Measuring Employee Morale

Employee morale can be measured by assessing attitudes and job satisfaction. As morale is intangible and subjective concept, it cannot be directly measured or evaluated. Employees may be unwilling to express their feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their job to the management is no longer a valid assumption. Today’s employees and workplaces allow for a lot more transparency and open door philosophy seen in most organizations allow for employees to openly voice their views. Measuring employee morale ranges all the way from the “hunch” /general “feeling”, to more scientific efforts such as employee satisfaction surveys. Also the liberated employee of today feel very comfortable looking for a new job in another company rather than be unhappy and work in a company where he’s unhappy.

Measuring Employee Morale

It is important to study the commonly used methods for measuring employee morale, however increasingly the ‘employee satisfaction survey’ is the most preferred method in most organizations.

1. General Impression of the Manager: Some managers may not be able to tell you how they know the morale of their men, but they enjoy such an intimate relationship with them that they do know what their attitudes are. They usually know how to get things done according to the methods they have been taught, but few of them have had any special training in evaluating morale as such. Some executives are inspirational leaders and capable of developing a high morale, but few of these are trained in observing and evaluating morale standards. Executives should be encouraged to strive to sense the morale situation and should be aided by more accurate tools that are available.

2. The Guided Interview: The guided interview is based on the hypothesis that employees answers to certain questions will reveal their attitudes. The questions selected are presumed to be the ones that will call forth a true picture of how the employees feel. This series of questions is usually rather large. The interviewer seeks to direct the interview in such a manner as to secure the answers that will reveal the desired information. The guided interview is a useful method of investigating the morale of managers or other groups that are small in comparison with the employees as a whole.

3. The Unguided Interview: This technique for measuring employee morale is based upon the assumption that, if employees are allowed to talk freely, they will reveal a true situation not so much by the exact thing complained of or discussed as by the interviewer’s ability to relate what is said to basic causes. It is also assumed that, if the employee himself is permitted to talk through a given problem or work situation without special prompting or questioning by the interviewer, he usually will become aware of the logic or lack of logic in the situation and choose for himself the appropriate line of action. This is usually a long and time taking process as all employees need to be interviewed and the time taken in a un-guided approach is a lot more. Often the employee will need to be spoken to at-length before the true issues are unearthed. This is one reason this is not a very popular method.

The method of employee-attitude analysis is designed both to correct an unfavorable situation and to secure information regarding the status of morale within the group. Though it is an expensive method of measurement than the questionnaire method, it not only provides a means of interpreting morale but at the same time is used to build morale.

4. A Combination of the Guided and Unguided Interview: To combines the two methods, the interviewer may start with the guided interview, which should be focused around understanding challenges in specific areas and not be general conversations. The interviewer is then invited to discuss any subject that he may like to talk about. During the guided interview some persons tend to bring in material that has no special significance in relation to the information sought. The interviewer should make note of the key issues that are emerging and then ask focused questions to better understand the issue. During the guided interviews more details need to be unearthed. The interviewer must make it a point to validate information received from one employee with all the others. This is a effective way to ensure that there is no personal misgivings that is impacting the employees’ morale.

5. Company Records and Reports: These are usually prepared by the HR Department at regular intervals with the assistance of managers and Department Heads. Generally, grievances and complaints tend to reveal the state of morale of a group. Excessive absenteeism or drop in quality of work and adherence to set quality and process norms are signs of tardiness and serve as an index of general or specific morale issues. We need to be watchful when there is a sudden drop in these measures. Employee turnover is a good indicator of employee unrest or morale. This type of analysis is difficult and is not always reliable as an index of morale because it may not be possible to reveal the managerial deficiencies that are not directly interpretable in terms of morale.

6. The Survey Questionnaire Method: This method is generally used to collect employee opinions about the factors which affect morale and their opinion about the leadership. Morale or employee satisfaction surveys are generally conducted with a view to:

  1. Finding out what employees really think;
  2. Finding out what, in the company, they think is working well and what is not;
  3. Solicit feedback on managerial effectiveness;
  4. Determining the clarity of company vision/objectives and the top management commitment to it; and
  5. Finding out what employee is most unhappy about.

This questionnaire is usually a scientifically developed instrument and well tested for validity and reliability. These include multiple choice, dichotomous (yes or no) and open-ended questions.

7. Conducting the Survey: Organizations often engage outside consultants to conduct the entire survey. There are a lot of reasons to do this:

  • Make the survey credible wherein employees share correct feedback
  • As they are experts, they help determine the type of questions to be used depending on the objectives of the survey.
  • The survey itself is carried out anonymously, the employee is not required to divulge his/her name and personal information
  • Analysis and generation of survey report is a specialized activity

In some cases the company’s representatives may give the employees the questionnaires in a stamped envelope, planning them on a table and permitting the employees to get them if they wish to, or having a fellow employee distributed them. The stamped envelopes are frequently addressed to some management consultant or college professor who tabulates the results. The consultant then analyses the data to generate a number of reports. The reports can be generate for each department, for manager with more than 20 team members, for the company, etc.. The management usually shares the findings with all the employees, highlighting the strengths and the areas for improvement. Action plans for improvement are also shared so employees are aware of the management’s commitment towards improving workplace morale and employee engagement.

The survey is usually conducted once a year. The important part of this initiative is the action that is taken after the survey results come on. Each department head meets with his team of managers and they together analyze the report and the data for the department and identify areas of low scores. Brainstorming exercises then help identify what actions can improve employee morale in these areas. Sometime action-planning teams are formed from among the employees and they drive the action areas. For example if the report identifies that ‘rewards and recognition’ is a concern area for the team, then the task-force focuses on establishing ways and means to improve reward systems and recognition methods. The task-force would recommend a rhythm for quarterly or monthly rewards and identify categories for the reward (like quality, productivity, highest sales, customer appreciation). More and more reward systems encourage employee to nominate their peers rather than the managers identifying and giving awards away. All nominations are reviewed finally by a panel and the most deserving nominee is awarded.

Organizations track survey scores year on year. Most organizations tie the scores to managerial effectiveness and use it as a measure to assess managers for promotions, potential for future senior roles etc.