How to Improve Employee Morale and Job Satisfaction (With Real Examples From Top Companies)

You want to improve employee morale and job satisfaction? Here's 7 ways to improve employee morale used by leading companies that have seen real world success.

Over the past few months, you’ve noticed something unsettling.

Employees who once jumped at the chance to take on a new project no longer volunteer during meetings.

Star players who once arrived at the office an hour early and left late - by choice! - are now clocking-out right at five.

Overall, your staff isn’t bringing the same energy they once had for the job.

It goes without saying that this isn’t a good sign. Engaged employees are fully committed to the growth of their company.

They share ideas, reach out to colleagues to collaborate on projects, and go the extra mile to turn a good deliverable into a great one.

On the other hand, disengaged employees practice what’s known as presenteeism. They show up, do their job, and go home.

They’re not bad employees, but they’ve made the decision not to care too much about their work.

For a high growth company, this can be devastating.

So, how can you inject some energy into your team? You can start by taking these steps to boost employee morale and increase job satisfaction.

Improve employee morale: Recognize your employees on a consistent basis

Recognize your employees on a consistent basis

Recognizing your employees is one of the most effective ways to boost employee morale.

One study found that 82% of employees don’t feel like they’re recognized enough at work.

What’s even more interesting is that 40% of respondents said they’d put in more effort if their contributions were better acknowledged.

Pay is important, but it’s not everything, especially past a certain threshold. And if your company employs in-demand talent, they’ll already be paid at or beyond this ceiling.

So it’s important to think about what other factors will keep them happy in the job and keep them performing at their highest potential.

What are the top companies doing to create a “recognition culture” across their organization?

Yum! Brands worked on building a strong recognition culture across the entire organization. And since their organization spanned 125 countries, it was important that this recognition culture be cross-culturally relevant.

The first big step the company took was talking to their employees, regardless of status or seniority.

Rather than only soliciting opinions from direct reports, they’d ask frontline employees and other staff for their opinions about specific operations.

They would also share as much information as possible with their employees, to foster a sense of transparency and shared accountability.

When employees receive the right information, it shows that their company cares about their opinion which in turn makes them care about that company.

And once employees care, their commitment to the company extends beyond doing the bare minimum. They go the extra mile because they know their efforts will be rewarded.

Once you’ve got your employees convinced that their contributions matter, be sure to recognize their contributions. For example, Yum! Brands focused on celebrating “first downs, not just touchdowns”.

Also, try to make your recognition as personalized as possible. One study found that over three-quarters of employees hang on to handwritten thank you notes.

What’s more, they focused on making things timely. Instead of waiting for annual reviews to recognize employees, they recognize employees in the moment.

How can you build a recognition culture within your organization?

How can you build a recognition culture within your organization and boost employee morale?

Improve employee morale: Properly invest in employee onboarding and training

Properly invest in employee onboarding and training

It’s no secret that employee morale is tied to an employee’s overall job satisfaction.

If an employee wants to feel satisfied in their work, they need to know how to do their job well.

This is why designing a strong employee training program is part of the employee morale equation. If your employees feel well prepared and properly equipped to do their job, then they can do it to the best of their ability.

Plus, properly trained employees understand how their work ties into the organization’s larger objectives, how to do their job properly, and how to work efficiently.

There are specific points in the employee journey when effective training is critical to employee morale:

What are the top companies offering in terms of internal training opportunities?

The best companies invest in effective employee training opportunities, not just at the onboarding stage but beyond as well.

For instance, Amazon runs a month-long training and leadership program for new employees. It also prepays tuition for employees who want to pursue additional studies in in-demand fields.

SAS, the business analytics software company, provides in-class and on-the-job training for new graduates so they’re thoroughly prepared before starting a full-time role. Plus, they offer additional training opportunities and career mentoring.

As one of the company’s senior communications specialist notes, “Knowledge workers never want to be stagnant. So SAS provides opportunities for growth to keep our employees challenged, motivated, and engaged.”

How can you create an effective internal training program?

You want to create an internal training program that is valuable to your employees. Providing access to an online module with irrelevant training materials isn’t enough to boost employee morale.

If you want a morale-boosting training program, you’ll need to think about what sorts of development opportunities feed the need for new challenges.

Improve employee morale: Regularly collect feedback from employees

Regularly collect feedback from employees

The annual employee survey is one of HR’s favorite tools.

It’s also one of the most roundly mocked workplace activities.

In fact, the average employee survey response rate sits at about 30 to 40%.

One study conducted by Aon Hewitt found that only one-fifth of workers believe their responses will result in any action from their employer.

And even if a large number of employees participate in the survey, there’s no direct correlation between high response rates and high employee engagement.

For instance, pressure from line managers - who must meet a certain quota of completed surveys on their team - may prompt employees to quickly complete the survey.

In turn, those employees may just check boxes without actually reading the questions.

Why don’t employees complete employee surveys?

Oftentimes, it’s because they think nothing will come of the results. The entire survey feels like a charade that won’t lead to meaningful change.

