8 Simple Ways to Improve Workplace Morale. Have You Tried This?
Allowing employees to pursue side projects is a great way to improve workplace morale.
The reason for this is because of what truly motivates people at work. Dan Pink famously talked about three drivers of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Allowing employees to work on side projects will let them have that sense of autonomy, and potentially (depending on the project) allow them to exercise mastery and purpose as well.
Probably the most famous example of side projects leading to real innovation is Google, with their 20% time policy. For those that don’t know what it is, Google allows its employees to take 20% of their time (one day per week), to work on anything they’re passionate about.
Some of the most popular Google tools that we use today were created during this 20% time. The example that’s most often recited is Google News, which was developed after the September 11th attacks, when one of Google’s engineers thought it would be a cool idea to have news aggregated from a bunch of different sources in one place to keep track of what was going on.
But most people already know the Google story.
The company I want to highlight today is a company called Atlassian. It’s possible that you’ve never heard of Atlassian, but ask a software developer you know, and chances are they’ve used their products.
Probably their most popular product is a chat software called HipChat, which is used by thousands of companies. To software developers, they’re probably best known for their issue tracking software called JIRA. I’ve used JIRA before, and it’s a very powerful tool that gives you great visibility into your projects. Some companies that use JIRA are eBay, Cisco, and Salesforce, so you know it’s got to be good.
Atlassian is pretty famous for having one of the most active developer communities, and building that community over the years has helped them achieve their exponential growth. They also have an incredible company culture, with amazing perks like unlimited vacation time, full insurance, gym memberships, peer bonuses, and 20% time. It’s obvious that they “get it”, and all software companies should try and model themselves after Atlassian.
One of the cooler initiatives that they have is what they call “ShipIt days” (I’ve also heard it being called “FedEx days”), where once a quarter, software developers have a “hackathon” and create and “ship” a new product or feature in 24 hours.
They work for 24 hours on their idea, and then present what they’ve built to the entire company at an all-hands meeting the next day, and then they have some beers to celebrate. It’s led to lots of creativity (some of the things built have made it into their products), and leads to higher morale, because of that autonomy and passion that comes from working on something you like.
If you watch the famous Dan Pink TED talk about motivation, and you fast forward to 13:45, he actually mentions Atlassian and their ShipIt days.
(Can’t see the video? Check it out here)
Now, let’s look at different ways that you can improve workplace morale at your company. Most of these things cost no money at all, and are really simple to do. But like they say, it’s the little things that count.
1. Collect Feedback
Showing your employees that you value their opinions is one of the best ways to improve workplace morale, and by encouraging them to submit ideas and feedback to the company, it will make them feel more like they are part of something.
Here are a few tools that you can use to collect feedback from your employees:
Forewarning, you need to be ready to act on these ideas. If you allow employees to submit feedback, but don’t do anything about it, it will have the reverse effect, and workplace morale will decrease.
2. Delegate Tasks
Delegating tasks to employees is another great way to increase workplace morale, because again, it shows that you trust your employees and are willing to give them that responsibility.
It’s important for me to mention that when delegating, you need to really delegate, and avoid the temptation of micromanaging. If you start to micromanage your employee, it will have a reverse effect, and in fact decrease morale. In order to avoid the need for micromanaging, be very clear in your instructions, and let employees know that you’re there for them, and happy to answer any questions.
A tool I would highly recommend to delegate effectively is iDoneThis, which is an app that asks people what their biggest accomplishments were that day. Every morning, it sends a summary email of what everyone wrote for managers to see what everyone got done.
3. Embrace Failure
This is a tough one to do, but employees need to be able to feel comfortable at work, and know that if they make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. There was a survey done not too long ago about how much fear employees have, and the results were pretty bad.
Most employees live in fear.
The 2 biggest things employees feared were getting fired, or making mistakes. Naturally, this lowers productivity and morale because employees spend so much time stressing and worrying.
As a manager, you need to remove that element of fear.
4. Give Praise
Employees crave feedback, so don’t be shy about giving it to them very frequently. In fact, 77% of employees are starved for recognition.
When giving praise, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Be specific | Instead of saying “good job”, which is incredibly vague, say something like “great job on that powerpoint you put together for our sales presentation. I especially like what you did on slide 15 with those images”. It shows that you’re really attentive, and that you’re not giving praise just for the sake of giving praise.
- Give constructive feedback | Feel free to include some feedback in your praise to make your feedback sound less negative. For example, say something like “great job on that powerpoint you made, it really helped us close that deal, the only thing you might think of trying next time is more images.”
You can also use an employee engagement platform to recognize employees.
5. Change The Words You Use
Something as simple as changing a few words can have such a dramatic effect.
Instead of saying “you should do it like this!”, you can say “do you think this way makes sense?”, that way the employee feels like they were part of the decision making process, instead of being told what to do.
Making the employee feel included will have a big increase on workplace morale.
6. Use Social Tools
Use social tools to increase collaboration, and increase transparency. That feeling of inclusion will improve morale for the team, and make everyone collaborate better. You can use an internal social network like Yammer, or even create a private Google+ community for you and your team. Whatever you choose, use tools to help build that transparency.
7. Lunch and Learns
The idea behind this, is that you set up an informal presentation, where people can learn from each other within the company, over their lunch.
For example, if the people who work in sales want to understand the product better from a technical point of view, you can organize a meeting where a few developers do a presentation over lunch.
Lunch and learns are a really fun way to increase morale, because it empowers people to both teach what they’ve been working on, and for attendees to learn something they’re interested in.
If you’re so inclined, you can also bring in a local speaker from the community to share his thoughts and ideas.
8. Net Promoter Score
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is originally a customer service tool. The way it works, is you ask a customer a simple question: “On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend?”
Scores 6 or lower are known as detractors, 6-8 are known as neutral, and 8-10 are known as promoters. To get your score, you take the number of promoters, minus the number of detractors, and divide by the total number of answers.
In product management, it’s the best way to know if your product is actually good, because the theory is, if someone is willing to recommend your product to a friend, then they actually like it.
Instead of using it for customer service, use it to gauge how employees really feel about your company.
These results will help you better understand if you need to take action to improve things, and potentially follow up with employees about how to improve workplace morale.
How Do You Improve Morale At Your Company?
At the end of the day, it’s about treating employees with respect, being transparent and honest with frequent communication. What are some tips that you use to improve workplace morale? Let me know in the comments!