Thursday, February 5, 2009

Boost employee morale with one simple question

Could the secret to employee morale lie in the answer to one simple question?

It may, according to Janet Smith at The Power of Goodwill. She recently wrote a couple posts on the most important question bosses should ask their employees, especially those employees you depend on the most.

The question - What can I do to make your job more rewarding, interesting, and satisfying?

The point is that you should never take any employee for granted—particularly the ones you need the most. And to let these folks know that you appreciate them, value them, care about them, and want to keep them happy at work, there’s one question you absolutely must ask them. It may seem simple. It may seem obvious. But how often have you asked this question (or had it asked of you)?

Before asking the question, there are a few rules you need to follow:
  1. Regardless of the employee’s answer, take it seriously and show interest in what they say.
  2. Discuss the answer with the employee and tell them honestly what you can and can’t do.
  3. Let them know what you would like to do and when you think it could happen.

After asking the question and taking a sincere interest in their answer, do it all over again three months from now.


Employees who know that their feelings and opinions are valued by the company will show it in their work. When bosses listen, it improves employee morale and makes employees want to work harder because they know they are valued.

So, ask the question, ask it often and let employees know you care.


Janet Smith said...

Marie, thanks so much for the link to my blog from yours! Training is a very important element in the employee morale equation, so I'm delighted you've shared my thoughts on "one simple question" with your readers.

Nathaniel said...

I really enjoyed your post. I finished my undergrad in December, so I'm new to the working world. But already I know that it makes such a big difference when the boss comes and asks "What are you working on, do you need any help?" Even when your responsibilities are relatively small, the fact that your boss took the time to ask the question makes you feel wanted and useful. I have to say I got lucky. I'm an intern for a company called Rypple. Rypple works like twitter-you send out a question about anything you wish to improve on to a group of advisers. The feedback is separated from the identity of the person giving it, which allows for an honest response. I find it cool because it gives me direct access to my boss. I ask a question about how I’m doing; I get a reply and know right away. But what’s even better is that my boss can ask all of the employees for feedback and we can respond. It levels the playing field in way; creating greater communication, which demonstrates to everyone that their opinions are valued. If you want, check it out at It’s still in private beta so send me an email and I’ll make sure you get access right away. If not, I really enjoyed your post. I’ve subscribed to the RSS to keep up to date. Cheers.

communicator said...

I’m an hourly worker at a plant with about 900 hourly workers and about 200 salary workers. The plant grew primarily on government projects but now survives solely on the commercial market. At the height of its prime it had 7,000 employees, building the wins for the B-1 bomber, back in the 80’s. We were purchased a few years ago by a much larger subcontractor, which manufactures aerospace components for a variety of companies, such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter and so on. We are now part of a company that has about 6 large plants across the country.

My question is about employee moral (EM). When we talk about EM on the shop floor, it seem obvious to us that, “the company should care about EM because it’s just the right thing to do”. But we eventually come around to accepting the fact that EM, just like anything else is only as important as the difference it makes to the bottom line. And I hate to use that term to talk about money because, personally, I think money is only a common denominator and quality of life is really the bottom line. We don’t really work for money; we work for the things money can buy, and in some cases, we work for the glory of what we contribute to society, pride in our work and supporting ourselves and our families.

If you will can be patient with me long enough to give an example; About 8 years ago, the CEO brought us all together for an All Hands Meeting. He said, “Our product is cash”. That to me was like saying, “Our life is dirt”. When you say, our product is cash, you cut past all the ownership, motivation, desire to do a good job, create good quality, take pride in your work, care about your fellow workers, the relationships with your bosses; all that! It’s like saying, you live your whole life so that you can die and turn back in to dirt. And we know that life is much more that that, as is our work-life.

Do large companies just forget that the workers are human or is that a necessary evil that they try to ignore? It’s like they spend all their time crunching numbers and they have all these charts and graphs and they determine from those numbers that they can make an extra $120.00 per week off of every worker they have by making them work 6 days a week, so they can lay off 25% of the work force, without any concern for the collateral damage it causes. And there are so many other examples.

Sometimes I feel like a cog in someone else's wheel.

I guess my question is: “Should the company be concerned about EM” and if so, why?

Training Time said...

Thank you all for your comments! And you're welcome, Janet.

Nataniel, sounds like you're in an innovative company that really "gets" the concept of interactive communication. Nice to hear it's happening out there.

Communicator, your company is missing the boat. Employees ARE the company bottom line. Discontent employees mean lower productivity, more waste and scrap, low customer satisfaction and high accident rates. Can I use parts of your post as the basis for a new post about EM and the reality of what many employees are feeling? No identifying info would be included. That "Our product is cash" comment is something that send chills up my spine!

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