Business Leadership Today

How To Boost Employee Morale and Motivation (5 Strategies)


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Employee morale refers to the attitude of an employee toward their job and the work environment, including leadership and co-workers. When team members have a positive attitude toward their job and work environment, they are more engaged and will experience greater job satisfaction and higher morale than their disengaged peers. 

Morale can profoundly affect productivity, customer and employee satisfaction, and profitability. It can also impact (and is impacted by) employee motivation. 

Employee motivation refers to the level of creativity, dedication, and energy employees demonstrate at work. When employees are motivated, they are inspired to commit to their jobs and perform them well. An employee’s motivation is higher when their needs are being met. 

Maintaining high team morale and high levels of individual motivation depends upon the quality of the employee experience and the ability of team members to collaborate and work cohesively. When organizations pursue strategies that support a positive employee experience and team cohesion, they see a positive impact on team morale and employee motivation. 

To boost employee morale and motivation, organizations should use strategies that support a positive employee experience:

  • Establish a feedback-rich culture
  • Offer the flexibility team members need
  • Show appreciation and celebrate successes 
  • Champion professional development
  • Foster an inclusive work environment

Strategies that support a positive employee experience keep team members working together harmoniously and unite them with a shared sense of purpose that is conducive to collaboration.

What Is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is the sum of all the interactions that happen during the employee’s lifecycle. An employee’s role, work environment, workplace culture, leaders, and how their leaders demonstrate a commitment to their growth, success, and well-being are all part of the employee experience.

It includes (but is not limited to) the employee’s first encounter with the employer (through familiarity with the employer’s reputation and the experience of applying for the job), the first time the employee meets the employer, the employee’s experience of their work environment and encounters with co-workers, the onboarding process, the exit interview process, and any interactions the employee has with the employer after the employee leaves the organization. 

Employee experience encompasses how an employee feels during all their interactions with their employer throughout their professional relationship with them and the impact those interactions have on their attitudes toward their job. 

Gallup defines it as “the journey an employee takes with your organization.” Ensuring the individual journey is a satisfactory experience for employees ensures the organization’s journey toward its vision is successful.

Employee Experience Challenges

Companies have long grappled with the challenge of keeping employees motivated and maintaining a work environment where morale is consistently high. The pandemic complicated an already complex challenge by profoundly altering the employee experience for many workers throughout the world.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, in light of the Great Resignation, and with the looming threat of more labor shortages in some professions, ensuring a positive employee experience should be at the top of the to-do list for all organizations looking to re-energize, re-engage, and retain talented employees. 

To understand how employees are impacted by their experiences, whether it’s their experience of something as rare as a global pandemic or something as mundane as the daily conversations and interactions they have over morning coffee with those they share office space with, and how those experiences affect an organization’s long-term success, companies need to look at what makes up the employee experience, how it is influenced, and how they can ensure that influence is positive.

How Employee Experience Impacts Morale and Motivation

Employee experience plays a significant role in employee motivation and employee morale. When the experience is positive, employees experience a better work-life balance, improved mental and physical well-being, and a greater sense of fulfillment. With these needs met, their overall job satisfaction increases.

Organizations that offer a positive employee experience see many benefits. When the employee experience is positive, employees feel valued at work and satisfied in their roles, which boosts individual motivation and team morale. 

This boost can improve retention, increase productivity, spur innovation, and grow profits. Employee experience is also strongly linked to customer experience. When team morale and employee motivation are high, employees will serve customers better. 

To keep both morale and motivation high, organizations create a positive employee experience that helps employees authentically connect, collaborate, grow, and unite around a shared purpose to produce exceptional work. 

Let’s talk about the most effective strategies for supporting a positive employee experience and boosting employee morale and motivation.

Establish a Feedback-Rich Culture

Having a feedback-rich culture that supports employees, motivates them to engage with each other, and values their input fosters open dialogs that can create a positive, harmonious environment where employees thrive. 

In a feedback-rich culture, employees receive regular, helpful feedback from direct supervisors, and they are empowered and encouraged to provide meaningful feedback to co-workers and leadership. The goal of a culture of feedback should be to ensure a work environment’s channels of communication remain open, consistent, supportive, and honest. 

One of the ways feedback boosts morale and motivation is that it builds trust between leadership and employees, creating a psychologically safe environment where employees feel that their opinions are valued and help drive decision-making.

Whether it is recognition of an accomplishment, offering some ideas about how to improve performance, or suggesting behavioral changes and approaches, in an organization where feedback is the norm, we see open, frequent dialog between employees at all levels of the organization and a high level of trust that supports employee morale and motivation.

Feedback matters to all employees because it helps them improve their performance. It can also give managers the information they need to gauge cultural alignment and build the sort of companies they aspire to build.

To successfully implement a culture of feedback, leaders can demonstrate a communication style that improves the organization and its employees by emphasizing listening, understanding, and deep reflection over focusing on or reacting to any one individual’s views. 

Communication in a feedback-rich culture should be frequent, constructive, and delivered in a positive atmosphere. Even if the feedback is negative or critical in nature, it is important to keep the communication method positive to ensure it is a comfortable, natural process for employees.

