How do you tackle low morale, increased levels of sickness leave; and a complete lack of meaningful employee engagement?

There are no easy answers of course. To find a lasting solution you need to look at the current workplace culture; and change it. So no quick fix, but not impossible. Firstly, everyone needs to be on board. Secondly, you need to have a strategy that is underpinned by practical steps to make a difference. Your problem is that none of us are particularly comfortable with change.
So where to start?

David Green, Director of social enterprise Green Pepper Consulting, who specialises in ethical leadership, staff well-being and employment relations, says you should involve your staff from the outset.

“Begin by understanding the problems and pressure points. Your data – sickness records, complaints, staff turnover rates etc. – is indicative, but they will not tell the full story. So start talking. Speak to people, individually, in teams, and via their representatives. Ask what needs to change to improve morale; and find out the pressure points. Explain your strategic goal of changing the culture; and you will soon recognise where the main problems lie.”

But what about that natural resistance to change? David says involving your people from the outset will in itself improve engagement and ownership of the change process.

“Continued consultation with and respect for your people, enabling them to see clearly their own value to the organisation, will bring trust and buy-in. Providing praise and offering support where needed is part of this. You can do this though regular one-to-one’s with individual discussion, through group and full team meetings, and enabling staff to have their own effective voice.”

What is discussed will depend upon the circumstances. But in general this could be a look at what is happening across the organisation, reviewing progress, discussing past and future activity, future training needs, and raising ideas. Throughout this process provide praise and offer support where needed.

Closely linked to this will be a need to consider your HR policies. David told me:

“Organisations should look at what they do well; and what can be improved. This can be anything from how they recruit and select people, to how they deal with grievances, discipline and poor performance. What’s more, to keep staff engaged and morale high it helps to look at wider well-being issues such as flexibility and work-life balance.”

I said earlier there will be no quick fix. You may also learn some things about yourself – your leadership style perhaps – that you do not like. But don’t despair. There is nothing wrong with helping yourself, as part of the change process. Whether that is advice and information, or more hands-on support like coaching and training, will depend on you, but your own well-being and morale is equally important.

The important thing to remember is it can be done. In a previous role I was very successful in changing the workplace culture. But I only succeeded because I involved, and had the support of the staff. Yes, we lost a couple of people along the way, but we built an effective, successful and loyal team that worked for each other; and our customers.

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