Tuesday, February 9 , 2016, 9:25 am | Fair 65º

Karen Dwyer: Building Employee Morale Needs to Be a Team Effort

Activities, rewards and good working relationships are essential to the success of any business

By Karen Dwyer, Noozhawk Columnist |

Henry Ford, founder of the century-old Ford Motor Company, once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Ford was a great achiever because he realized the power of teamwork, where people working together can accomplish goals that would have been impossible to attain alone.

Teamwork is the key to building company morale. Working as a team not only helps employees work toward a common goal; it also fosters an environment in which co-workers respect one another and function well together. Creating great working relationships will help streamline processes and boost productivity.

According to an Express Employment Professionals survey of 15,000 current and former clients, less than 30 percent of businesses are offering team-building activities to boost morale.

In any business, making sure that employees work well together is essential as it makes for both a happier environment and a more profitable company. Employees who feel they are part of a team tend to provide quality work at a faster pace.

What can you do to better build up your team?

Make Every Individual Feel Like an Important and Contributing Member of the Team

» Appoint a team leader to oversee the progress and to keep everyone motivated to finish a project on time.

» Assign jobs according to each team member’s strengths for the highest level of success possible.

» Praise team members for a job well done. Acknowledge each person’s hard work and dedication, and be sure to pass along any positive feedback from clients or upper level management.

“Great teams do not hold back with one another,” said Patrick Lencioni, author, leadership expert and president of The Table Group. “They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

Team-Building Activities and Ideas

Here are some easy tips to implement team-building ideas that numerous successful companies have put into practice.

» Recognize each team member’s birthday by either a card signed by everyone, a birthday cake, group gift or simply singing “Happy Birthday” together.

» Volunteer for charity work as a team. Your team could raise money for a cause, run a 5K for a charity or volunteer at the local homeless shelter serving lunch.

» Go out to lunch together at least once a month to help build camaraderie.

» Set up a team rewards system. If your team completes a project, consider giving them a “jeans day,” bringing breakfast one morning, letting them leave an hour early one Friday or giving out gift cards as a way to reward the team for working together.

» Bring in a team-building expert to conduct a daylong session/seminar with your team.

» Form a morale booster committee to plan yearly events such as company picnics and barbecues, company softball games, a potluck or Easter egg hunt — anything to get the company employees together to have fun and get to know one another.

Nearly 40 percent of clients surveyed by Express Employment Professionals felt that the lack of morale was from feeling unappreciated — something that can be an easy fix in most businesses.

Remember, by doing team-building activities, rewarding progress and developing work relationships, businesses can make employees feel appreciated, and in turn, build a more successful, productive and happy work force.

Overall, team building will boost office morale, and morale in the workplace is critical to the success of any organization.

— Karen Dwyer is owner of Express Employment Professionals, 1025 Chapala St., Suite 206, in Santa Barbara. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

» on 06.16.11 @ 09:43 AM

If you want team effort, join a union.
If the employers in this state have any smarts they will soon realize that paying their employees enough to buy their product will make more profits for them.
Unfortunately, most employers lack this foresight. But how do sell a product that your own employees can’t afford to buy?
Ask Henry Ford.

» on 06.17.11 @ 01:35 AM

While I appreciate the middle section discussing elements of creating any type of team, this article, like so many others, falls flat on what builds a concept of ‘team’ and doesn’t lay out any options or formulae for building a successful team—a ‘team’ doesnt matter so much as a ‘successful team’ does.

Like so many managers and corporations, the suggestions at the end for birthday recognition and after-hours activities fall on the deaf ears of most employees.

For one, if both work and reward have nothing to do with teams, that is, if you work alone and are rewarded based on individual work, few people will buy in to the activity. If creating a team is done for its own sake, the activity is simply futile, and a waste of company time.

