It’s crunch time! Barely a month before the year ends, the pressure is on to reach targets and make quotas. Morale naturally dips, especially for team members lagging behind. And, as manager, this is not what you want.

Morale is a crucial differentiator when it comes to successful organizations. In fact, according to a Marketing Innovators white paper, companies that foster high morale among their employees outperform competitors by around 20 percent. Likewise, the market value of companies increases by 47 percent once they begin to focus on employee engagement and morale. If only boosting morale is easy….

The reality is that any effort to boost sales team morale at this point is going to be short-term. Keep this in mind when implementing morale boosting initiatives aimed at achieving year-end targets.

Employee engagement and morale are long-term commitments that reap long-term benefits. Thus, the ideal is to develop and consistently implement forward-looking employee engagement and morale boosting initiatives.

Employee Engagement in the US

According to the 2016 State of American Workplace, a Gallup report based on answers from more than 195,000 employees, only 33 percent of US employees are effectively engaged in their work. Of these, only 21 percent claim to be motivated to do outstanding work.

Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t even all-time lows in Gallup’s more than a decade-long tracking of employee engagement. These are actually some of the highest engagement results, by far – which is perhaps indicative of changing perceptions regarding these aspects of business.

The US workplace reality is that the majority of employees (more than 51 percent) are disengaged. This has been going on for more than 15 years; and it has cost the country anywhere between $483 billion and $605 billion a year, in terms of productivity.

Experts claim that employee engagement in the US and worldwide is in crisis. For the sake of business survival and success, it is imperative to implement long-term, as well as short-term, employee morale boosting initiatives.

Employee Morale and Engagement: Short Term

Sales gamification is a tried-and-tested strategy towards achieving an immediate boost in employee engagement, however short run.

A survey conducted by the TAS Group has found that 40 percent of employees are motivated when they “make progress or win.” Likewise, gamification company LevelEleven’s Bob Marsh claims that 90 percent of companies that employ sales gamification experience an improvement in the productivity of their sales team. 71 percent of these enjoy spikes in their sales performance by 11 percent to 50 percent.

This is all good, and you can take advantage of gamification’s benefits as the year-end approaches. However, remember that it is only a short-term motivator, and may only result in extrinsic improvements in sales performance.

Alongside sales gamification, invest in long-term initiatives that engage and motivate employees to consistently do their best at their jobs.

Employee Morale and Engagement: Long Term

Implementing long-term solutions to the employee engagement crisis within your organization entails a renewed commitment from you and the rest of its leaders.

Remember that 51 percent of employees are generally disengaged from their work. This could mean a need to re-examine what your employees value, what motivates them do their best. The Gallup report has come up with top motivators according to today’s employees:

  • the opportunity to do what they do best
  • better work-life balance and personal well-being
  • improved stability and job security
  • a significant increase in income
  • the opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation

The opportunity to do what they do best

Many of the men and women in sales are there because that’s what they do best; it is the vocation that fulfills them.

Of course, being part of sales teams means doing more than just sell. The job comes with tasks that don’t necessarily align with the vocation, such as data entry, writing and reporting. At the same time, managers and business leaders are sometimes remiss in recognizing achievements, which can be deemed as discouraging and disengaging.

Here are some strategies that can help you encourage your sales team to love and do their best at their jobs:

  1. Provide helpful tools and internal procedures.

Ace salesmen and women have the drive to achieve their goals. As manager, you need to nurture this drive through supportive internal procedures and tools.

This can mean outsourcing or delegating some of your team’s administrative work, in order to keep them focused on selling and make them feel less overwhelmed. There are several available contractors or freelance services that can handle minor tasks, such as data entry and research. This empowers your team and encourages them to stay focused on their sales targets.

It also means employing marketing and sales automation tools that make repetitive tasks less time-consuming. From CRM systems to automated emails and follow-ups, one less task to do can mean a giant step towards closing deals.

  1. Recognize efforts and achievements.

A survey by Globoforce has found that 82 percent of employees feel more satisfied when they are recognized at work. Recognition is a way to communicate that you observe what each of your team members do, and value their contribution towards your goals. It is a way to positively reinforce actions that get you closer to your sales targets.

The requisite is that the recognition should be genuine. Superficial ones – that is, recognition that’s mere lip service – discourage, more than move people to achieve goals.

  1. Provide venues and support for professional and personal development.

It benefits your team and your business when employees put in extra hours towards professional and personal development. Not only will you get team members with improved expertise. You also communicate that it’s not just about the bottom line and corporate goals. You also value each team member’s personal goals and growth.

Provide venues and support for these endeavors by regularly conducting training programs, providing incentives for members who enroll in after-work classes and certificate programs, and reimbursing investments made in these.

The coffee giant Starbucks is an example when it comes to providing support for their employees’ professional and personal development. Apart from other initiatives, it has recently partnered with Arizona State University for its expanded employee tuition reimbursement plan.

  1. Recognize milestones, both professional and personal.

Professional and personal milestones are undoubtedly important for each member of your team. When you recognize these milestones – be it their birthday, work anniversary, or the coming of their first-born – you are able to show them that they are more than just employees. You let them know that you recognize their individuality and life, in and out of work. This personal touch goes a long way in boosting morale and making people feel good about being at work.

