Dr Ben Hardy, of the Open University Business School, co-authored the winning article with researchers from BT’s Research and Innovation Unit.

The study of six contact centres in the UK and interviews with more than 300 people, has led to three key recommendations to businesses on how to boost staff morale and performance.

Show employees they are valued by the organisation and have value to the organisation

Involve staff and draw on their expertise to ensure they feel an integral part of the team. Praise and recognition can be delivered through e-cards and sharing direct customer feedback and look at whether performance metrics measure the things that staff say matter to customers.

Care should be taken to link what employees do to what the organisation is trying to achieve, the article says.

Focus on the future

Employees should be aware of the direction the company is heading and feel a sense of optimism for what the future holds. Investing in their future through training is a strong signal.

They should also be kept abreast of progress through regular update meetings and progress boards, so communication is key.

Build and encourage interpersonal relationships

Foster a collaborative atmosphere through nurturing and coaching, rather than criticism, and encourage team work. Mentoring and buddying can also be a valuable asset to support this cohesive working environment.

Dr Hardy said: “How people feel about their work impacts the work they do – a simple observation, but one that can often be forgotten in management. Our article explores the meaning of morale, why it matters in business and how key components increase or decrease it.”

The annual Management Articles of the Year competition celebrates the best in management and leadership research and thinking, and the winning article is one of five top-ranked essays recognised by CMI earlier this month.

Dr Hardy’s article, written with Drs Tanya Alcock and Jon Malpass, breaks down the structure of morale into three components: feeling valued, a focus on future goals and workers’ relationships with others. It  also examines how high morale leads to enhanced productivity.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said: “Morale matters for managers and this research shows why, with great real-world evidence that the way employees are managed makes all the difference to their morale – and their performance.

“The winning article is a great example of how business schools and employers can work together to apply research to practical problems. “

Dr Hardy said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised with the CMI Management Article of the Year award and honoured that a panel of senior managers and leaders in the world of business has judged our article as a recommended read for others.” 

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