Today, nearly one in four employees is experiencing a wage freeze and as many as 30 percent of employees work in a company that is laying off employees. With so many employees experiencing turmoil at their workplaces, it is no wonder that employee satisfaction is well below 2008 levels. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, a 2010 survey conducted by Unum found that only 63 percent of employees felt that their employers valued their work, as compared to 70 percent of employees in 2008. Further, only 56 percent of employees felt that their employers cared about their well-being, as compared with 63 percent of employees in 2008. These survey results are troubling because most theories of motivation indicate that low employee morale can reduce motivation and productivity.
Employee Motivation and Morale
Employee motivation has become more important than ever before, especially since the majority of Generation X workers indicate that finding meaningful work is a top priority. With an increasing competition for talent in certain fields and with many baby boomers retiring or scheduled to retire over the next several years, more and more employers are turning to various theories of motivation to try to capture, keep and encourage talented employees.
The vast majority of motivational theories show a direct correlation between motivation and a feeling of being valued. For instance, Maslow has outlined a hierarchy of needs, with basic needs like food and shelter at the bottom and self actualization at the top. Self actualization involves the fulfillment of one’s potential and typically requires the opportunity to be creative and to feel as if one is doing something meaningful.
Likewise, Herzberg has outlined a two-factor theory of motivation. Under this theory, dissatisfaction can be avoided if basic hygiene factors are present (such as safe working conditions), however, avoiding dissatisfaction doesn’t equate to happiness or fulfillment. Fulfillment requires motivating factors, rather than just the absence of dissatisfaction. In other words, both Herzberg and Maslow see a connection between employee satisfaction or morale and the motivation of an employee.
Increasing Employee Morale
As an employer, you may recognzie the importance of employee motivation but it may seem as though boosting morale is impossible or improbable, especially if you do have to institute wage freezers or lay off employees. Fortunately, Bill Dalicandro, vice president of Ulum, indicates that there is a simple and easy way to boost employee morale: benefits education.
Survey responses indicated just how big of an impact benefits education can have, with 80 percent of employees who rated their benefits education highly also indicating that their employer was an excellent employer and that their job was a good place to work. By contrast, only 31 percent of employees who reported receiving poor benefits education also indicated that their employer was a good one. Further, a full 77 percent of employees who reported receiving good benefits education indicated that they would remain at their job, even if offered a comparable job elsewhere.
Benefits education can clearly have a major impact on employee satisfaction and, by extension, employee morale and motivation. Providing question and answer sessions, printed benefit information, information sessions or online information about benefits can be an inexpensive and simple way to change the way your employees view your company and these small efforts can pay dividends.