How others Measure and Manage Employee Morale

Most leadership pundits talk about morale in business the same way they’d describe cotton candy at a state fair. Everybody likes it; nobody’s against it. It’s fun to have. But in essence, it’s just a sugary substance spun with a lot of hot air.

I beg to differ.

Morale has substance. It has weight. And it matters. It’s not something a leader spins from hot air; it is something that a leader can grow only over time and with unremitting attention. If you think leadership is all about “hitting the numbers,” and that soft and squishy stuff like morale is no different than cotton candy, think again.

 The late Roger Milliken, former CEO of Milliken &Co., and winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, once put it this way:

“The hard stuff is easy. The soft stuff is hard. The soft stuff is the important stuff.”

The soft stuff is the important stuff. Let’s never forget that. If you want to grow an organization through the soft stuff like high morale, keep two things in mind:

1. High morale grows in the soil of good leadership. You lead people by building stronger relationships. You don’t manage them. You manage processes.  You can read more about that in Are Your Employees Over-managed and Under-led. People bring more than their “work” to work. They bring themselves and they have needs. This includes their hopes and fears, their emotions of all sorts. It includes their brains as well as their brawn, no matter how physical or mental are the tasks assigned to them. They bring their ideas, plans ambitions, hopes and dreams. Effective leaders engage people at all of these levels, the rational as well as the human. They know how to crack this unique code.

2. Here’s a way to keep your own attention focused on things that matter—things like morale. Measure it. That’s right. You can measure morale by measuring emotional needs (not wants). There is such a thing as employee morale analytics and its been around for over a decade. But you dare not wait another decade to start doing it, you should begin measuring the consequences of low morale some time real soon. If you don’t think so you might want to review the reports highlighted in a  3-Year Low for Employee Engagement yet Employers Clueless

It’s no secret that leaders tend to focus on those things that get measured. The trouble is, leaders tend to measure those things that they know how to measure. So, they often pay most of their attention to the most common things like sales, revenue, costs, inventory. These all have standard, clearly understood ways of being measured and have been so for over 80 years. Once you measure them, you report them, and what gets reported becomes seen as important. If you are not careful, this creates a vicious circle. Is it any wonder that employee engagement is at a 3-year low?

One of the reasons Beyond Morale was founded is to set a standard for looking beyond the soft and squishy of employee engagement and employee morale by poviding a clearly understood (and proven) way of measuring employee morale. A tool built into the system, called the Satisfaction at Work Index™ is what makes it possible. Think of the Index as the GAAP for the human side of business. You can learn more about the Satisfaction at Work Index® in the free ebook 7 Keys to Employee Engagement.

With this Index, you have at hand a tool for the hard act of leading by building stonger relationships at work (and at home). Employee morale does not need to be discounted as the soft stuff, which as Roger Milliken reminds us, is really the important stuff.

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