“The beatings will continue until morale improves!”
Have you ever seen that expression on a plaque in a manager’s office? It’s meant to be funny, but in some companies, it might ring a little truer than anyone would like. When morale is low — due to a recent round of layoffs, an ineffective manager, a toxic work environment or one of many other reasons — taking a beating might sound more pleasurable than going to work.
Managers who sense that morale isn’t where it could or should be often don’t do a lot to help the situation. They might not correctly determine the cause of the low morale and implement changes or programs that either serve as a temporary fix or don’t address the problem at all, which only further discourages employees. Managers could also get defensive and start resorting to blame, coercion or fear tactics (the proverbial beatings we spoke of earlier) to try to turn things around and improve the office environment.
The problem is that those solutions almost never work. Eventually, productivity suffers, employee turnover increases and it becomes harder to attract and retain top talent. Eventually, maybe, morale will improve (often when the offending manager moves on or is fired) but until then, the organization suffers.
While it may be impossible to avoid all of the factors that lead to low morale, you can reduce the likelihood of a depressed and dysfunctional staff — or get the company back on track — by engaging the services of a professional employer organization, or PEO. A PEO is essentially human resources for hire, and can handle all of your HR functions, including payroll, benefits administration, staff recruitment and training and more. But what many managers and business owners fail to see is that outsourcing these functions can actually significantly improve employee morale in several important ways.
Many small businesses would like to be able to offer their employees a comprehensive benefits package that includes health coverage (including dental and vision), disability insurance coverage, retirement plans, tuition assistance and more. However, the costs of such benefits add up, and most small businesses cannot afford to offer everything or subsidize more than a small portion of the costs. In some cases, even larger companies can struggle to develop a benefits package that attracts top talent. As a result, employee morale can suffer, as workers may feel shortchanged by their employers or feel frustrated that they work hard only to spend a large portion of their salaries on benefits.
A PEO can help ease this burden because they manage a large number of employees — often several thousand — and have access to better rates and programs. A PEO can leverage the group purchasing power to buy health insurance coverage at a reduced rate, for example, or access additional benefits such as travel or gym membership discounts. These benefits can often go a long way toward keeping employees happy and engaged.
Remember that manager who had no idea how to improve morale? A PEO can provide him or her with training in more effective techniques that would not only improve morale, but also prevent it from falling in the first place. Most PEOs offer a wide range of training programs for managers and employees alike, which not only help everyone do their jobs better, but also serve as a benefit to employees. When a team has access to training in topics such as conflict resolution, time management or communication, for example, they may feel as if their employer cares about their development and will be more likely to stay positive.
One common reason for low morale is that employees accept positions believing that they will be doing one thing, only to discover that the actual job is much different. Another common problem is the tendency for job descriptions to be vague or focused on minimum requirements instead of establishing the parameters for excellence. As a result, teams might not gel; there could be unmet performance expectations or frustration among employees. When a PEO assists with the development of dynamic and accurate job descriptions, everyone starts on the right foot and there’s little room for the misunderstanding or disappointment that leads to low morale.
An important aspect of keeping morale high is the establishment of clear expectations and consistent policy enforcement. When the employee handbook is vague — or non-existent — it’s impossible to do either. A PEO will assist with the development of a clear and comprehensive employee handbook that leaves no room for interpretation. It puts everyone on the same page, so to speak, and in the event there is an issue, helps prevent misunderstandings or inequitable solutions.
Employees want recognition, and when they feel ignored or unnoticed, morale falls. However, many small businesses do not have the resources to develop comprehensive incentive programs. PEOS can assist in developing incentives such as birthday or anniversary celebrations, employee recognition programs and gift programs to help employees feel valued and appreciated.
A PEO may not be able to fix everything that ails your company, but the services can help improve employee morale and as a result, improve performance. If your company is struggling to keep employees happy, consider working with a PEO first — before you resort to beatings.Back to blog list