According to Dale Carnegie Training, “companies lose $350 billion a year because of employee disengagement” – in essence, because of low morale in the workplace.

Employee morale is largely fostered by an open work environment – one in which communication is embraced and practiced at the highest levels. It’s bad enough when an employee feels like he’s totally lost control of his job as he watches his colleague pack his belongings and walk out the front door, but it’s even worse when management refuses to talk about what’s happening within the organization.

Regular meetings to openly and honestly discuss the company’s status, plans, cutbacks and even possible lay-offs are key to beginning a sense of empowerment and calm for employees. Meetings also provide forums to ask questions, gain information, discuss challenges and allay fears as employees are able to deal with facts and reality, opposed to the gossip around the water cooler. So if a company isn’t holding regular employee meetings they should begin doing so immediately. It’s amazing how productivity increases when employee time isn’t spent on wondering what’s going to happen next in this difficult economic climate.

Besides keeping employees informed, finding ways to make employees feel respected, valued and appreciated also go a long way to boosting morale. And since many companies have cut back on holiday and special event parties, this is more critical than ever.

It’s been said that “less is more,” a great principle to remember when recognizing employees for delivering work well-done or special projects requiring extra time, energy, creativity and technical skill. A simple recognition email sent to a department or company-wide is an out-of-the-park home-run for an employee’s self-esteem. Who doesn’t want her peers to know she’s worked late for the past month to get a product out the door that’s going to keep the company’s doors open? Who isn’t going to be motivated when kudos aren’t just given by a supervisor, but by a team, department or entire staff? And this type of recognition doesn’t cost a cent, either.

Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, discovered that most employees crave communication, involvement and autonomy. “Every employee should be given the chance to determine how best to do their jobs, as well as increased authority and leeway in the handling of company resources,” says Nelson.

Giving employees opportunities to participate in committees such as wellness, safety, fundraisers and employee recognition programs increases their responsibilities and independence. It provides a sense of ownership to help improve business and the corporate culture. It also gives managers an opportunity to observe leaders arise and use skills they haven’t necessarily used in their current or past roles. Being asked to participate on committees makes employees feel good about themselves and the simple fact they were sought out for assistance.

Cost-effective thank you gifts provide another avenue to boost employee morale. When an employee has surpassed production or sales goals or just done something outstanding for the company, nothing says, “Thank you,” better than a gas or retail gift card, a day at a Water Park, 18 holes of golf, a manicure, movie or dinner. The better you know the employee, the more pertinent your gift can be. That will make the employee even feel more valued than ever.

The main thing, when dealing with employee morale in our uncertain times, is to remember employees are people – people who thrive and produce in positive, motivated, communicative work environments. Even when times are tough and balance sheets are scrutinized, employees will be energized to produce, performing at optimum levels, when they feel heard, respected and given the opportunity to succeed by utilizing their talent along with company resources. They will be loyal, regardless of challenges, because they know their company is giving its very best!

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                          Be great today!!

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