acts on their feedback are 4 times more likely to stay with their company than employees who don’t think their feedback changes anything.  Furthermore, our research confirms the impact, though fleeting, positive feedback has on employees; though only slightly more than half (56%) of employees say their manager consistently acknowledges them for good work, those that do are 5 times more likely to stay with their company.  Obviously, both groups have high morale if they are so satisfied where they work.  That is because their managers have the tools and information that they need to direct their management efforts in ways that their team members have indicated would help them reach high performance, high employee engagement, and high morale.

Conclusion

This type of focus on the rapidly changing levels of morale takes a coordinated and concerted effort.  Our research shows that there are 4 operational Pillars that drive Employee Experience success.  Aligning executives and culture around feedback and transparency as an integral driver of employee experience and performance.  Creating a feedback capture system that gathers the right employee data at the right time (including on-demand outlets for communicating).  Empowering managers and providing the tools and information that helps them increase engagement, morale, and performance.  And deploying a flexible and scalable system that grows with your culture and organization to connect employee data with every element of your business.  Only Qualtrics provides a platform for implementing every level of real-time measurement and action that supports today’s businesses.  If you are interested in learning more about measuring and increasing levels of morale in the workplace.

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