Morale matters for UK managers

Business article scoops award for insights on improving staff morale and performance

Three researchers exploring workplace morale and its impact on business performance at call centres have claimed this year's highest accolade for management research from the Chartered Management Institute. 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.

The winning work, ‘Morale: unravelling its components and testing its impact within contact centres’, was authored by Dr Ben Hardy of the Open University Business School and Dr Tanya Alcock and Dr Jon Malpass from BT’s Research and Innovation unit. The article breaks down the structure of morale into three components – feeling valued, a focus on future goals and workers’ relationships with others – and examines how high morale leads to enhanced productivity. The team looked at how theory had been put into practice at six contact centres in the UK and, drawing on interviews with over 300 people, created a practical guide for managers and employers looking to boost morale in the modern workplace.

Ann Francke, CMI Chief Executive, 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. With the five top articles addressing thorny questions like how to manage religious expression at work and give better support to women in business, they offer a wealth of insight and inspiration for managers and employers.”

The competition aims to reduce the gap between theory and practice in management and leadership, by directing time-poor managers to the best five articles from the past year – as rated by their peers.

Francke adds: “With its solutions having been tried and tested in contact centres, the winning article is a great example of how business schools and employers can work together to apply research to practical problems. The CMI Article of the Year prize is about helping managers find the very best research from UK business schools and this year’s five top articles are excellent examples. This is a great showcase for UK business schools and how they can partner with employers to make a real difference.”

Dr Ben Hardy of the Open University Business School, lead author of the winning article, 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. 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.”

The top three recommendations for managers to inspire better morale in teams from the winning article are:

  • Show employees they’re 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.
  • 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.

Articles were submitted to the competition by academics across the UK and were then reviewed and rated online by CMI members. Those with the highest ratings were then assessed by CMI’s Academic Advisory Council, a committee of leading UK academics, who selected the following as the top five and overall winner:

  • Overall winner - Morale: unravelling its components and testing its impact within contact centresby Dr Ben Hardy, Lecturer in Management at the Open University Business School and Fellow of Cambridge Judge Business School, Dr Tanya Alcock, Senior Researcher at Research and Innovation, BT Technology Services and Operations and Dr Jon Malpass, Principal Researcher at Research and Innovation, BT Technology Services and Operations
  • We don’t do God’(but maybe we should?): managing religious expression in the workplaceby Dr Andrew Hambler, Senior Lecturer at University of Wolverhampton Business School
  • The 6 box leadership diagnostics: implementing management research into practice for more value creation by Professor Vlatka Hlupic, Professor of Business and Management at the University of Westminster
  • Women in business: blueprint for individuals and organisations by Fiona Dent and Viki Holton, Ashridge Business School
  • Management and moral capital: the corporation as a moral community by Dr Jules Goddard, Fellow, London Business School

Details for how to enter the competition this year will be announced in the Spring. CMI Management Articles of the Year is supported by the British Academy of Management, the Association of Business Schools and the British Library.

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