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The Business Magazine July 2024
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How to manage SME staff morale in turbulent times

How SME owners can help manage poor worker morale
How SME owners can help manage poor worker morale
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How SME owners can help manage poor worker morale

Good employees can make or break a company’s success, and during challenging times, it is even more important to ensure you have a happy and content workforce, fully engaged and committed to your company.

An uncertain economic outlook creates stress, uncertainty, and burn-out, and it is your job as an employer to look at ways of allaying these fears, and increasing positivity within the workplace. Embarking on a mission to manage and improve morale, therefore, can be a sound investment, helping to boost productivity, increase staff retention, and decrease absences.

READ MORE: Top Guns share business resilience advice at Begbies Traynor panel event

While the obvious answer is to offer all staff a pay rise, this is rarely a realistic option. However, don’t automatically assume improving staff morale always requires a sizeable financial outlay. In many cases, offering an additional amount of flexibility to the working day can be just as well received as a subsidised team building day out of the office.

When it comes to plummeting staff morale, it is extremely difficult for these concerns to be properly addressed without knowing what is causing the issues. Getting to the root of the problem is therefore key.

READ MORE: How can SMEs prepare for an economic downturn?

Consider whether there any obvious reasons why staff morale may be flatlining. Has there been a recent exodus of key staff members? Has there been talk of redundancies or poor company performance? Has your company recently been part of a merger or acquisition and blending the two teams is proving problematic? Low staff morale often comes down to overly large workloads, poor supervision and/or excessive micro management, poor wages, bullying, or a poor work/home balance. While some of these may hint at deeper issues within the company culture, others may be resolved more simply:

· Offer flexibility – In a world where we are increasingly busy, our lives cannot always easily be moulded around the standard 9-5 working day. If your business allows, offering staff flexibility when it comes to their working hours is likely to be extremely welcome. Consider setting ‘core hours’ where everyone needs to be at their desk, with the remaining hours able to be worked around this. This could allow employees to start work early, or finish their day later depending on what best suits their lifestyle.

· Location, location, location - The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way a lot of us work forever. Short-term ‘work from home’ messages from the government have now become a way of life for many. Depending on how your business operates, offering a hybrid model of working can go some way to addressing a work/life imbalance.

READ MORE: My SME business is in trouble – what help is available to me?

· Show appreciation – When running a business, it can be all too easy to pick up on when things haven’t been done right, while not being so quick to praise a job well done. Noticing, acknowledging, and appreciating the effort staff are putting in can help ensure your workforce feel valued. Offer a pathway to advancement via courses and other training opportunities to allow people to envisage their future within the business.

If the causes of subdued staff morale are not obvious, or if you simply want to ensure you are making your workforce as happy as possible, encouraging feedback and open communication could give you the answers you need. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, or an anonymous company-wide staff survey. Make it clear that you are actively wanting ideas and looking to boost morale and overall satisfaction in the workplace. You will see some themes quickly emerge, and you can use that feedback to guide you in your efforts.

If you are ready to boost morale within the workplace, start by making your intentions clear, and ask your employees for help in achieving this. After all, they are the ones who know better than anyone what would be valuable and appreciated. Remember to be realistic in what you are able to offer, don’t over-promise, and keep open lines of communication with staff from all areas and levels across the business.


Stephen Emerson is the Managing Editor of The Business Magazine and is responsible for the publication's print publications and online properties including the newly launched Biz News websites in Hampshire and Dorset.

Stephen has been a journalist for 20 years and has worked at local, regional and national publications and led a team which made The Scotsman website one of the fastest growing news sites in the UK with over eight million monthly users.

He has a keen interest in technology, property and corporate finance and telling the stories of the people behind the successful firms in these sectors.

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