Many companies who are suffering from high turnover or morale issues attack the problem by looking for ways to reward their employees. They look at things like benefits packages, company events, or even soft benefits like ping pong tables at work or gourmet coffee. While these rewards can provide a small boost to morale, we find they don’t provide a good long term solution.

The science of motivation is actually very well understood outside of the business community. To get someone to do something, there are two methods for motivating them. One way is through extrinsic motivators like rewards or penalties. The impact of these are interesting. You can offer a valued prize to someone to get them to do something, but it will only work for a while and then the effects wear off. Putting premium coffee in the break room is a nice treat for everyone for a few weeks, but soon becomes standard and even expected. Furthermore, if you remove the coffee, there is a negative backlash.

A better way to improve morale is by utilizing intrinsic motivators. A vast majority of people really do want to do a good job. Humans are hardwired to be productive contributors. However, to be really productive, we need to be in the right environment. Here are some tips organizations can do to create an environment where intrinsic motivation thrives that will improve morale.

  • Show them Why – People perform better when they know why they perform the same tasks every day and the impact their work has. Some companies take a “because I said so” attitude on employee duties and/or they don’t help their people understand why their work is important. Showing people the results of the overall product and how important it is to the customer provides them with an understanding of the need, and a sense of pride when they meet that need.
  • Make them Successful – No one likes to fail or be terrible at their work. This is why it is important your people are designed to succeed both as a team and as individuals. Find ways to place people in positions where they can work within their natural strengths. Help teams establish clear goals they can attain rather than focusing on big goals they can’t impact.
  • Give them Choices – Owners and managers of an organization are often knowledgeable enough to develop solutions to key challenges within their organization. Then they find they spend most of their energy convincing their teams these solutions are right. Let your employees get involved with taking on internal challenges. They will come with great ideas and then be accountable for the solutions they develop.

If you are looking for ways to grow morale within your company, consider making some serious internal changes rather than throwing a potluck dinner or hanging up a poster. Your people will respond better, morale will improve, and your organizational success will follow.