It is a question we often ask ‘how is work’, but few of us probably give an honest and detailed answer. I had an interesting discussion last night with a friend who is about to retire in the next few months. The conversation was focused on why so many people are fed up or disillusioned with work. It seems it doesn’t matter whether you are in the service sector or manufacturing, public or private sector or at the start or end of your career most people appear to have low morale.
This is one of the perennial challenges for internal communicators. How do you improve the staff morale? What can we do to make people happier and more productive at work?
There is a lot of detailed research, analysis and reports that are available discussing this issue and I am sure they are useful. But I think there are also some simple things that employees are looking for to improve their experience at work. There are, for me, five elements I believe are important to make a difference to this work apathy.
1. Find ways to show people their work counts and they are making an impact. It isn’t easy at the minute when there are few ways to provide financial rewards to staff and in much of the public sector this is a considerable challenge. However, it doesn’t need to be a financial reward something as simple as saying thank you can improve people’s attitude to work.
2. Value people’s views of how to improve or change the business. This means listening to what employees have to say and considering their views of what can be done to improve work. For me this is more than just having a staff suggestion scheme it is about building real consultation into every part of the business process.
3. Treat employees as individuals. Many line managers have been given larger and larger teams to manage making treating staff as individuals a problem. However, there are ways of doing this and that may involve a little bit of time in the short-term to bring longer term benefits.
4. Listening. This isn’t just as part of point 2. It is about all levels of the organisation listening to the views of people above, below and on the same level as them. But it is essential for the CEO or chief executive to ensure they and the top team take time to listen to a broad range of views about what is affecting their employees.
5. Prioritise employee communication. In recent years when the financial crisis hit many organisations slimmed down their communication function and in some cases lost the specialist internal communication role. It is vital that there is a group of people who can ensure messages are shared throughout the organisation. These are the people able to gather feedback and help bosses to do all the points 1 to 4.
It is very easy for employees to keep moaning about the state of their world of work. It is even easier for managers and bosses to moan about the lack of morale in the workplace. The key is for the two groups to work together to improve the situation. This all sounds very simple. I think it is but it is also really difficult for this to be kept at the forefront of the daily business when there are many more urgent demands.