Employee engagement, or the level of commitment to the company's goals, is a way to measure the practical effects of employee morale. No company can achieve its objectives without the full engagement and commitment of the employees who are responsible for implementing the objectives. Because companies with engaged employees tend to have higher morale, it's important to determine how to keep employees engaged and focused on meeting the company's objectives.
Importance of Engagement
Morale should not be defined solely by how employees feel. An employee might be perfectly happy to skate along in his job without helping the company achieve its goals. Instead, morale should be defined by the level of engagement an employee feels. An engaged employee is not necessarily happy all of the time, but she is always focused on helping the company achieve its goals. Unfortunately, many companies suffer from a low level of employment engagement. According to Gallup's 2013 "State of the American Workplace" survey of 350,000 American workers, 18 percent described themselves as "actively disengaged" from their jobs. These workers tend to have minimal emotional connection to their work and suffer from poor productivity. Fifty-two percent described themselves as "not engaged," meaning they contribute only what they need to contribute to avoid losing their jobs. Only 30 percent of respondents described themselves as being engaged at work.
Management is the Key
An employee with low morale can have a negative effect in a number of ways. For example, he might alienate customers through poor service, spread negative gossip about coworkers, call out of work more often or even steal from his employer. All of these activities undermine the company's ability to achieve its objectives. However, the solution is not necessarily to replace people who seem disengaged. Instead, focus on improving the morale of employees through better management. According to an article in "Forbes" magazine, the single most important factor in employee morale is the quality of the relationship between employees and their own supervisors. The most effective way to improve morale is to choose managers carefully and train them to build strong working relationships with their employees.
Provide a Path
A company that wants to improve morale might automatically think of perks such as flexible scheduling or higher pay. However, neither of these factors is strongly correlated with improved morale or engagement, according to another "Forbes" article. Instead, employees who can see a path toward future promotion tend to be more motivated than those who think they'll be stuck in the same position for as long as they stay at the company. Employees want to know that they can grow with the company. Companies can improve employee engagement by offering training programs and certifications in new skills. An employee who identifies his own success with the success of the company will actively work to help the company achieve its goals.
Let Employees Use Their Skills
Each employee has her own unique skill set. One way to improve an employee's motivation, engagement and morale is to let her apply her skills to her work. If all employees understand not only what the company's objectives are, but how they can use their skills to personally contribute to those objectives, they are much more likely to be actively engaged. It isn't always possible to give employees promotions or more money. But you can devise strategies that help employees feel they are using their skills to do important work, which can also serve to boost their morale.
Address Employee Concerns
Soliciting employee feedback can have a positive and immediate effect on employee morale. People are usually more engaged when they feel that their opinions and concerns will be taken into account. However, just listening is not enough. Managers must also provide real answers to the concerns the employees raise so the employees can see that the company is committed to helping them succeed. Managers should also act on employee suggestions on how to improve the work environment.