Improving Morale on a Budget
In this lean economic climate, most companies can’t afford to hand out big bonuses and raises for a job well done. So how can you boost your employees’ morale without breaking the corporate piggy bank? The answer to that question is simpler than you might think.
After polling employees from more than 500 companies about ways in which employers can improve morale without spending a lot of money, I found that people are not always looking for big bonuses or raises to make them happy (though that would certainly help). They are often looking for the simple niceties that bring fun, energy and respect into the workplace.
Here are some of the ideas culled from employee suggestions:
• Give your staff members creative forums at which they can share their brainstorming ideas to improve company performance. And be sure to reward them if they can bring their idea to fruition.
A forum might be a town hall type of meeting where members of different departments meet with the CEO or other senior management to discuss what works, what doesn’t work and how things could work better. Holding such meetings once a month can be an effective way to keep the lines of communication open.
• Having potluck lunches once each quarter—or even once a month, if possible—is a great way to bring work teams together in a casual environment. An easy way to accomplish this is to have different departments organize the luncheons or assign each department to bring certain foods.
• In conjunction with the lunches, you can arrange some board-game Olympics, to which employees can bring their favorite board games and play tournament-style games. For word games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams, you can offer bonus points to employees who spell words relevant to your industry or business.
• E-mailing a trivia question once a week can break up the monotony of the workday, especially if you offer the winners inexpensive prizes such as gift cards for coffee or movie tickets.
• Have an optional charitable service day once a year and allow employees to volunteer for various causes as a team. The United Way, for example, offers a “Day of Caring” each year, matching workers with volunteer opportunities in local communities. You might also offer a certain number of hours per month that employees can use toward volunteering at the organization of their choice.
• Reward an employee for a project well done with an extra day or half-day off. This type of recognition could also be extended to a peer reward program, whereby employees who receive a certain amount of work-related praise from their colleagues can be eligible for additional vacation time or other rewards.
• Choose a month each year and give employees half-day Fridays for the whole month. Another option is to let employees leave an hour early if their work is done.
• Incorporate employee perk programs, such as those offered through my company, to provide employees with valuable discounts to local restaurants, stores, spas, amusement parks and shows.
• Bring in a chair massage therapist, nutritionist or yoga instructor to help reduce stress and promote overall health. Many health insurance providers are promoting workplace walking programs and other health initiatives at no cost to their members in an effort to reduce health care premiums. Events such as health fairs and health screenings will not only improve your employees’ health, but can also reduce sick days and improve productivity.
Incorporating a variety of employee perks and programs like these can be easy and inexpensive. But the most effective and desirable morale booster might be the simplest one: expressing your respect and appreciation for your employees often and sincerely.
Simply offering some words of recognition can make a big difference. Employees who feel appreciated will strive to be worthy of recognition, creating a happier, more productive workplace for everyone.
Jonathan Rapoport is the founder of GreatWorkPerks.com, a free employee-discount program that's based in Santa Monica, Calif.