How are the top companies soliciting feedback from their employees?

Some companies have introduced more frequent pulse surveys.

At most companies, these pulse surveys don’t replace employee surveys. Instead, they provide real-time information on how employees feel that can put the yearly survey results in context.

For instance, at one communications firm employees receive questions one at a time that pop up on their screen several times per week.

The questions are quick temperature checks - “Do you feel that your manager listens to you?” - that give the company a sense of how employees are feeling at the moment.

Plus, these questions can ask about anything, like how employees feel about their new office chairs.

They can also be explicitly used to boost employee morale by asking non-work related questions. For example, a pop-up question may ask workers to pick between two famous pop stars or describe a funny childhood incident like a bad haircut.

The goal is to create a sense of camaraderie and boost employee morale.

GE, which started the traditional performance management many companies are redesigning, now believes “Fast Feedback” is the key to its future

How can you obtain more useful employee feedback?

The key to effective employee engagement is sincerity. If decision-makers don’t demonstrate that employee feedback will lead to change, then they won’t take requests for employee feedback seriously.

Here are a few ways your company can obtain more useful feedback - and improve job satisfaction in the process.

Improve employee morale: Encourage employees to collaborate and form connections across teams

Encourage employees to collaborate and form connections across teams

Professional friendships and associations boost employee morale. Research shows that people are happier when they have “work friends”.

They also thrive. in one Gallup poll, respondents who said they “strongly agree” that they have a best friend at work were:

Camaraderie within an organization creates a sense of community and having a support system. Great organizations do this by fostering a collaborative environment where ideas from various parts of the business are valued and employees feel a sense of shared pride in the company’s work.

What are the top companies doing to foster collaboration and cross-team relationships?

TDS Telecom provides telecommunications services in 31 states and employs over 2,800 people.

They offer remote working opportunities to their employees. About 14% of the company’s workforce works from home.

Nevertheless, the company has still created the infrastructure to ensure employees forge connections and never become isolated.

They’ve introduced technology platforms specifically designed to help employees stay connected and communicate with each other.

Employees can share their interests and find others within the organization who play the same instrument or enjoy a similar hobby.

These tools are also meant to help employees collaborate with each other, share best practices, and find creative solutions to problems.

For instance, an employee in the field can share a photo of a damaged piece of equipment and solicit advice from other workers across the country to quickly receive an expert opinion on how to approach the problem.

This kind of network also gives service reps the real-time information they need to do their job effectively, which is to inform and advise customers.

Similarly, Nokia has programmed collaboration into their onboarding program.

When a new employee starts, they’re encouraged to introduced to six members of their team.

They’re also expected to have a proper introductory meeting where they have an in-depth conversation about the colleague’s background and competencies.

And to encourage cross-team collaboration, they’re introduced to six people outside their team and expected to do the same.

How can you encourage collaboration and relationship building within your organization?

There are a few ways your organization can build a collaborative culture.

Improve employee morale: Offer bonuses based on company performance

Get rid of bonuses based on annual ratings - with one big exception

This may seem counter-intuitive, but bear with us.

For many companies, compensation reviews and individual performance evaluations are tightly weaved together.

At the end of the year, an employee sits down with their manager who uses a scorecard or other ratings system to figure out whether they met expectations, underperformed, or overperformed.

If they met expectations, great! They receive a salary in line with market rates.

If they underperformed, they get a salary below market rate.

And if they overperformed, they get a salary that exceeds market rate.

But this may not be the best approach.

After all, the entire idea of using metrics and scorecards comes from an old world of work where it was all about producing a specific number of units each day.

Today’s top companies are in the business of generating original ideas and collaborating to solve thorny problems. Not manufacturing products.

With this out-of-date system, employees spend an unnecessary amount of time tracking KPIs that may not even matter - oftentimes, there are KPIs that only account for 5% of an employee’s performance rating.

And as McKinsey points out, these traditional systems rely on determining “shades of differential performance among the majority of employees”.

In other words, you’re spending a lot of time evaluating all your average employees - and stressing those average employees out in the process - effectively reducing employee morale.

And since traditional evaluation systems link metrics to compensation, employees overcorrect and take an extremely risk-averse approach to their work, to avoid making mistakes that can jeopardize their salary.

Instead, a smart approach is to offer a fixed salary and link bonuses to company-wide performance. Offering these bonuses in the form of stock options is a smart way to give employees a sense of ownership.

Employee morale is boosted because contributors don’t feel like everything they do is under a microscope.

But there is one caveat to this approach...

Exception: give outstanding contributors bonuses that align with their output

Those familiar with the Pareto principle know that 80% of results are achieved by 20% of contributors.

Top companies like Google understand this, and it’s why they don’t limit compensation to salary bands based on roles.

Instead, they focus on identifying the outstanding contributors and then compensate them accordingly.

They are happy to pay two employees with the exact same job responsibilities at completely different rates. In fact, compensation can vary by as much as 500%!

In other words, an excellent junior employee can make just as much, if not more than, an average senior employee.

