Guide to workplace morale wins prestigious CMI gong

24 February 2015 -


Study of the factors behind workers’ self-esteem scoops Management Article of the Year prize

Jermaine Haughton

A detailed look at crucial aspects of the office feelgood factor has scooped the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Management Article of the Year award. Titled Morale: unravelling its components and testing its impact within contact centres, the winning work explores how workplace confidence is established – and particularly how it affects performance in the customer-relations field.

CMI’s annual gong celebrates the cream of research and thinking on management and leadership. To help time-poor bosses, the prize directs them to the five best, peer-reviewed articles from the past year, narrowing the gap between theory and practice. Authored by Dr Ben Hardy of the Open University Business School and Dr Tanya Alcock and Dr Jon Malpass of BT’s Research and Innovation unit, the winning article breaks down the structure of morale into three components…

1. Feeling valued;

2. Focus on future goals, and

3. Workers’ relationships with their colleagues

…and examines how high morale leads to enhanced productivity.

The study was based on interviews with more than 300 people at six call centres in the UK, and resulted in a practical guide that provides employers with ideas for increasing morale in the workplace.

Delighted lead author Dr Hardy stressed how important morale is to workers. “How people feel about their work impacts the work they do,” he said. “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.”

Hardy’s work set out three, core recommendations that managers could adopt to boost morale in their teams:

“Show employees they’re valued by your organisation, and have value to your organisation”

Involve staff and draw upon 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. Plus, look at whether performance metrics measure the things that staffers say matter to customers. Care should be taken to link what employees do to what the organisation is trying to achieve.

“Use training to maintain a 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. Workers should also be kept abreast of progress through regular update meetings and progress boards – so communication is key.

“Build and encourage positive interpersonal relationships”

Foster a collaborative culture through nurturing and coaching rather than criticism, and encourage teamwork. Mentoring and buddying can also be valuable assets to support that cohesive working environment.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke explained that the winning article’s use of documented experience made it stand out from the competition. “Morale matters for managers,” she said, “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.”

In order to select the shortlist, papers submitted by UK business academics are reviewed and rated online by CMI members. After that, CMI’s Academic Advisory Council – a panel of leading UK management thinkers – chooses the Top Five and overall winner from the highest-rated works. Francke continued: “With its solutions having [already] 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.”

The 2015 Top Five in full is…

1. (Overall winner) Morale: unravelling its components and testing its impact within contact centres, by 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.

2. “We don’t do God” (but maybe we should?): managing religious expression in the workplace, by Dr Andrew Hambler, Senior Lecturer at University of Wolverhampton Business School

3. 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

4. Women in business: blueprint for individuals and organisations, by Fiona Dent and Viki Holton, Ashridge Business School

5. Management and moral capital: the corporation as a moral community, by Dr Jules Goddard, Fellow, London Business School

Francke added: “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.”

Download a PDF of the full Top Five.

Details of how to enter the running for the 2016 prize will be announced in the spring.

CMI Management Article of the Year is supported by the British Academy of Management, the Association of Business Schools and the British Library.