10 easy ways to engage employees and boost morale

Frequently ask for advice, feedback and ideas, take responsibility, and prioritize personalized recognition.

What prevents managers from becoming great communicators?

Line managers are typically squeezed for time, so devoting extra resources to communication may feel impossible. Confidence may also be an issue—especially if they don’t have a great relationship with their team.

Try these 10 simple tips to engage employees, lift morale and make your workplace communication much better:

1. Try a smile.

This simple gesture has science in its corner.

Research shows that making a conscious effort to smile makes you feel better, and it improves the mood of others, too. Colleagues tend to “catch” the mood of their leaders. If those emotions are positive, co-workers are more likely to perform well.

If you’re not feeling upbeat, try smiling for 15 seconds. Studies suggest that forcing a smile tricks your brain into releasing neurochemicals that actually do make you feel happier.

2. Say hello in the morning.

Greeting your team in the morning shows you’re approachable and open to conversation. Unfortunately, many managers don’t make the (rather small) effort to do this.

Having a quick chat in the morning takes little investment, and it’s an easy way to show you care about your team.

If your staffers are dispersed, schedule frequent times to check in and say hello.

3. Introduce your team members to senior leaders.

Employees want to hear from head honchos. Just a bit of recognition from top brass can mean so much.

Frequently ask senior leaders to walk around the office so you can introduce them to your employees. Encourage execs to comment on any recent team successes, and let them know what your team is up to. These sorts of interactions will make your team feel more important, and it makes your leaders seem more approachable.

4. Discover your team’s motivators.

Everyone is driven by different things. What inspires and motivates your team members?

They may like a company’s products, purpose or stature. They may like the work itself. They may crave a sense of belonging or derive deep satisfaction from helping others.

As Bob Matha and Macy Boehm point out in “Beyond the Babble,” if we know our team’s motivators, we can tailor our communications accordingly. If you don’t know what drives your employees, just ask them: “What do you like most about working here?”

5. Create a huddle board.

Simply put a noticeboard in a communal area, and ask your team to add notes with questions, ideas or agenda items. Then go through them in your next huddle.

You can also use the board to add a summary of what’s happening (or on the horizon) to inform colleagues who couldn’t attend the previous meeting.

If your team members work remotely, set up a collaboration board using online tools.

6. Ask open-ended questions.

Questions that require just a “yes” or “no” discourage input and thwart meaningful conversation. Open-ended questions, however, tend to elicit more substantive responses.

Ask colleagues to offer personal opinions on specific issues, such as:

  • What’s your view on that?
  • How do you feel that relates to our team?
  • What concerns do you have about this week?

7. Ask for advice.

Some managers feel they should know all the answers—and they act accordingly.

An imperious attitude stifles engagement, innovation and creativity by implying that team members have little to offer.

Instead, ask individual team members for advice. It doesn’t have to be about work. Ask for advice on your travel plans or on which smartphone to buy. Ask for tips about gardening, pets or music.

Asking for advice shows you don’t have all the answers. It demonstrates a measure of humility, and it’s a simple way to convey that you value your team’s knowledge and opinions.

8. Take responsibility.

Shifting blame, making excuses and failing to take responsibility can quickly erode trust.

It takes guts, but admitting a mistake can strengthen your workplace standing. President John F. Kennedy’s popularity soared after he acknowledged his culpability for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

This administration intends to be candid about its errors,” he pronounced, adding that responsibility for the failed mission was “mine, and mine alone.”

9. Acknowledge personal events.

Employee recognition is crucial for engagement, retention and morale. Aside from public pats on the back for a job well done, acknowledging event outside the workplace—such as birthdays, weddings, births or bereavements—makes a statement: “We recognize you as a person, not just as an employee.”

10. Ask for feedback.

Take a minute at the end of one-on-one meetings to ask employees whether there’s anything they need from you or anything they would like you to do differently.

Asking for feedback sends a clear message to staffers: You want to help them succeed at work, and you’re open to improving on individual weaknesses.

Simple engagement tactics can help managers build deeper trust and stronger relationships with their teams. It doesn’t take budget-busting initiatives or a great deal of effort to lift morale—it just requires humility, empathy and a willingness to learn from your team.

A version of this post first appeared on Alive With Ideas.

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