Community Forum – Help us improve team morale

Resource Type
Survey (Community Forum)
Publish Date
Innovation Research Interchange
Leading Innovation Organizations, Talent Management
Associated Event

Our R&D department has recently gone through very significant change, indeed more than in the history of the organization.  Therefore we are looking for some new, out-of-the-box ideas to help with team morale.  As expected, morale and motivation have taken a big hit and we ask for your suggestions for ways to get the team back on track now that the dust has settled.  It’s a big ask, but we are hoping for genuine, thoughtful, practical ideas that aren’t tone deaf (i.e. jelly of the month club). 

1. What has your organization done that has made a significant positive impact on morale?

  • Two biggest wins were 1) vacation buy/sell program: employees are allowed to trade a week’s vacation for a week’s salary (either buy more vacation, or sell unused vacation); and 2) flex hours: as long as labs are staffed during core hours 10 – 3, an employee’s daily start times and end times are flexible/at manager discretion. We also allow a summer-hours program where employees can work four longer days and have one day (or one partial day) per week off during the summer. Based on the enthusiastic reception of these programs, it seems like if you can improve work/life balance for your staff it does more for morale than some other approaches. We also use excellence awards (plaque plus small monetary prize) to recognize contributions from R&D, and an award system that lets the employees themselves nominate colleagues who have gone above-and-beyond in assisting them.
  • 1) Implemented Employee Advisory Board – focus group of employees from across the organization who meet (approx. monthly) with HR to discuss organizational issues, changes, and employee feedback. 2) As a result of Covid, implemented hybrid work schedules allowing up to a max of 2 days work from home per week if your work supports. 3) Increased flex time options – allow 4 x 10’s in addition to the more common 5×8 work schedules (job function specific).  4) Consistent messaging of ‘you said this, we did this’ at communication meetings in response to feedback from annual employee survey 5) Communication of ‘the why’ changes are being made
  • Innovation events, innovation awards, invite keynote speakers from academia; grant special research budget to Senior Principal Scientists
  • We have had multiple venues for communication of the importance of the impact the changes that have been made and how their role is critical to the mission and strategy. In the remote realm we are operating in, it often requires more emphasis and diligence. We have gone to venues with the CEO and CTO as hosts of ‘ask me anything’ to spend more time in discussion and answering questions and less on presentation of here’s why or how.
  • Some teams held meetings to discuss issues as well as ideas on how to improve operations going forward. This provided space for some “venting” but ultimately focused the group’s energy on a positive dialogue.
  • International potluck
  • Completely open and honest communication
  • Support for research learning, attending conferences, supporting literature buying and cross regional teams communications.
  • Communication with leadership
  • Increase salaries/pay
  • If this was a large RIF, classes and counseling for survivors’ guilt.  And leadership must be visible more than normal, even if the reason is contrived.
  • Acknowledgement, including financial, for employees who have been working on site throughout the pandemic.
  • Continuous collaboration and connection through matrix team.
  • One on one recognition by senior leadership.

2. What has your organization done that you do not recommend?

  • Group-level awards: We have given monetary prizes to a winning group with the constraint that they use the prize together. They appreciate the recognition, but the joint-reward approach causes some strain.
  • Discontinued work from home policies.
  • 1) Food (lunch, ice cream etc.) is neutral – no one objects, but I do not think they have a material impact on overall morale. 2) Offsite team building events for large groups – these work well for small work teams but for large multi-department teams, they again are more neutral – some people like them, some do not, and some feel they are taking time away from work but just trying to make you like work more while giving you less time to work (and the work doesn’t go away). 3)Employee of the month
  • Think the problem can be solved in less than a few years.
  • Do not compare different market or business R&D units against each other. All have different challenges and market, manufacturing, R&D challenges that are not always comparable.  Do not compare cost in different regions.
  • Multiple layoffs in short periods of time.
  • Pretend everything is normal.
  • Waiting an extended period of time before providing distinguishing acknowledgement to those who worked in person during the pandemic.
  • I think low morale is common in the virtual environment. Make sure that people know they are valued for what they do and don’t assume they’ll catch on and accept change easily.
  • Ice cream parties, gift cards, & other celebrations.

Relevant IRI resources:  

Do you have a question for the IRI Community Forum? Email Us Today!