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Workforce 2015: Little touches can mean big boost for workplace morale

While there’s no such thing as a free lunch, providing a meal at no cost to employees can do more than just fill their stomachs — it can boost their morale, local human resource professionals said.

Free food, such as a daily offering of hot beverages, or the occasional luncheon or treat, was the most-cited idea for free or inexpensive ways a company can boost morale among employees. Giving employees company-logo items was another popular suggestion.

Many suggestions fell under the idea of giving employees a break from the daily grind. Kellie Boysen, owner of York-based Alternative HR, suggested having stressbusters and “fun stuff” available in the break room. At Simon Lever LLP in Lancaster, one of the 2014 Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania, company events such as scavenger hunts, sporting events and group service projects are offered, according to human resources manager Pamela Mehrens. The company has also held a Wii bowling contest and gotten employees together to watch the NCAA basketball tournament over lunch, she said.

Gestures need not cost much nor be elaborate. A thank you or recognition for going above and beyond or for years of service goes a long way, professionals said.

“The single best recognition I ever received was on my one-year anniversary with the Byrnes Group in 1990,” said Karen Young, author and president of HR Resolution LLC in Harrisburg. “Randy Byrnes, the president, attached a quick little thank-you note to a pink carnation; the carnation was on my desk when I came in to work that day. Twenty-six years later, it is still one of the best things I’ve ever received from a boss.”

While managers blame turnover on many reasons, they do not recognize that “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers,” Travis Bradberry wrote in an Inc42 magazine article, “9 Things that Make Good Employees Quit.” He noted many managers don’t recognize contributions and reward good work, don’t care about their employees, and don’t honor their commitments — themes echoed by local professionals when they discussed how to be mindful employers.

“Listen to your people. Empower them,” Mehrens said. “Solicit regular feedback to identify employee engagement and act on any areas of concern.”

Honesty is always best, Young said. “Employees may not like what you have to say, but they will appreciate the truth.”

To all three, transparency is a key way to be a mindful manager. It is also important, they said, to give praise where it is due, especially publicly. Constructive criticism is helpful, but should be done in private.

“Recognize them for the positive things they are doing instead of just pointing out the things they could improve on,” Boysen said.

Suggestions from area experts:

Kellie Boysen, owner, Alternative HR

• Luncheons

• T-shirts/logo items

• Training opportunities

• Stress busters/fun stuff in the break room


Pamela Mehrens, human resources manager, Simon Lever LLP

• Offer a flexible work schedule

• Plan company events, like a picnic, scavenger hunt or adventure challenges

• Provide free coffee, tea, hot chocolate daily to employees

• Communicate regularly with employees via newsletters, videos, message boards or other methods

• Assign employees mentors to assist them with career development

• Participate as a group in a community service project; volunteerism

• Create a thank-you board

• Host Wii bowling contest

• Watch the NCAA basketball tournament as a group over lunch hour


Karen A. Young, president/author, HR Resolutions LLC

• Handwritten thank-you notes when someone goes above/beyond

• Free logo wear

• Gold stars (literally, a gold star for a great report)

• External PR (family and friends get to see the kudos)

• Employment anniversary gifts

• Length of service awards — traditional are 1, 5, 10, 20, etc.

• A luncheon that you cook and serve for your staff

• A car wash in the parking lot for your staff

• Post a suggestion box — if you are going to seriously consider recommendations

• Ice cream truck on a hot day