How to Boost Morale at Your Agency

Enhancing employee engagement is a tough task and it’s often hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re looking at improving engagement from an organizational or personal perspective, one of the keys to an engaged workforce is good employee engagement.

At this year’s Next Generation of GovLoop Training Summit, ICF International Senior Vice President, Jeffrey Neal gave tips on how to boost employee morale and engagement in your agency. To begin, he discussed the top issues that affect morale. These included a lack of the following.

  1. Leadership
  2. Trust
  3. Understanding of agency’s mission
  4. Support and recognition

Many of these issues can be solved by focusing on your agency’s organizational culture. This means taking a step back and looking at how your agency sees itself in the way it functions and operates. Neal gave several tips on how to best examine your agency’s organizational culture. Here are some of the top takeaways.

Survey employees. Use a survey instrument so [agencies] can compare themselves to other agencies. “This gives you a point of reference,” Neal said. You can look at how other agency employees felt in the past and compare with your current workforce. It also helps to collect thoughts and sentiments directly from your employees. Each employee will look at his or her agency differently, depending on his or her level. Getting feedback from all levels helps you look at the big picture.

Reinstate mission. For the most part, employees really do care about the mission of their agencies. Create an organization-wide movement, reminding employees to look beyond their own jobs and tasks and instead at the agency’s mission as a whole. When introducing solutions, people can be more open to ideas when they realize it will help the entire workplace.

Pay attention to individual strengths. Often morale can be low, simply because employees aren’t doing the work they are meant to do, or the wrong person is assigned a job that could affect many. “Don’t try and apply one person’s mindset to another completely different person,” Neal said. This means being aware of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Listen to your employees and be open to different forms of communication. “The more you talk to people, the more you get engaged,” Neal said. Recognition is also important. “Create a culture where employees recognize the work of other employees,” Neal suggested.

Be open to change. Look at where you need to make changes. This can include even looking at yourself. Also, look at how your agency accomplishes tasks. Stepping back and examining a past project helps you understand what worked and what didn’t for the future. Doing this helps avoid repeating past mistakes, which only increases frustration and discouragement.

Finally, Neal reminded the audience that each department and each office is different. “When dealing with boosting morale, you have to look at all the issues,” Neal said. While trying to solve a single issue can help, it won’t necessarily address the larger problem. And always remember to be honest when it comes to addressing the change that needs to happen.