Defined as the ability of a group to come together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a shared goal or purpose, morale is a fuzzy concept that yields measurable results. When morale is high among employees, notes management and training website Mind Tools, productivity is higher and staff turnover reduced. Employee morale, or lack thereof, stems from a variety of sources – both within the organization and without – and can be improved through proactive steps.

A Cue From Leadership

According to the National Business Research Institute, the quality of leadership in an organization is a significant factor affecting employee productivity and engagement. Three keys for managers to instill morale are showing employees respect, establishing expectations and avoiding micromanaging. By building relationships based on respect, managers help nurture a creative and responsive workforce. The Association for Talent Development sees employee morale as an outgrowth of how well a leader communicates – that is, often and openly – as well as how consistently she applies her management system and handles difficult employees.

Work Environment and Team

While high pay might seem to be motivation enough, small business resource Biz Filings notes that "soft issues" eclipse other factors in the importance of employee morale. When employees feel they are treated fairly and the work they do is recognized and important, they thrive. On the team level of an organization, morale that has suffered can be revitalized by developing the team's skills, as well as improving the physical comfort and cleanliness of the workplace.

Mind Tools recommends implementing psychologist Fredrick Herzberg's two-prong Motivators and Hygiene Factors theory, which involves first eliminating job dissatisfaction by revamping company policies and work conditions, then enhancing job satisfaction through advancement opportunities.

Structural Support Factors Influencing Motivation

Morale can take a nosedive when a company reshuffles or reorganizes, and employees are laid off or shifted to new teams. When internal shakeups occur within a company, morale may slip due to increased workload, adjusting to new co-workers, absenteeism, conflicts and insubordination. During these times, it's important to provide support for employees who remain after the dust settles. When morale is low, your best talent is likely to be the first to take flight, notes Mind Tools, so talent management techniques incorporating leadership development and succession planning help keep the forces chugging along.

External Influences as Factors Influencing Motivation

Outside forces can throw employee morale for a loop, as when the company's public image becomes damaged, or the company loses a major client. Difficult times can shake people's confidence and lower morale, so to remedy this and rebuild confidence, give employees more autonomy to make decisions and reinforce the company's mission statement. Establish "SMART" goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive – to combat low employee morale causes that come from outside the organization.