How to manage SME staff morale in turbulent times

Published: 22nd June 2022

Tackling staff morale and boosting employee motivation

It’s important to manage staff morale in good times and bad, but in difficult times SMEs face low staff retention rates and decreased productivity if morale is low. This can quickly translate to a fall in profits, and cash flow problems that threaten the business as a whole.

An SME’s workforce is a highly valuable asset, but ensuring that morale is as high as possible mitigates some of the additional risks the business faces when times are unpredictable. So what causes poor staff morale, and how can you boost team spirit as the owner of an SME, to help your business flourish even during turbulent times?

What are the common causes of low staff morale?

  • Lack of recognition and/or appreciation from management
  • Worries about job security
  • Low wages
  • A culture of workplace bullying that isn’t addressed
  • Lack of flexibility in working hours
  • No clear career path
  • Lack of clarity as to what is expected by managers
  • No autonomy

Be open and honest in your communications with staff

Being transparent and open when talking to staff can instil loyalty and a sense of unity in a team. Employees are likely to respond positively if they’re aware of the problems the business is experiencing, and encouraged to ask for suggestions to help it move forward.

If members of staff believe that you’re hiding important issues from them, or don’t trust them to respond positively, morale could drop and you could face serious productivity issues.

Recognise dedication and hard work

Bring it to everyone’s attention when a member of staff has worked hard, and achieved a positive outcome. Feeling valued at work is important, and recognising dedication is crucial in maintaining high morale. It encourages others to also work hard for the business, and breeds a culture of respect and reward.

Employee recognition programmes can systemise this in a way that always makes hard working staff feel valuable to the company. In-house awards from managers, monetary payments, and peer-to-peer recognition, can all transform the way staff feel and lift morale for the long-term.

Allow flexible working patterns

Allowing your staff to work flexibly demonstrates that you understand they have a life and commitments outside of work, and that you’re prepared to be adaptable. Again, this engenders loyalty.

It shows that you care, and encourages employees to ‘go the extra mile’ for the business when needed. If your staff work from home, also let them know where they fit into the bigger picture of your business, and that their contribution matters.

Encourage social activities

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that we can be social with our colleagues even when we’re all working from home.  Now we can enjoy in-person get-togethers again, make it routine for your team to meet up for lunch, or a drink after work in the evening.

You could organise ‘walking meetings’ outdoors rather than sitting in the office, or arrange team building events to create strong bonds amongst colleagues. A cohesive team strengthens the company as a whole and can be a differentiator that helps you rise above your competitors.

Staff retention is key

The turbulent times we’ve experienced in recent years have led to restructure and streamlining activities for many SMEs. Staff retention is a fundamental issue, however, and a key indicator of the level of morale within a company.

As training new employees is so costly it’s important for business owners to carefully consider how staff view the company, how managers interact with employees, and whether any positive changes can be made.

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