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Why your company is fumbling with performance feedback

Anchor performance reviews with data to prevent performance feedback fumbles.

You know who woke up thinking, “I can’t wait to conduct performance reviews for my staff today.” Answer = no one ever.

Constructive criticism is often at the heart of the dreaded performance review. But for some reason, evaluators forget the first word in that phrase and only share the second part. Few people enjoy giving others constructive criticism even when that feedback could be very useful to the person and to the company. Many who do enjoy providing that type of feedback are typically very bad at it.

Whether we enjoy providing it or not, feedback is an important part of any successful organization, family, and relationship. From a company standpoint, it is in the best interests of all informed parties to ensure your performance review system provides value and the easiest way to provide value is to measure behaviors against benchmarks using behavioral data.

5 questions to determine the quality of your performance review process

Here are five questions you can ask to determine whether your company is fumbling feedback during your performance review process.

1. Do we consistently train our employees to seek feedback?

It’s one thing to tell employees to seek feedback and it’s quite another to have processes, programs, and training that consistently reinforce this message over time. Hearing this message a few times during onboarding won’t create a culture of employees who seek and provide feedback.

2. If we already have a culture that values feedback, have we provided enough information about this process?

Employees need to know the nuts and bolts of the feedback process. They need to know the norms of when, where, and how to ask for feedback. Saying you have an “open-door policy” isn’t enough.

3. What is the purpose of your performance review process?

Are your performance evaluations just another thing for HR to accomplish—a box-checking, compliance mentality—or are they a way to make behavioral adjustments, a means to justify merit increases or a program committed to people’s growth?

If you’ve ever tried to restructure your teams, introduce new workflows, or otherwise shaken up longstanding procedures at your company, you know how difficult change can be. At least a few employees will grumble – some may even speak up. But at worst, they may actively try to resist, or even thwart, your efforts at change. It’s a psychological phenomenon common across industries.

But why is resistance to change so persistent? The simple answer may just be that people want stability. They want to be able to predict what will happen to them instead of being confronted with the unknown. While there is truth to this, it also underestimates people’s capacity for change. Instead, the real culprit may not be change at all, but the poor management and implementation of it.

In this article, we’re going to examine the components that fuel resistance to change, then take a closer look at some ways you can prevent it from happening.

Related: How to develop an effective change management plan

How do we define resistance to change?

Resistance to change is any reluctance to adopt or accept new processes, circumstances, structures, or anything that deviates from established norms. It can be something that happens on an individual basis or across an entire organization. 

Although there can be many causes, it typically has roots in a fear of uncertainty and a loss of control. Because people tend to crave constancy and predictability, they may become anxious or withdrawn if faced with the prospect of change. Left unchecked, these feelings can have negative long-term consequences for an organization, including low morale, higher turnover, and a loss in productivity. 

Identifying signs of resistance

Resistance to change can take many forms. Sometimes it is obvious, even blatant, deliberately designed to draw attention to a vocal faction that opposes the proposed change. But it can also take more subtle forms that can easily be missed. Here are a few signs you may want to look out for:

  • Missing employees: Whether more employees are calling in sick or simply handing in their resignations, more empty chairs is definitely an indication of employee discomfort. Whatever change has been introduced is making people feel uncomfortable, which means they won’t want to show up.
  • Open disagreements: Some disagreement can be constructive. But when a chorus of employees start to voice their concerns, doubts, or objections to proposed changes all at once, passionately and frequently, then you may have reached a critical mass of resistance.
  • Decreased productivity: Employees who disagree with organizational change proposals will likely be more stressed, which will make it difficult for them to be engaged and enthusiastic about their work. Inevitably, this will lead to lower productivity.
  • Rumors and gossip: Misinformation and speculation can often flourish in an atmosphere of uncertainty. When this happens, it’s common for people to start spreading rumors and gossip among each other, especially when it comes to the motives behind the change.
  • Coalitions: If enough employees view potential changes as a threat, they may start forming groups and factions in order to collectively resist it. You may notice them meeting during or after work, or approaching management with shared concerns and strategies for standing against the change.
  • Sabotage: In extreme cases, resistance can escalate to acts of sabotage or subversion. When this happens, employees may intentionally undermine the change process through actions such as spreading false information or intentionally slowing down work.

A personalized leadership approach for each team member.

PI’s behavioral insights help leaders inspire and coach each employee in a way they truly connect with.

Typical causes of resistance to change

Resistance to change can rarely be attributed to just the change itself. Instead, it can arise from a variety of factors. Understanding what these causes of resistance are is the first step to knowing how to address them. 

Fear of the unknown

Probably the most common reason there may be resistance to change is due to a generalized anxiety about what’s coming. Especially if there is little plan in place or if communication has not been robust, employees may feel uncertain and nervous about what will happen to them. For instance, they may be apprehensive about adapting to new technologies or afraid that the new changes may affect their personal lives. There may be some who are afraid they could lose their jobs. Change can represent a big unknown for many people, which they’ll quickly fill with their own fears.

