While the Labor Day weekend may signal an unwelcome end to summer, those three days are likely the most coveted of the American workforce.  And when we consider the busy holiday giving season is about to begin, having an extra day to unwind at this time of year provides some extra R&R needed to recharge and rejuvenate the passion for an organization’s mission.

In an industry where employees typically wear a lot of hats (successfully so!), trying to fix the world’s problems, sometimes with limited resources, it can often result in workplace burnout.

So how do you maintain workplace morale for talented, hardworking and passionate employees throughout the year, on a nonprofit budget nonetheless?  We would all love the employee benefits of Google, Facebook and others, but creating an environment and the “perks” that employees value doesn’t have to cost a lot, or anything at all.  

(Update 3/6/17): According to a recent study by Glassdoor, costly turnover can be lessened if employers address a few key elements that are important to employees – professional development, workplace culture, and pay.  While pay may be out of your control, paying attention to employee talents and the atmosphere you create in the workplace will have a significant impact on  employees’ longevity at your organization. 

With a little thoughtful and creative planning, you can nurture morale.  Not only does this demonstrate staff appreciation, but you just might be deterring costly turnover (The average cost to replace an employee may be 6-9 months of the individual’s salary. Yikes!)

6 Tips to Maintain Workplace Morale

Make sure you introduce this intentional approach to improving the work environment so that employees are aware of your organization’s commitment to providing a rewarding and engaging workplace.

(The themes in (parentheses below) are benefits that employees note are some of the most valued, non-monetary perks.)

  • Tap into your staff’s interests and hobbies (Have Fun).  If you don’t know what those are, ask what they like to do outside of work, or how they blow off steam.  Take a few of those ideas, and on a rotating basis, incorporate them into a monthly outing.
  • Provide in-house learning and teaching opportunities (Learn).  Set aside time when staff members have an opportunity to share their skills with others. Do you have an Excel or data whiz just dying to share pivot tables?  Is there a yogi amongst you who can bring an hour of quiet to the office?  Can your communications guru teach others about public speaking?  Whatever their talents, give them an opportunity to shine and to help their teammates grow while taking a break from work.  Additional perk – They can add these “learning sessions” to their resumes!
  • Paid time for volunteer work (Give Back).  Many companies allow paid time off for volunteering. Nonprofits can offer this too; it’s in how you consider the value of that time.  When employees volunteer with other agencies, they network, build relationships and learn from peers in their field.  What’s the ROI?  These opportunities not only benefit the organizations. Employees have rewarding experiences in which they can bring new industry ideas, knowledge and relationships back to your organization.  It’s a win – win.. win!
  • Organize a mentoring program (Network).  Utilizing your staff and board leadership, make connections that enhance workplace learning through a formal mentoring program.  Consider partnering with a peer organization to increase the number of mentors and mentees, and to create stronger relationships with organizations in your field.
  • Create coffee talks (Listen).  Work is increasingly done behind big blue screens, leaving little time to connect in person and to have our literal voices heard.  Gather your team for informal conversations, leaving the topics up to them.  Whether it’s work-related to brainstorm about a current project, or just gossipping about the latest t.v. shows, give them the reigns to open the discussion.  Consider taking it outside!  We’re big fans of walking meetings. A change of scenery, a chance to connect, and a cuppa joe – now that’s a perk!
  • Say thanks (Appreciation).  Employee awards and other formal recognition should be part of your organization’s plan.  Don’t overlook the value of a simple, yet consistent ‘thank you.’  Send an email, share your appreciation in person, or acknowledge an employee or team’s hard work during a regular meeting.

While there is reward in contributing to causes and missions that help others, it’s important to regularly assess the workplace culture and employee satisfaction lest you lose talented and enthusiastic employees. Regardless of the initiatives you implement to keep staff motivated for your mission, any effort will be received as a demonstration of gratitude for their work.

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