6 Simple Ways to Boost Employee Morale Without Pizza

No foozball. No whack employee lounges or gourmet coffee bars.

Engagement and morale go hand in hand and both of them can and should be handled together.

And for lots of us, cracking the morale and engagement nut is the most difficult and time consuming management challenge on the table. Boosting employee morale, and keeping it up there, takes some very specific changes. Not just to company culture, but to definitions and thinking and all those difficult things that make lots of managers want to throw up their hands and throw in the towel.

The internet is literally strewn with employee engagement surveys and advice and measurement protocols but in the end…

Employee Engagement is NOT that difficult.

A boost to employee morale is easy, too. And the two things go together or they don’t go at all. Making employees “feel better” about a job they don’t care about and a company that’s sinking is not in anyone’s interest.

Here are the six most important things you can do to Boost Employee Morale without pizza and without breaking the bank.

1) Ask and then listen
Not in a meeting and not in a formal way, but regularly. When you’ve listened and understood, then you can start to work on meeting the needs and desires of your employees. One manager can do this with each of her charges. Or it can be bigger and can even be done company wide…

2) Institutionalize asking and listening
That’s not to say “make it formal” but on the contrary, make it regular, a normal part of doing business.

You probably need some internet— maybe some intranet—support, but that’s part of the game. Set up a continual feedback loop that let’s people on top better understand the thinking, perspectives, experience and wisdom from charges beneath them.

3) Dump the Surveys
Dump the meetings, too. Employees want to be heard, but not in a formal, jeopardy-ridden setting. Use your continual feedback tools and mechanisms to give employees a good share in the voice of the operation. Surveys are often designed for measuring, and not for learning. So survey away, but you are only going to get more measurements of what’s wrong, and very little idea of how to fix it.

4) Keep the Anonymity
The good thing about surveys is that employees suspect that they can’t really be tracked back to them. If that’s not the case then your surveys are probably useless anyway. Keep the Transparency, along with the anonymity. That’s important. Employees shouldn’t face risk for pitching in to help – even if what they say is painful and seemingly destructive. Put your big boy pants on and listen without seeking retribution even if there is an oddball or two in there.

 5) Big, Important, Open-Ended Questions
This is really where most employee morale and engagement programs fail. Pizza is a lousy incentive for being more involved. The important questions—even when they involved management structures and why things don’t get done—those are the questions that employees want to answer. Again,  maybe not every employee, but the good ones are ready. They should have an open, safe and protected place to put things out there and for you to receive them. Very often, companies suffer, and sometimes suffer a lot, to protect the turf of people who shouldn’t have turf or who have turf that they aren’t covering well. The list goes on and on and on.

6) Thank Employees Excessively
The action taken based on what you learned is not quite thanks enough. If information was not given anonymously, and you know who to thank, then do so personally.

To boost employee morale, you don’t need to do ANY FEEL-GOOD – BE HAPPY exercises. NONE.  Those are depressing and they make everyone feel worse. Plastering a pizza party over the problems that are really affecting one of the most important things in people’s lives is not a morale booster but a spirit crusher.

Remember too. The best ways to thank people are with scheduled free time, time off and days off and vacation or flextime. Make them love you, and the love will be there when the company needs it.


Photo this page: Balloon Festival © Creative Commons Lic by Wck on Flickr


Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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