Loss of control

When change is introduced from above, employees may feel like they’ve lost an important sense of stability and control. What they once knew well was suddenly taken from them from out-of-touch managers or absent execs. This may even serve to confirm even larger fears of bureaucratic malfeasance and help encourage them to assert their employee autonomy. The result? A heightened resistance that impedes any efforts at change.

Concerns about job security

The potential loss of their job is a potent reason for resistance to change. It’s also a natural one. After all, organizational change has historically been associated with layoffs and job rollbacks, especially when it is couched in the language of increasing productivity and efficiency. Even when change is relatively small and incremental, this legacy may lead employees to assume the worst.


Change can be complicated, involving many moving parts and people. That makes it easy for there to be plenty of misunderstandings along the way. This, in turn, can lead to rumors, misinformation, and, ultimately, to a lack of trust. If this is left unchecked and allowed to establish itself, then employees will be less likely to go along or otherwise accept your efforts at making change.

Previous negative experiences

The sad fact is that organizational change is often poorly managed, which means that many employees may have poor or even traumatic prior experiences with it. These bad memories can foster a deep resistance to all kinds of change initiatives, even those that are well thought out or structured. Even worse, because these employees have had personal experiences with organizational change, they may play a large part in spurring on others to resist change as well.

the change Facebook drastically needs

Best practices to overcome resistance to change

It can be frustrating when employees resist your efforts at organizational change – but it can also be an opportunity. While the change itself is probably a source of anxiety for them, the real root cause is likely something more manageable to address. The following best practices will give you proactive and tangible strategies for doing this, while ensuring you pave the way for a seamless shift.

Transparent communication

Communication is first on the list for a reason: nearly every explanation for why workers may resist change can be traced back to some kind of breakdown in messaging. Perhaps you failed to adequately justify the reasons behind the change. Or maybe you didn’t do a good job of detailing the individual steps. Whatever it is, communication that falls short will inevitably lead to ambiguity, confusion, and mistrust.

You can avoid this by pairing any efforts at change with frequent and fully transparent communications. Call an all hands meeting to thoroughly explain what is happening, then offer to answer questions for as long as it takes. Hold one-on-one meetings with managers and other leaders to make sure they understand the need for change and how it will occur. Then encourage them to communicate these details to their teams. Making efforts like these can go a long way to reducing employee resistance and even turning them into advocates.

Inclusive decision-making

When change feels like it’s happening to someone, it can feel scary and overwhelming. But when you get to be involved in this change, helping to map out its details and dictate how it is implemented, it will feel like it is happening alongside you. This will create a feeling of control that will help diminish any potential resistance.

What does this look like on the ground? Ideally, you will identify your stakeholders and start involving them in the change process before anything even happens. Detail the reasons why you think change is necessary, then get their reactions. Make any necessary adjustments to your strategy, then work closely with them to come up with how it will all occur. Check back in with them frequently – daily even – in order to keep them involved and up to date. The effect of all this will be a workforce that’s more engaged and accepting of the change.

Empathy and support

Even with transparent communication prioritized and workers included in each decision along the way, change can still brew resistance. Employees may be anxious for many reasons. They may not be comfortable with long-established norms going out the window, for instance, or they could be apprehensive about new technologies. This is why, throughout the change process, you’ll need to practice empathy.

First and foremost, this should involve listening to employee concerns. Set aside some time each week for people to come forward and voice their worries. If they’re not comfortable doing this in person, let them send in notes digitally or anonymously. Then, after you’ve heard them out, offer them support. Assuage their fears whenever possible, but also ask them how you can help them out. If you prefer to be even more proactive, consider creating a dedicated group that can offer workers extra resources and coach them through the change period. Knowing that their company is concerned about them, as well as seeing them do something about it, should set their mind at ease.

Training and education

A big reason why employees may be resisting change is that they don’t feel prepared for it. Even the most seasoned or experienced workers may seem uncertain about their skills in the face of new processes and protocols. But you can keep this anxiety from turning into outright revolt by offering to help them address any of their shortcomings, whether perceived or actual, and prepare them for the change.

Typically, this is easiest to do when you can gradually introduce new changes and ease employees into their new work. Work with them to come up with a schedule that incorporates incremental transitions and training alongside each other. Empower managers to help educate their own teams and address any skills gaps their individual members may have. Go even further and provide plenty of reference materials and in-app guidance to help employees self educate and adapt to their new circumstances. And throughout this, make sure to communicate clearly and effectively that your employees’ long-term value is worth this investment.

Leadership alignment

Part of building out an effective communication plan that reduces resistance is making sure that you are sending out clear and consistent messages. This is especially important when it comes to leadership. Your employees are looking to you and your managers to understand what is happening. If all of you aren’t aligned, then they’ll be much more likely to lose confidence.

The best way to ensure consistent leadership alignment during change is to put someone in charge of messaging. Although you should make the details of the change process itself as inclusive as possible, having a single person or team own how these details get disseminated will help simplify the communication process for everyone. Everyone will have a single source of information when they need to answer a question or want to explain how the next step of the change process works. More importantly, this will reduce the chance of conflicting messages that could spur resistance.

