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5 Employee Moral Boosting Tips from Dr. Suess

by Rebecca Barnes-Hoggs, MA, SPHR

Keeping employees engaged and satisfied isn’t kids’ stuff! However, there are some great lessons to be learned from author Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Many organizations struggle to improve performance, reduce turnover, and attract and retain talented staff. Employee morale has a significant impact on all of those things. The good news is that building an organization with high morale does not have to be time consuming or expensive. We can all learn a little something from the simple principles of Dr. Seuss.

1. "A person's a person, no matter how small." (Horton Hears a Who) Sincere communication and respect go a long way and cost nothing. Executives and managers need to speak with and get to know employees. Know the names of their spouses, kids, even their pets. Find out what motivates your staff; what motivates you is different from what motivates my next-door neighbor, which is different from what motivates me. Make it a habit to say thank you often and mean it: Go deeper and describe what the person did that was above and beyond their duties, and why it was appreciated.

2. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent." (Horton Hatches the Egg) Build a culture of trust and transparent operations. Demonstrate ongoing leadership behaviors that show employees they are valued. For example, be open about the association's results, challenges, and future plans, and ask employees for input on improving operations or generating revenue growth.

An executive I know told me the best move she ever made was standing in front of employees and telling them the times they were going through, as she put it, "sucked." She told them she understood they were taking the hardest hit from the customers and she wished they didn't have to. She outlined the plan for everyone to work together to get out of that situation and asked for their help. Employees were stunned that management was so brutally honest. They appreciated it and committed to make a difference. In tough times, the connection that makes a difference must come from senior management.

3. "I know up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights." (Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories) Where you can, give employees a voice. Create focus groups or task forces to develop new policies, draft strategy, benefits, wellness, safety, and so on. Solicit feedback from your employees. Invite five to 10 staff members to have lunch with the CEO every quarter. The employees get to bend the boss's ear for an hour or so and make suggestions and ask questions. This can do more for morale than a birthday card or cake ever will.

4. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." (The Lorax) Employees today are committed to corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Green initiatives and volunteer opportunities to give back to the greater community are readily available and easily implemented. Organize events like "Waste-free Wednesdays" to reduce trash and encourage employees to come up with ideas to promote environmental sustainability in your association. Allow employees to use work time to help others by collecting school supplies, winter coats, canned food, and so forth. Activities in this arena create a sense of pride in the organization and build strong relationships within the community.

5. "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells," Dr. Seuss once said. "Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope—which is what I do—and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." Smile more. Make work fun. A good sense of humor goes a long way. Bring levity and laughter into the workplace to alleviate stress and build camaraderie. You can do things like hosting days where staff wears crazy socks, their favorite team jersey, or their college colors. Hold trivia contests with small prizes to compete against other departments or locations. Hand out fun things like kazoos or Hacky Sacks with instructions for a stress-reducing wellness activity.

Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, MA, SPHR, is founder and CEO of the HR consulting firm YOLO Insights in Little River, South Carolina. Email: rbarneshogg@yoloinsights.com