Once upon a time, I worked for a startup. News flash: startups have their ups and downs. When things are up, it’s an emotional high. But when things are down, it can be really down.
The experience taught me a thing or two about surviving the hard days and boosting team morale along the way. Here are 10 proven ideas I’ve seen work.
Plan team outings.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Think low-key, casual, and most importantly, fun. I’ve gone bowling, done scavenger hunts, played trivia, and did karaoke (I’m sorry to everyone who was there.). Each one of these activities helped us to work together and build positivity in the workplace. Here are a few other ideas you can try:
Team outings don’t have to be expensive to be fun. And they don’t have to involve a happy hour. But that’s always an option too.
Create a fun committee.
I know, it sounds like an episode of “The Office.” But if you’re a busy manager, it helps to gather a few employees who can plan monthly fun activities on your behalf. When I worked at this startup, our “fun committee” planned everything from Halloween costume competitions to potlucks to baking contests. Once we had a hot sauce competition. Needless to say, I sat back and watched.
You can try:
Try something out, and then ask the team for feedback. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Then aim to plan a fun event each month.
And speaking of feedback…
Ask for employee feedback about work.
This one goes a long way. According to research from Deloitte, most employees value culture and career growth twice as much as they value compensation and benefits. This means it’s critical that you listen to your employees and show them you care about their interests and professional development.
Try asking specific questions in an anonymous survey. Then review the results with the team in an open, safe discussion. You can also set up an “old school” suggestion box or talk one-on-one with employees during their performance reviews.
Prioritize company benefits.
Offering a competitive benefits plan is one of the keys to retaining good employees, even during seasons of low morale. In addition to offering health care, paid time off, and retirement benefits, make sure you have workers compensation insurance. This type of business insurance plan covers the costs of lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and even death benefits should something happen to an employee on the job.
Give a random day off.
Even if it’s not the full day, just a few hours helps. This gives employees time to avoid traffic, get home, and spend more time with their families. Evaluate the cost of shutting down business for a day against the cost of losing valued employees. Chances are, a day off is less expensive. High employee turnover can quickly ruin a company.
As humans, we want to feel valued, especially when we work hard. Use the time during team meetings to publicly celebrate the successes of staff members. Talk about specific projects, challenges, and get specific about accomplishments. You’ll demonstrate that you value your team and boost motivation.
Give a bonus (if it’s possible).
This isn’t always possible. But, if it is—do it. A bonus, even if it’s small, shows your employees they matter. And for many employees, it’s the best way to encourage productivity and boost morale. You can also tie bonuses to work performance, which creates an incentive for employees to work harder and achieve results. Sounds like a win-win to me.
If you can’t give a bonus, try a smaller gift at the end of the year. Whether it’s a gift card or a memorable mug, it’s the thought that counts.
Add in team-building exercises.
Spend the first 10 minutes of your next staff meeting mingling or doing a teambuilding game. Employees will get to know one another and sense you care about their well-being. Here are a few exercises to try:
Even better, ask your employees which team-building exercises they enjoy. They could have some great ideas.
Talk about the company’s mission.
People want to work for companies who are doing meaningful work in this world. If you’re a hairstylist, talk about how you make people boost their confidence. If you own a landscaping company, talk about how you help relieve stress for homeowners and create beautiful places to live.
Ask yourself – why does your business matter? What good is it contributing to the world? Then share your thoughts with employees.
Invest in professional development.
Most employees want to expand their skillsets and grow in their careers. In one-on-one meetings, ask team members what they’d like to learn in the next quarter, 6 months, and year. Then support them in their development.
Warning: It’s easy to drop the ball after an initial meeting. I recommend scheduling follow-up meetings throughout the year to check in on an employee’s professional development. Set clear goals and make sure you support them.
Above all, remember that employee morale can be turned around. It just takes time and dedication on your part, and it’s well worth the effort.
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I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
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