Employee morale. Wikipedia defines it as job satisfaction or a feeling of well-being in the workplace. But morale offers more than just happiness. Research shows a clear link between employees’ morale and better job performance. Companies that use employee morale boosters see a benefit to their bottom line.

The opposite is also true. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees (i.e. low morale) cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. In your company, that cost may take the form of absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher turnover costs.

The good news? Raising employee salaries isn’t the only, or even the best, approach for improving employee morale. There are more effective ways to improve employee motivation. Glassdoor reviewed their wealth of real-world labor data to find that culture and values, leadership, and job opportunity influence employee morale more than salary and benefits.

Here are 7 employee morale boosters that cost you nothing. (We know you were looking for 10 – but these 7 are powerful.)

Related Blog: 4 Ways to Boost Employee Retention Through Engagement: An Infographic

1. Public Recognition

Appreciation matters. According to a Glassdoor appreciation survey, 53% of employees stay at their jobs longer if they get appreciation from their boss. And 76% of employees in a Psychology Today study identified peer praise as extremely motivating.

Private recognition is great – but public recognition is one of the best ways to improve employee motivation. Not only does it tell a single employee or team what they’re doing well – but it creates positive peer pressure to boost other people’s motivation to do the right thing.

So, tell everyone when your employees are doing a great job. And encourage peers to do the same. Call out star performers or teams at staff meetings. Showing employees that you notice and appreciate their hard work transforms employee morale.

2. Let Your Employees Have an Impact

Employee morale goes up when employees feel like they have an impact on the direction and success of their company. When you listen to and implement employees’ suggestions, you put in place changes that directly impact your bottom line. Oftentimes employees have the best sense of what changes help their jobs (and your company) flow more smoothly. And putting employee ideas in place serves as a great morale booster.

For example, one Amoco plant in Texas put in place a suggestion plan that saved the company over 18 million dollars in only two years. The company publicly recognized employees with winning ideas in front of the entire company (including executive management) and rewarded them with tangible awards and travel.

In the 1990’s, Black and Decker introduced their “Everyone Counts” program – designed to get employees involved in decision making. In the first weeks, more than 85% of their employees volunteered. They were divided into 39 teams who were asked to come up with 5 good ideas every 12 weeks. Employees submitted more than 200 ideas, of which 59 were approved. One $700,000 cost-saving idea dealt with the substitution of new material in one of its product lines.

3. Encourage Continued Learning

According to the Economist, the rate of technological change pushes lifelong learning from a nice-to-have to an economic imperative. On-the-job requirements change faster than they ever have before. From a business standpoint, helping employees master new skills ensures that your employees can continue to have an impact and that you have people in place to meet your company’s emerging needs.

It’s also one of the best ways to improve employee motivation. Forbes identifies continuous learning as one of the fastest paths to engagement. Giving your employees the ability to either learn more about their own job – or to attend meetings to learn from other departments – goes a long way to boost employees’ morale.

4. Show Employees that They’re Valued

Sending a message that your company clearly values profits over people dampens employee morale faster than almost anything else. According to Inc., the people who stay with a company that sends that message are likely to be underperformers. It’s not that profit or growth aren’t important, but keeping the people who make profit and growth happen ensures that your company will move forward. So, show them that you value them. Acknowledgement from an executive, a simple conversation at the coffee pot, or celebrating their birthdays are all good ways to start.

Take a tour of our platform to see how you can embed appreciation into your culture.

5. Make Rewards Meaningful

When it comes to rewarding a job well done, many executives revert to giving their employees small cash bonuses. But once an employee earns a certain wage or salary, cash isn’t much of a morale booster. Once your employee spends the bonus, it’s gone. In order to get the same impact on employee morale, you might need to keep increasing the bonuses over time.

Instead, give employees the rewards that matter to them: experiences. Research shows that experiences build long term happiness more than money or things.

In our own office, for example, employees pick their rewards. One of the most popular rewards requires employees to pool points to get a keg of cold-brew coffee. I’m sure that we would still like the cold brew if the company just provided it, without any effort on our part. But somehow, each cup seems a little more special because we had to work together to get it; the experience of cooperation has value in its own right. See 11 Affordable Recognition Awards for Teams to get ideas for your own office.

11 Affordable Team Awards to Boost Employee Morale

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6. Communicate your Values

Employees want to know that their work has meaning. Letting them know – on a regular basis – your company’s core values helps them connect their work to the overall company success. A 2015 SHRM Study showed that companies that tie recognition to corporate values kept employees around longer. 68% of respondents that used recognition tied to corporate values had better retention rates.

On top of that, millennial employees (who are soon to be half of the working population) care about their company’s values and ethics. In her open letter to employers, Lisa Earle McLeod captures what seems to be a global sentiment among millennials: “I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit.”

7. Make Employee Morale Activities Genuine

Employees recognize inauthentic behavior. So, whichever morale boosters you choose to implement, genuine interest and concern for your employees needs to be expressed. Forced office socials and cheap thoughtless gifts will be recognized as such, and you risk causing damage rather than the good will for which they were intended. We recommend that you focus on the four pillars of a comprehensive employee experience (connection, appreciation, meaning and impact) to authentically and sustainably boost employee morale.

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