Star employees stick around. They don’t become disenchanted with an organization or feel that they’re “wasting” their talent at a company that pays them the same or less than people doing less work.

How can you determine employee bonuses?

If you want to award employee bonuses better, consider the following:

Improve employee morale: Offer competitive compensation packages

Offer competitive compensation packages

Did you know that money can buy happiness?

Well, at least to a certain degree.

Psychologists say that for individuals $60,000 to $75,000 is necessary for emotional well-being while $95,000 is ideal for life satisfaction.

What this means is that paying your employees well boosts employee morale.

How much a worker makes determines how much he or she can do outside of their job.

It determines how much financial stress they have.

The less they worry about money, the more they can focus on the task at hand.

A decent salary signals to employees that the company cares about them as individuals, not exclusively as numbers on a spreadsheet.

It also boosts employee retention. If a job allows an employee to live comfortably, they’ll spend less time looking for another job that pays better.

But it’s important to remember: pay is not the only factor in compensation.

You’ve also got to think about benefits like health, dental, vision, retirement savings programs, and more.

If employees can ensure the health of themselves and their families, and your company offers one of the best benefits packages, there’s little incentive for them to leave.

How are top companies approaching compensation?

Job site Indeed analyzed over 18 million reviews to find which companies offered the best compensation packages. They drew up a list of the top 15 companies.

The surprising thing? Many of the top 15 companies weren’t trendy tech start-ups with the publicized perks.

Instead, they were companies like Costco, FedEx, and Capital One.

Of course, there were some familiar big names like Apple, Microsoft, and Intel.

Costco pays its workers well above minimum wage, and they offer a graduated wage program that means that your pay goes up simply for being a consistent, reliable employee who shows up for work every day.

FedEx stands out because of its excellent benefits program.

One reviewer noted that even as a permanent part-time worker, he received an excellent health, vision, and dental benefits plan that most other companies typically reserved for full-time workers only.

A former employee noted:

“FedEx provided me a great job with great benefits. I worked there for 20 years with great vacation time, benefits, stability and a great environment. It is a company that still provides a pension, which in these days is rare.”

How can you create a competitive compensation plan?

Ready to create a great compensation plan? It’s time to ask yourself the following questions.

Once you answer these questions, you can start assembling an effective compensation plan.

Improve employee morale: Provide reviews on a regular basis

Offer employee reviews on a regular basis - not just annually

Annual performance reviews aren’t doing much for employee morale.

As far as employees are concerned, annual reviews are just an opportunity for managers to list all of the things they did wrong during the year.

And the stuff they did do well? Well, it’s often difficult for managers to recall everything that happened over the past 12 months.

But you better believe an employee clearly remembers the times they worked late or on weekends to get a project done.

Another criticism is how black and white the evaluation criteria is within some organizations. The use of grading systems or multiple managers means that context that only the direct manager would know gets lost.

As a result, employees lose faith in the results and don’t view them as an accurate reflection of their efforts.

And since these results are linked to compensation levels, bonuses, and promotions, annual reviews lead to a reduction in overall employee morale.

And here’s the thing: managers may not be a fan of annual reviews either.

In fact, some managers are fed up with the tendency of employees to suddenly ramp up performance in the month before a performance review.

It also puts managers in the uncomfortable position of “lowering” the performance scores of star employees. Some companies put limits on how many contributors can receive top marks, undermining the integrity of the entire system.

How are the top companies approaching employee reviews?

The annual “stack and rank” approach to employee reviews was taking a toll on employee morale at Microsoft.

The system relied on a 5-point system, with 1 being the highest ranking. Microsoft’s system required managers to limit the number of 1s they awarded, so star employees would wind up with a lower ranking even if their work justified a higher score.

In addition to lowering employee morale and fueling negative media stories, the system discouraged employees from collaborating with top performers, since this might lower their own assessments.

The tendency of managers to discuss rankings with fellow managers was another blow to employee morale. More outspoken managers could advocate for their top employees while quieter managers would accept lower scores for their superstars.

To change, Microsoft initiated a system of more frequent reviews between employees and managers.

With this system, employees can solicit reviews and comments from their colleagues. The system collects the responses, which are then shared with the employee’s manager and the employee.

How can you create introduce regular reviews between managers and employees?

Instead of relying exclusively on annual reviews, implement the following:

High employee morale equals high employee engagement and low turnover

Everyone in HR knows that it’s much less expensive to keep your existing employees happy than it is to find replacements.

Plus, when employees do eventually leave for new opportunities, you want them to say fantastic things, so other talented people will want to take their place.

As a result, it’s important to invest energy into boosting your employee morale. Your people - and your bottom line - will thank you.

Could you tie this section to employee surveys? The reason I'm asking is because we don't offer performance review and I think that this section could drive visitors toward competitors that do.

Maybe talk about the important of frequent employee feedback to understand where a manager can improve.

Interested in learning how technology can help you improving employee morale and job satisfaction? Learn more about our people analytics and employee engagement software.

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