  1. Solicit your team’s feedback.

Getting your team’s feedback on work issues is a good way to encourage involvement and show your openness when it comes to criticisms and other people’s opinions.

A prime example here is Google. The IT giant implements Googleist, an employee feedback system that constantly reaches out to team members regarding internal issues. Once employee feedback is in, Google then puts together internal volunteer groups to thresh out and solve the issues.

Better work-life balance and personal well-being

All work and no play makes Jack disengaged from work and less motivated. Remember that work-life balance is more than just a buzzword. Everyone needs a little break sometimes, in order to keep morale high. A survey by Net Impact has found that 88 percent of employees believe that work-life balance is a crucial component of a positive workplace.

  1. Encourage personal interactions and relationships between co-workers.

Employees are likely to spend more time with co-workers than with managers or even their families. Thus, it becomes important to have a work environment where team members can engage with each other on a personal level and develop friendships. A survey among salespeople reveals that having friends at work is important to 70 percent of the respondents.

Plan for opportunities to develop these friendships. It could be through team-building programs, company trips and after-work get-togethers, among other strategies.

  1. Encourage real work breaks.

According to Kimberly Elsbach, a professor of business management: “staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking.”

Unfortunately, research has found that only one of five employees takes real work breaks, or rest periods that pull them away from their desks.

To keep your morale and productivity high, encourage your team to take real lunches, post meal walks or even afternoon naps. This way, they can come back to work rejuvenated and ready to tackle challenges efficiently.

  1. Limit work hours.

Work hours that exceed the required 40 hours per week are practically expected in today’s typical workplace. However, research has found that increasing work hours doesn’t necessarily increase your work productivity.

In fact, a study published by Stanford University’s John Pencavel claims that working beyond 50 hours per week results in decreased productivity. For a 70 hours-a-week work-week, 15 hours are wasted, producing zero useful output. Likewise, long work hours have been correlated to increased employee turnover and absenteeism.

Keep your employee engagement and morale high by limiting work hours. This gives people the opportunity to take real work breaks and get involved in their other passions.

  1. Add to your team’s vacation days.

There is a movement among a few companies that offers its team members “unlimited vacation time” in the hopes that it will encourage employees to take real work breaks. According to writer Lottle Bailyn: “Unlimited vacation time may sound wonderful in theory, but in reality, less is more. Too much choice is restrictive and confusing.”

Instead, offer additional work vacations and provide incentives for people who truly “unplug” (no emails or other work-related contacts) during their break.

  1. Implement a “Bring Your Family to Work” Day.

Add to your team members’ family time by allowing a day for them to bring relatives to work. This introduces family to your employees’ day-to-day. It can give employees a sense of pride when someone they care for sees them at work and doing what they do best.

  1. Offer paid sabbaticals.

Paid sabbaticals have been utilized by top companies, such as Kimpton Hotels, Deloitte and Adobe, as means of improving employee retention and quality of life. These have proven to be better at dealing with burnout from work, instead of retiring or transferring to another company. By encouraging employees to spend time off to pursue their passions outside of work, they can come back renewed and ready to take on new challenges.

Improved stability and job security

  1. Implement transparency at work.

According to a TSheets Time Tracking study, transparency at work can go a long way in making employees feel secure and engaged at their jobs. When people know what’s going on, and the motivations and goals behind business procedures, actions and decisions, they get a sense of belonging. They become a part of these procedures, actions and decisions, and are more likely to fulfill what’s expected of them.

  1. Implement a transparent and consistent promotion track.

According to a survey, 40 percent of today’s new generation of employees (millennials) expect a promotion at least once every one to two years. Regardless of generation, it is important to be clear and consistent when it comes to your business’ promotion track. This keeps employees encouraged to do their best and achieve goals that get them a step closer to job promotions.

  1. Discourage bad office behavior by letting “jerks” go.

According to Rodger Dean Duncan, an executive coach, office jerks are employees who: “intimidate, condescend, or demean, swear, behave rudely, belittle people in front of others, give only negative feedback, lie, act sexist or racist, withhold critical information, blow up in meetings, refuse to accept blame or accountability, gossip, and spread rumors, use fear as a motivator, etc.”

Having these kinds of people around dampens the enthusiasm of co-workers and decreases employee morale. The best way to deal with them is to let them go; and explicitly discourage similar behavior from others.

A significant increase in income

The Gallup report has found that 41 percent of employees deem salary increases as very important for morale and work engagement. Likewise, a 2013 Harvard Business School study has found that work productivity increases when employees are given unexpected financial gifts. The improvement in productivity is said to be as significant as hiring more employees.

And, while money cannot buy happiness, it’s clear that it can at least boost morale and employee engagement. As with your promotional track, it is important to also be clear about requirements towards qualifying for salary increases.

The opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation

Arguably, these employee engagement and morale boosting strategies add to your reputation as a business that looks after its staff. This can attract your industry’s best performers. Include good products and branding to the mix, and you can look forward to furthering your success as a team and company.

Of course, not all organizations can implement the above suggestions at the drop of a hat. Pick the top two or three suggestions you think you can bring to your team before the new year, and then keep the rest of the items in mind for next year, or the next impending quarter end.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments how you’ve motivated your teams in the past!

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