What Does It Take To Improve Morale?

Verna Lynch
Sr. VP Business Development
April 30, 2015 | 4:30 PM ET

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In a recent article and online comments in Government Executive, there is intriguing discussion about morale and how to improve it. Most organizations deal with morale challenges from time to time and seek to improve employee engagement. Addressing and correcting morale issues is not simple and cannot be solved by tackling the problem directly, but morale problems can effectively be addressed.

One global organization wanted to address its increasingly sagging morale scores. Many of its locations were experiencing low morale and high turnover. Originally, the organization put together “morale improvement teams” in the locations to address the issue head-on. The sole purpose of the teams was to put solutions in place to improve morale. These efforts failed dismally.

The organization asked us to help them address and correct the issue. What worked was using a systematic process that engaged employees and stakeholders to identify the real reasons for low morale—the obstacles that stood in the way of doing a good job (like red tape, poor and cumbersome processes, disorganized work spaces, and so forth). Once identified, the causes and issues could be prioritized and tackled with sound planning and implementation. In less than a year, the morale issues turned around completely. The key was to address the reasons behind the low morale.

One of the locations in this organization had been experiencing very high annualized turnover and dismal morale scores. After this work was done and a process was in place, annualized turnover rand morale improved by more than two thirds in less than a year, even for entry-level jobs in a geographic area where jobs were plentiful. The added benefit? The environment was stabilized enough that the organization could start doing all the other initiatives they wanted to do, such as improving service delivery, innovation, and process optimization.

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