How Do YOU Measure Morale in The Workplace?

by Bart Gragg

I was once asked by best-selling business author Jim Horan “How do you measure morale?” I rarely hear others bring the question up I bring it up frequently –

How do you measure morale in the workplace?

First – What is morale anyway?

From Dictionary.com we have this – “emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition, hardship, etc.: the morale of the troops.”

Cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, ETC? Here’s the thing – most(?) of us know what morale is and most(?) of us know, subjectively, what the level of morale is in our workplace most of the time.

Second – Why is morale important? More importantly:

  • Why is good morale important?
  • How do you really know if morale is bad?
  • How can you tell if/when morale is improving or disintegrating?

Having good morale is important for productivity – no government subsidized study needed there. Look at your personal experience – when you feel like crap you don’t do the things you need to do the way you need to do them – productivity is down.  Having good morale is important to safety – when people care they tend to care about others as well.  When people don’t care – they really do not care about others first.

But how can you prove to the others, the ones that don’t get it that, morale is where it is? When I answered Jim Horan’s question about this I honestly stuttered. I said “Hell, Jim, everyone knows when it’s bad. People smile less!”  He replied “So you could stand at the entrance and count smiles and such as people walk by?” Yeah, I get it, pretty lame for a number of reasons.

But over the time since that question was posed I constantly ask others, and myself “How do you measure morale in the workplace?” Here are some indicators we use:

  • People take more time off with less notice.
  • Workplace theft, either of product or office supplies.
  • People show up late and leave early.  This one is especially true of that exceptional person that gets in early and stays late because they love what they do – now they will just show up and leave on time.
  • The number of near misses goes up (from the safety perspective).
  • Dress code limits are pushed.
  • If you are monitoring personal time off (PTO) watch that being used up more rapidly.
  • Behavior shifts in the workplace – you know from paying attention what a persons normal demeanor is and if the get meaner in their demeanor it’s a sure indication that something is going on.
  • There’s even one guy out there that says the way people park is an indicator of morale. He says if they park facing in it’s all good. If people back into their parking spot and face out they want to leave as soon as they can.

I want to point out most of us “get” what morale is and at what level morale runs.  It’s also my belief that a shift in morale is often the first indicator to some people that morale even exists – it brings attention to it.

So the import of asking and answering the question of how to measure morale is great for several reasons:

  1. Some people don’t get it – they cannot even subjectively get what morale is.  It’s not that they are dumb or that they are bad people – it’s just that their behavioral style is probably detail and fact centric – not people centric.
  2. Some people are out of the loop – as an example, executive management may not be aware of morale issues in a remote factory location.

Looking at [2] above – What are they measuring and what is that telling them?  Typically they are focused on numbers that indicate sales, expenses, bottom line, their bonuses.  When those numbers that indicate profitability is falling are getting larger – then what does management say? Costs are going up! Sales are down! It’s the economy! It’s productivity! People need more training, incentive, motivation, firing, etc.

But does anyone ever ask “What’s the morale like down there and why is it that way? And what’s morale like in our great locations and why is it that way?”  Shouldn’t those be a standard business questions?

My thinking is that in today’s world of fast information processing and sharing the answers are there for people to see – but they have to be looking for it. While I don’t think that you can place an absolute value on morale – but you can place a relative value on it.

Another question is “Is management even looking at morale?”

How do YOU measure morale?

If you would like to talk about this subject or want other information on training supervisors and managers, please feel free to call me for a no obligation conference at 925.757.7473 or contact me here.

Bart Gragg
Blue Collar University®
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