Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

On Employee Morale (with a Guest Host)

I've spent a lot of time on here lately talking about careers, but one of the topics I originally wanted to spend time talking about here is the kind of management that can lead someone to want... no, actually, need.... no, beg and plead to come work for your company.

Well, my beautiful and brilliant wife beat me to it. So, today's post is written by Melina Murray... take it away, Melina:

I was just talking to someone who had a pie competition at work. A real, major pie competition. The whole company either baked a pie or went to the tasting. And they had awards for the winners - First place, 2 tickets to SF (from Oregon).

That was just one of the things that this brilliant company sponsors/puts on throughout the year. They bring in bands during lunch time some days, they encourage different groups getting together (at work, during work hours) to have a drink and get to know each other, when they otherwise would not interact. For competition events, they give away anything from trips to iPods. These are all pieces that make this company a great place to work. Yes, this is a profitable, private company. But that shouldn't matter.

In order to have a "great place to work", the people, the employees have to WANT to come to work. They need to see 2 things; 1. that their works matters in the big picture, and 2. that they are valued and appreciated. So many companies do neither. It is honestly pathetic.

It really isn't about the prizes, although trips and gadgets are nice. It is about fostering an environment that says: "Sure, you'll have to work your butt off, but let's have fun together".

As a leader, do you really want your employees to come to work every day, waiting for the clock to hit 12 and then 5? When asked about their job, do you want your employees to say "it's OK, it's a paycheck"?

Or- do you want them to say: "XYZ is a pretty cool place to work. We do these amazing projects and have a fantastic team"? Or do you really want them to say: "I love my job. Working at XYZ is more fun than I ever imagined. Sure, we work hard, but we also have tons of fun"?

Think about the fact that this is marketing. It isn't media marketing, but grassroots. If you were thinking of going with a product or service, what would you think of a company that has miserable, apathetic employees, versus one with enthusiastic employees? It can make a difference.

The kicker- it isn't hard to do!! You don't have to be profitable, you just need to put in a little effort. First and foremost, this mentality has to start with the CEO/President. The leader of the company has to want to espouse the environment. After that it trickles down through the executive management team and HR. If the leader of the company is not on board, any efforts will flop and fail.

Let me get back to HR for a moment. The role of a human resources professional at a company can be difficult. You have to be an advocate for the company and the employee. This can be difficult at times and requires a level head, complete confidentiality and honesty. Just because someone's title says "HR", does not mean that employees will feel open to talking. Relationships have to be grown and fostered. Sitting in an office all day, or staying within the same group only seeks to distance any potential relationship between HR and the other employees. Companies are changing from what they were 20 years ago. HR is not just about payroll, worker's comp and benefits. It is about creating and enhancing the workplace environment to make it a place people want to come to.

And managers are as responsible for their employees happiness as the CEO and HR. A manager who plays favorites, is unavailable or confrontational is doomed to have a miserable team. Managers who promote team work (collaborating), who take steps to grow their people, who put on impromptu events for their team are very likely to succeed in having a motivated and excited team.

Back to my original rant. It is easy to have fun. It doesn't require plane tickets or iPods, or amazon gift certificates, although those are nice perks. Contests are always a great way to bring people together. Prizes can be anything from a half day, to a full day off, a really cool award/plaque, a special parking space, small gift certificates, or anything else. Potlucks can be a great way to gather everyone. Some people love to cook, and most people love free food!

It requires saying- "Hey, I know you work hard, so let's have a lunch so I can say 'thanks'". It can be as easy as having the CEO/President take one lunch (just one) a quarter that she/he spends at the office, talking with any and all employees. As inexpensive as 10 boxes of pizza in the conference room. A time where anyone from the receptionist to the mail room clerk to the QA manager can come in and chat. This says "I care, I see you, and I hear you".

Think about how much it costs in time and lost productivity to replace someone, then ask yourself how much these events really cost the company. I'll bet the answer is "not much".

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray