Improving employee morale

Author Keith Jennings
March 01, 2016 - 10:30am

Whether your shop is busy or struggling to survive a downturn, employees are your best asset.

We’ve had to downsize over the past few months, but a good group remains. Many are handling new tasks, but a reengineering of employees’ tasks can be beneficial, driving everyone to work smarter, not harder. It is working well so far, thanks to everyone picking up the slack created by the departed employees. 

Nonetheless, lingering concerns about the economy and job security remain and can foster an unpleasant work environment. No matter how effective a shop’s owners and managers are, a cloud of uncertainty can damage morale when it is needed most. 

To boost spirits and generate confidence in their efforts, it’s crucial to instill employees with optimism and hope, and offer them something so they can go home with some degree of comfort. And with maintaining cash flow and controlling expenses being so critical, it’s wise to find simple and cheap ways to build camaraderie in spite of a downturn and its weighty concerns.

One idea proved effective at our shop: We got the big smoker pit from the back of the shop, blew the dust off and prepared it for a Friday cookout. We realized it had been too long since we used it, and it was time to reward hard work. Our shop managers and supervisors coordinated most of the cookout, including getting workers to bring food, drinks and the related supplies. 

When I walked through the shop that morning, I could already smell food smoking for lunch. The aroma, combined with beautiful, late-January sunshine, immediately lifted my spirits. It would be a good end to a draining month. 

During lunch, we shared an awesome assortment of dishes, talked about our weekend plans, laughed and had a pleasant time. We all needed that. It included a friendly debate to determine the best homemade salsa. Did it magically fix everything and ensure a huge week in orders? No, but it did create some much-needed camaraderie. And, because everyone contributed, the cost to the company was minimal.

We also cleaned an old basketball hoop and set it up outside for employees to shoot some baskets during breaks or after work. Their demeanor sure seems better after a quick game of H-O-R-S-E.

Numerous other ways exist to raise the spirits of the troops. We’ve had a pizza lunch, provided gift cards to deserving workers and taken employees out to lunch—nothing fancy or costly, but something to show appreciation and relieve their minds. They understand our situation as owners and respect the hard decisions we make, but it makes for a better and more-productive week when our team has something to look forward to.

We may be leaner this year, but we can’t make good parts without a good crew.  And because good food seems to be the favored motivation, I think we’ll smoke up the pit again soon. And when we do, come on by!  


Manager's Desk Columnist

Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping.