But the truth is, when many people are asked if they even like this work life that they are so deeply committed to, they give a kind of “meh” response.
So, what can executives do to get their employees recharged? How do they transform that “meh” into a “Hell, YEAH”?!
Here are a few ideas to consider that could very well be the game-changers you need to generate more excitement, more productivity, more connectedness, and more motivation. Every one of these is designed to improve morale for your team – but guess what? They could very well also improve your bottom line!
1. Design a corporate community relations program. I developed a corporate community relations program with an employer group a few years ago, and witnessed first-hand the total transformation. We held a big meeting with the staff, and as a group, they picked a charitable organization who was most aligned with their values to be the benefactor of their program for that year. We then created a schedule for our volunteer corps; every employee was gifted company time to go out and make the world a better place. How awesome is that? They developed stronger relationships with one another on volunteer days, enjoyed being ambassadors of goodwill, and gave this publicist a bunch of awesome photo-opps to use for media placements! (Yep, companies can get the added value of serious publicity when they do good work in the community, elevating their image and raising awareness about their brands). It was a win for everyone. It made the employees proud to be associated with that company, and there were so many benefits for the employer as well - not to mention the not-for-profit organization, who were totally wowed by this wonderful group of people who came in to help them.
2. Plan a team-building retreat. Here in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, the options are endless – but you can find great retreat venues no matter where you live - and they don't have to be fancy. Close the company for a day, and enjoy spending time as a group offsite, doing things that are TOTALLY UNRELATED TO WORK! My former employer took his entire staff to the Dutchess County Fair every year, and treated us to a day of rediscovering childlike wonder. He paid for all of the carnival rides and all of the fried food we consumed, and gave everyone the option to stay as long as they wanted. As a group, we created memories based on a shared experience that was total bliss, which stayed with us for weeks and months afterward when we were faced with challenging projects and clients that we needed to manage as a strong, solid team. Other corporate clients of mine have taken their groups to rock-climbing parks, spas, the beach, hiking trails, waterslides….you name it. No matter what, people love time away from the workspace, a few good belly laughs with colleagues, and an opportunity to just be themselves.
3. Create atmosphere. That's right. Atmosphere is IMPORTANT. Change the mood of the workspace by painting the walls a new color, adding a few comfy chairs to make the break room feel more comfortable, or piping in music. Music has universal appeal, and often generates some pretty incredible conversations between people who might not otherwise think they have much in common. If you want to use it to boost morale, get the employees involved - make them the DJs of sorts. Ask each employee to bring in his favorite CDs, and then give each person a set time or day to share their go-to tunes with their colleagues. You’d be surprised how music brings people together. “Wait, seriously? You love Springsteen? OMG! ME TOO!”… “Got my first vinyl in fifth grade; have followed him ever since – I think he winked at me when I saw him in Asbury Park!”…"No way"..."We should go to a concert together this year"....and the dialogue continues, bringing people together who share the soundtracks (and stories) of their lives - all because you created atmosphere! Yeah. When it comes to building morale, music pretty much rocks.
4. Do something really special to incentivize your team. Look at their goals, and launch a contest to see who can be the first to meet or exceed expectations. Don’t necessarily throw cash their way as a reward, though – think of something unique that will be more memorable. Give the winner a half-day chartered sailing trip on the river, or make reservations for the winner to go to the Culinary Institute of America. Give the employee an EXPERIENCE, not just a bonus. They will remember that as being something unique and special, and think of you and your company as being unique and special too.
5. Write thank-you notes. If you catch an employee going above and beyond, or you just notice that you have someone on the team who really gets the job done, take the time to express gratitude. Send some fan mail right to his or her home address to make it more personal. Thank-you notes seem to be a lost art form, but I am determined to resurrect them as a regular practice, because it feels pretty awesome to find a nice note in the mailbox instead of the typical stack of bills – especially from a boss! Hand-written notes are the best. Every leader should have a stack of blank notes in his or her desk, ready to be written, and should carve out a few hours a month to acknowledge employees in this way.
6. Flex out time. If feasible, give your employees the chance to design their own schedules. By giving them the power to make their own hours (within reason, of course), you send the message that you honor their personal lives and that you want them to feel as balanced as possible. For people who want to go to the gym before work, maybe a 9am start time is better than the 8am start time that has been required of them for years. For the working parents, perhaps it would make life so much easier – and make their spirits so much happier – to be able to work 7am-3pm so that they can be present for homework and afterschool sports. Perks like flextime can breed greater productivity and build a healthier, happier corporate culture, which will ultimately make everyone more successful.
7. Invest in training. When you invest in training, you send the message to your employees that they have tremendous potential and that you want to see them advance in their careers. By giving them professional development opportunities, you are empowering them with new skills, new perspectives, and often a newfound desire to be more successful. Trainings can be fun, motivational, and give members of your team a chance to get to know one another, discuss important workplace topics, communicate more effectively, share ideas, and experience the self-confidence that comes from learning and growing.
8. Regularly show them the results of their hard work. What does your product or brand do to improve life for others? Share STORIES of human beings who have benefitted, either directly or indirectly, from the projects and products that are only possible because of their diligence. Give them examples of how their work has impacted others; demonstrate the importance of each and every role within your company by helping people understand that it takes every one of them to make these stories a reality for consumers and clients. It's a great way to open and close team meetings, by the way.
9. Set the tone. As a leader or executive, you know that YOU can set the tone. Let employees know that you are accessible, open to their suggestions, and that you genuinely enjoy your work and your team. Remind them of the bigger vision that the company has, and that they are all a part of that. Ask them questions that show you care, and that will probably make them want to care more, too. If they’re happy, you and your customers will probably be happy too.
10. Honor the importance of time off. If a hardworking employee wants to use earned time off, he or she should be able to easily make that happen most of the time. Let your employees know that time off is important and that you encourage them to use it. Instant morale-booster? Build a new day off into the 2016 calendar for everyone: birthdays!
There are countless ways to boost morale and to help your team feel more connected to their work life. I would bet that if you put a few of these ideas into place, or some other versions of these concepts, you will see some exciting shifts take place pretty quickly.
Here’s to a successful 2016 for you and your team.
Marybeth Cale is a publicist and executive/life coach who offers comprehensive public relations and communications services, one-on-one professional and personal development coaching, and a full library of corporate trainings for clients from all over the country. Call 845.876.2220 to learn more.