Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Employee Morale Overrated?

I noticed that someone searched for my blog with, "Is employee morale overrated..."  I had to stop and think about it!  I mean that is an odd question, but yet you have to think about it.

Employee morale?  If the searcher meant a definition of morale that signified happiness or satisfaction, then yes, it could be overrated.  If the term morale was used in the classical sense of the word, as ‘espirit de corps,’ then by no means and at no time can employee morale be overrated.

The concept of morale has always been primarily a military term, but militaries are nothing more than organizations with a goal, and as such the concept of ‘espirit de corps’ applies equally to all organizations.  Of course the history of war is full of examples of armies suffering from low pay or no pay, poor rations, and horrendous working conditions, but still with high spirits achieved unbelievable results; the American Revolutionary War is a classic example.

In the workplace the key drivers of employee morale are:

  • Job Security
  • Management Style
  • Staff feeling that their contribution is valued by their employer
  • Realistic opportunities for merit-based promotion
  • The perceived social or economic value of the work being done by the organization as a whole
  • The perceived status of the work being done by the organization as a whole
  • Team composition
  • The work culture

One cannot buy morale or ‘espirt de corps’ with wages, benefits, and cafeterias with free food, or lattes at will; morale is instilled from within an organization and an individual employee.  Being a “cool” place to work is not morale, nor should weekly pizza parties be viewed as an example of team building.

 I spent three days at a printing facility recently where the plant employees work 12 hour shifts doing work that is hard physically and mentally tedious.  Were the employees ‘happy?” or were they “satisfied?”  One couldn’t really tell because there was very little communication among the employees, realistically the work was very unfulfilling and of low esteem.  But, the ‘espirit de corps’ was sky high!  They had jobs to do, tasks that had to be accomplished, and there was little to no floor management. 

Not one employee missed work or reported late.  Every employee gets a five minute break every hour, a ten minute break every two hours, and a twenty minute lunch, which are all paid and not once did anyone leave early or return late. 

Wives and husbands were actually hired together for the same shifts but not allowed to work the same lines, and that was a brilliant going against the grain in the traditional human resources management bible. 

Extraordinary effort on the part of average individuals is the true example of employee morale and it can never be overrated.

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