Also, MIT has a think tank dedicated to finding out the concept of ‘Collective Intelligence’ and are finding that the team with the smartest member or the team with all of the smartest members will not equal the most successful team—other elements including open and honest communication, ability to read emotions and non-verbal cues, and strangely (or not) a higher ratio of women, have created successful teams. Link: http://cci.mit.edu/

Such exercises listed here are not far removed from the ‘trust fall’ of so many summer camp stories. That activity by itself is isolated form the type of work most people perform. It may be fun, and may allow you to trust people if you fall, it doesnt necessarily follow that those same people will stay to work later to help you finish yours, or take on more work if there is an imbalance. It’s akin to a football player taking practice swings over home plate—nothing to do with the goal and measure of success.

After hours activities may help people get know each other outside of work, but again, that has little to do with the office. If the activity has nothing to do with the work done by the firm, it wont lead to a more successful team. It merely means that people will begin to see these things as part of the culture of the firm.

If a firm likes to play bingo, go to lunch at the Thai place every Friday, or has a Christmas party every year, none of that will make employees focus on their jobs, goals, and success back in the office. These activities simply become expected events in the tenure of their employment. And just because people can drink together doesnt mean they can work together. The adage that friends shouldnt go into business with each other holds true in the workplace.

Another thing to remember is that with a changing demographic, younger workers are not easily entertained by these attempts to placate them. The bullsh*t meters of their elders were already fine tuned, but theirs is a precision tool with a pointed sting when they utter the words ‘lame’.

There is a YouTube video of a Wal-Mart manager energizing his store by leading them in a rendition of the ‘Surfin Bird’. Tell me you didnt cringe: http://youtu.be/q7Asf9n848M

SO what are some recommendations:

If a manager wants to make his employees feel as though they are part of a team, then that manager must be prepared to get her/his hands dirty. When a manager assigns a task, or even if it is a normal part of operations, it is important that the manager take part in the work, regardless of how menial, how simple, how tough it may be. The boss needs to work alongside his people, commit to staying until the job is finished, and occasionally be one the grunts to win their buy-in.

If the kid in the mailroom (as tiring as that cliche is) thinks it’s lame, dont do it. Your cool factor, your creativity, your ability to command respect is built on the ‘wow’ that comes from these activities and rewards. Get your creative and sociable people to come up with activities and themes.

See your people as people and not units. If you understand their lives, and take a genuine interest in who they are outside of work, they will respect you for respecting them.

Make sure that the purpose of the company can necessarily be aligned with the goals of any team, and that every team has a goal that serves the primary function of the team. Do not let departments develop into fiefdoms, or allow teams to become territorial.

Recognition has to be genuine, it has to be real and worthwhile, it has to be of value to the individual (any giftcard will not suffice; it’s similar to a white elephant filled with Chia Pets and scented candles), and the value has to be commensurate with the accomplishment.

Switch people to different teams often, just to let them reset their mind onto projects that take weeks and months. This allows them to develop working relationships with their coworkers in all areas of the company, increases communication between individuals and departments (great for innovation and problem solving), and allows workers to maintain a fresh perspective on their primary work.

Encourage and expect communication from all employees. Limit talking time in group meetings and among teams. Normally in teams, the loudest member will inevitably have their ideas implemented simply because they drown out and intimidate others. Limited time for discussion, but discussion and input from all, and maintenance of openness and respect, encourages people to give honest suggestions and constructive feedback from all perspectives.

Finally, articulate clear guidelines on the nature of the team and what constitutes success for the team. If the team exists with no clearly defined purpose, it will be a group of people wandering in the dark (and those previously mentioned BS meters may go off). Tag lines and mottoes be damned—create the team (even if it means replacing people who cant work as part of a team with those who can), give it some ground rules, establish communication, and give it a goal.

Of course, I could be all wrong.

» on 06.17.11 @ 01:41 AM

I should have added:

Do some random things. A well-known local and business owner told me once: “Sometimes, on a Friday, when my guys are getting ready to punch out, I walk up to them one on one, hand them a hundred dollar bill, and tell them “take your wife to dinner.”” Surprise rewards from the boss for no apparent reason can go a long way to improving morale, building trust and confidence, establishing loyalty, and getting your people to go above and beyond in those just-as-random moments when you as a manager will ask it of them.

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