Offer the Flexibility Team Members Need

According to a 2021 Jabra report on hybrid work, 59% of survey respondents said flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits, and 75% said they’d rather work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere. 

Offering flexibility in work schedules, whether it’s remote or hybrid work options that increase autonomy or additional PTO, can be a great motivator for employees. It can also support a harmonious work environment where team morale is high and employees can depend on each other. 

Flexibility is an incentive that can benefit both employees and employers. In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them be more productive, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive.

As commutes have grown longer and remote and hybrid work options have become not only more popular but more doable, offering flexibility in work schedules helps employees achieve a healthy work/life balance and take better care of their families and personal needs, leading to better overall well-being and greater motivation at work. 

This can work out well for both employers and employees. 

By giving workers the autonomy and flexibility they need to thrive in both their personal and professional lives, you are forging strong, trust-based relationships with your employees and, at the same time, intrinsically motivating employees to hold themselves accountable and take ownership of their roles. 

Show Appreciation and Celebrate Successes 

Whether through words or actions, recognizing employees’ achievements has a profound impact on employee motivation and team morale. Recognition ties an employee’s achievements to the company’s success and creates a ripple effect throughout the organization where employees celebrate their co-workers’ contributions.

Recognition has a positive effect on productivity, with research showing that 69% of employees say they’d work harder if their efforts were recognized at their workplace, and it can boost happiness by 14% and profits by 29%.

It can also have a positive effect on loyalty and burnout, which can improve retention. According to the O. C. Tanner 2023 Global Culture Report, recognition can decrease the odds of attrition by 29% and employee burnout by 80%. When employees’ contributions are recognized, they are up to 10 times more likely to strongly agree that they belong with the organization. 

When employees feel that they belong in the organization, it helps them build meaningful connections with their co-workers and become more invested in achieving the vision. These connections and a strong commitment to the vision increase intrinsic motivation.

Recognition can be private (including bonuses and verbal or written praise) or public (recognition in a company newsletter, employee-of-the-month awards, company award ceremonies, and social media posts). Peer-to-peer employee recognition can be a highly effective way of embedding recognition in the day-to-day culture of the organization.

Champion Professional Development

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that a lack of opportunities for advancement was among the top reasons US workers quit their jobs last year. The survey also found that those who quit and are now employed elsewhere are more likely than not to say their current job has more opportunities for advancement.

When employees feel stuck with no chance for growth or advancement, motivation suffers because they feel disconnected from long-term goals. Offering growth and development opportunities can positively impact employee motivation because it signals to them that they’re valued and vital to the organization’s future success. 

Research compiled by LinkedIn has shown that when employees spend time learning on the job, they are:

  • 47% less likely to be stressed
  • 39% more likely to feel productive and successful
  • 23% more able to take on additional responsibilities
  • 21% more likely to feel confident and happy

Providing in-person or online training, tuition reimbursement, leadership development, or setting aside time during the work week for learning can yield tremendous results that benefit both the employee and employer.

When organizations offer employees a path to advancement or opportunities to grow their skills, it empowers them and helps them build the confidence they need to excel in their roles and move into higher-level roles, creating a strong internal candidate pool for future job openings within the organization. 

Foster a Positive, Inclusive Work Environment

To stay motivated, employees need a work environment that offers them a positive employee experience and where every team member feels empowered and supported. 

Maintaining a positive work environment and an inclusive culture that is conducive to collaboration is crucial for preventing workplaces from turning toxic and for creating a positive employee experience. 

An inclusive culture is a workplace culture that is supportive of and respectful toward all employees. Organizations with inclusive cultures embrace differences in backgrounds and experiences and build high-performing teams of employees who are engaged with their work and invested in the organization’s success. 

This creates a psychologically safe work environment where differences are embraced and employees feel a strong sense of belonging. 

According to Trish Foster, executive director at the Center for Women and Business, workers are shaped by their backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and personalities. And organizations see big benefits when they have cultures that embrace these differences.   

Foster says, “Organizations that blend people who think differently from each other—analytical workers, conceptual thinkers, creative spirits, or detail-oriented employees—can create energy to drive new ideas and productivity.” 

Organizations may implement a few inclusive policies here and there or have a statement about inclusion on their website, but it takes more to create an inclusive environment. It requires a deep commitment at every level of the organization (particularly senior leadership) to create a culture that makes inclusion a priority. 

An inclusive workplace culture ensures that the contributions, talents, skills, and perspectives of all employees are welcomed and utilized in ways that help organizations achieve their vision. It can also deter toxic behaviors.

Toxic behaviors can involve harassment, microaggressions, unequal treatment of employees, or behaviors from senior management that devalue others and make them feel expendable. Toxic employees can submarine their co-workers, sabotage projects, hinder teamwork, drive top performers away, and poison culture. 

Top leadership can ensure organizational culture stays true to a company’s mission, vision, and values by addressing toxic situations as soon as they arise so they don’t impact morale or cause irreparable damage to the positive culture leaders and their teams have worked to create.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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