4 Ways to Raise Employee Morale During Tough Times

Want to keep employees motivated? Here are four ways that have nothing to do with money.
Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker, Garden Guides Press
January 02, 2013

Ronna Coe knows the best workforce is one that's the most established, so the small-business owner does what she can to retain quality employees. She’s also aware that to keep her workers content, she must provide motivation in the workplace.

“Our business involves a real team effort, and it’s important that all employees know their value to the finished product and to customer satisfaction,” says Coe, chairman of Coastal Component Industries (CCI), which employs 18 people, more than half of whom have been with her for more than 10 years. The company was founded in 1990 and manufactures a wide variety of electronic components for the military, defense and aerospace markets. 

Given the tight economy, Coe does her best to keep spirits up and employees inspired. While she does offer a variety of generous benefits, including 10o-percent company-paid employee health insurance and substantial year-end bonuses, she knows that she can’t solely rely on such monetary motivations, so she also focuses on intrinsic motivators like those highlighted in the well-known book on management, Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, by Jill Geisler.

1. Focus on Employees' Strengths

Effective managers know that focusing on employee strengths leads to satisfied workers. Giving employees the opportunity to concentrate on work that allows them to excel leads to high-quality workmanship. 

“We expect a lot from our employees and we rely on their best effort every day,” Coe says, noting that an important part of encouraging competence is giving feedback. “We strive to always thank employees for a job well done when the work meets deadlines and our expectations.”

2. Be Flexible with Schedules

Giving employees control of their work environment whenever possible often motivates. Though the manufacturing nature of her business precludes her from allowing most of her employees an autonomous work schedule, Coe was able to offer flextime to her vice president, Diana Romero. 

“My flexible schedule, which constitutes four days a week, allows me to take care of my granddaughter and gives me personal time,” Romero says. “This autonomy also really motivates me to do my best work, because it gives me the message that I’m valued and that makes me loyal to the company and its mission.”

State Farm insurance agent Rhonda Shader’s company provides insurance and financial services to small businesses, individuals and families. She also believes in motivating employees by providing autonomy and flexibility when possible. 

“We have operating hours, but I always try to accommodate personal needs and wants,” says Shader, who employs six people. “Recently, my top salesperson asked to have one personal day a month off just to catch up. I readily agreed, and we worked out a plan we were both happy with to accommodate her request. I am always open to ideas, as long as we can continue to serve our customers well.”

3. Give Employees a Sense of Purpose

When it comes to what motivates employees, though a paycheck may seem like the obvious answer, it’s not always the prime motivator, says Shader, who notes that a person’s sense of purpose is often tied to job satisfaction, and the only way to understand that purpose is to get to know each employee. 

“People respond to a variety of motivators,” Shader says. “It takes some work to figure out what each person needs, but once you determine what turns employees on and fuels their sense of purpose, they feel appreciated and valued, and you get their very best.”

4. Broadcast the Company's Progress

Every employee wants to know that progress is being made and that they and the company are meeting goals. Good managers keep the workforce apprised of company targets and when they are met, as well as take special interest in the personal goals of employees.

At least once a year, Coe meets with every employee about their individual profit sharing plans. “We go over their account together, and they really appreciate the attention to this aspect of their personal financial goals,” she says. “They acknowledge how valuable this company benefit is and walk away feeling good about their progress.”

Keeping employees happy and productive in a tough economy may not be an easy task, but your business is sure to benefit when you incorporate these tactics for creating motivation in the workplace. 

Read more articles on how to keep employees' morale up.

Photo: Getty Images

Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker, Garden Guides Press