3 ways to boost and maintain employee morale

Have you ever seen those posts on LinkedIn or Twitter that show some trendy office (usually in Silicon Valley somewhere) with a slide instead of stairs and an air hockey table in the canteen? Much more than just a gimmick, these fun features have become increasingly popular in companies across the world now. Why? Because boosting employee morale leads to greater retention and makes candidate attraction seem easy.

So let's consider some practical and cost-effective steps you can take to give your staff the morale boost they might need. After all, a happy worker is a productive one

Of course, companies the size of Google and LinkedIn can afford to give their staff awesome benefits, secret mini bars and conference rooms called Meg Ryan. But what if you want to reward your staff on a more realistic budget? Well the good news is it's possible and below we look at 3 simple and cost-effective ways to make your staff somersault into the office everyday.

1. Acknowledge work anniversaries and birthdays

Okay so this is a simple one but can easily be overlooked by busy companies. A simple way to make anyone feel special is to remember their birthday. The size of your company will generally determine how birthdays are handled - but this isn't always the case. For example, when working at a global (and very profitable) organisation, I simply received a birthday email. In contrast, smaller companies offered your birthday off (on top of your actual holidays), a card or even a cake.

A lot of small to medium sized companies tend to have 'whip-rounds' for money from each employee (usually anywhere from £3 to £5 each), allowing staff to buy a quality, thoughtful gift. Whatever approach your company takes with birthdays, it should reflect the type of business you are. Larger businesses are usually more 'universal' in gift-giving (flowers, wine, gift vouchers etc), while smaller businesses tend have a more family-esque approach and therefore target more personal presents - something that would be a gargantuan and likely unmanageable task for a large corporation.

At the end of the day the main thing to AVOID is totally overlooking and forgetting a birthday or work anniversary. Although it may bother some people less than others, showing that you care enough to remember is simple enough to do and promotes staff retention and good workplace relationships.

Top tip: make a spreadsheet with a list of every employee's birthday on it and allocate 'birthday buddies' to look after cash collection and present buying.

2. Revise your office working hours

Depending on the industry you operate within, having a rethink of the standard 9-5 routine can be a simple way of gifting a better work / life balance to your staff - a sure fire way to make them much happier. We've covered flexible working hours in more detail in one of our larger articles and found that a shorter working day can actually increase productivity as well as overall wellbeing.

There are a number of approaches you can take with this, so we've listed a few ideas below that you could consider implementing:

  • Giving the option to get in the office earlier for an early finish (or vice versa to suit routines, family or lifestyle demands).
  • Offering an early finish on Fridays or incentivise meeting targets with early finishes.
  • Give staff the option to work from home on some days (should the industry sector allow).
  • Add more breaks throughout a working day or increase lunch time allocation.
  • Give employees more freedom when it comes to choosing their early finishes (provided all workloads are completed and targets met).

While you may look at some of the points above and consider them compromising and risky, you could find that staff work harder and smarter. Rewarding them so well will make them realise how good they've got it, so they will always perform to a high standard to keep their job! They'll also brag to their friends about how 'cool' the company is to work for, getting your name out there and potentially attracting some high quality talent.

3. Offer unusual company benefits

In a world where most companies now offer paid holidays, health insurance, pension schemes and mobile phones, you need to offer more unusual benefits to stand out. By unusual I mean free gym memberships or group PT classes, annual company days (BBQs, Segway racing, go karting), monthly awards and prizes, on-site tuck shops, free lunch Fridays - the list can be as creative as you like. 

Just be aware of tax implications, as spending significant amounts on parties every year could see the staff become liable. You can check the most up-to-date information regarding this on the government website here.

Not only do these activities and rewards boost make for happy employees, but they will promote teamwork which leads to better cohesion (and retention) in your staff. And whilst this method of morale boosting is potentially the most expensive, the benefits in the long term include loyal staff, a great company reputation and a fantastic working environment. A trade-off worth making if you want to attract and retain the best talent in your industry; talent who will inevitably make your company better and more profitable anyway - so it will pay for itself in due course.

So there you have it, 3 easy ways to make your employees feel more valued and important. A healthy staff morale is one of the most important things to maintain if you're looking to build a company that is desirable to work for, gets the most out of its employees and is willing to adapt to ever-shifting times.

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By Jon Clarke