Quick wins

Finally, don’t neglect the persuasive power of swiftly implementing positive and impactful change. While change can often be complicated, there will undoubtedly be aspects of your larger plan that you can introduce earlier in order to showcase its potential. Do this early and as often as you can so that you can get employee buy-in fast.

But don’t necessarily rely on your own judgment to determine what these wins should be. Instead, this is a good opportunity to practice inclusivity. Work with your employees to identify what they’re most excited about seeing, then separate out the items that will take the most work to accomplish and those that can be implemented much faster. This way, you can get your wins while also showing that you care about delivering what is most important to your teams.

In conclusion: overcoming resistance to change

No organization interested in lasting very long can avoid change. Whether spurred by industry developments or environmental shifts, or spurred on by the rise of new competition, organizational change is a natural and inevitable aspect of business. But so is the inclination of individuals to resist this change. For many, change represents uncertainty and a lack of control, which will make the hesitant or even resentful if it’s forced upon them. Organizations need to understand that, while change can come with anxiety, the real problem is often how this change is managed. Instead, by proactively addressing the most common concerns that surround change, you can not only allay these fears but turn employees into active advocates for change. In other words, resistance to change isn’t something that should necessarily be discouraged. Rather, consider a chance to look at how you can more closely involve your workers in the change process.

A personalized leadership approach for each team member.

PI’s behavioral insights help leaders inspire and coach each employee in a way they truly connect with.

Everywhere I look, I see comments about how difficult it is to hire and retain top talent. And it’s no wonder why: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are currently 9.8 million open roles, but only 5.9 million people to fill them. 

For employers, the race is on. Either you find and secure the candidates you need, or you lose them to the competition. Speed is key—yet hiring has become slower than ever. Time-to-hire is 40% higher than pre-COVID levels, with teams taking upward of two months to fill a role.

This isn’t just an HR problem—it’s top of mind for CEOs too. According to McKinsey executive Liz Hilton Segel, the solution is clear: “[It’s] about moving from ‘pedigree to potential.’ That means getting away from the classic characteristics used to assess people[…].”

How exactly do you hire for potential? You stop relying on a resume or Ivy League degree, and you look for high-value team players who can be taught the skills your team needs to succeed. Figure out not only how to attract the right people, but also how to upskill those you already have, and you may just win this “war for talent.”

Here’s how.

Right person. Right role. Every time.

PI Hire gives you the data you need to better predict which candidate will succeed in the role, and stay for the long term.

Hiring for present—and future—fit

I’ve been exactly in your spot before. Over the past three years, I had to rebuild PI’s sales team from the ground up. At the peak of the pandemic, business had slowed to the point that our team was reduced to just four members. Today, we’re 30 strong.

It’s tough to hire for any team—but especially so for sales. Prospective hires are trained to sell anything, including their own candidacy. They tend to be likable, confident, and well-spoken. While that charisma often translates well to the sales floor, it also makes it near-impossible to identify whether someone’s “good” for the role or “too good to be true.”

To cut through the noise, I needed objective data. In a previous life, I tried to disarm candidates in interviews to get to their “true selves.” I asked questions like, “What would your peers say is your biggest area for growth?” and hoped they’d answer honestly. But it was a flawed approach, and I ended up relying heavily on subjective responses and “gut” instinct. That had to change.

I also knew that hiring for “current fit” wasn’t enough. I had a scrappy team that’d been hit by a recent restructuring, and I didn’t want to risk hiring someone unless I could imagine them thriving at PI long-term. So, instead of looking for people who could do an entry-level role today, I sought out those who could grow into a senior role within one to two years.

To do all that, I needed to know what exactly “great” looked like in the role based on those who’d done it before. Too many workplace assessments out there tell you who someone is, and not who they will be once they’re in a job role. Luckily, I had our own PI Hire software platform, which provides predictive hiring insights to help you screen for high-potential candidates—instantly.

Here’s how I made a great hire with PI.

Leveraging the power of PI Hire

One of our most critical sales positions is the Business Development Representative role. Our BDRs spearhead our outreach to new business; they’re also our future Account Executives and sales leaders. If they thrive, we thrive. If they struggle, we struggle too.

But not all BDRs are built equal. When exploring how to hire a top-performing sales BDR, you must first understand what success looks like.

PI helps make the process easy. From the PI Hire dashboard, I created a new open job titled “Business Development Representative.” The software presented me with a list of close-fit benchmarks, and I selected Sales Representatives (Non-Technical, Non-Scientfic).

Here’s what popped up (“box and arrow” emphasis mine):

Notice the section titled Behavioral Target. With PI, we use benchmark data like the above to predict the ideal combination of behavioral traits needed for on-the-job success. The four orange bars represent our target. The target looked good to me, but I made one adjustment. Anyone I hired would need to have higher Dominance than the benchmark data suggested. I wasn’t just looking for a BDR; I was looking for a future Account Executive. And that person would need to be comfortable with conflict.

The software then prompted me to send out the PI Behavioral Assessment. A two-question, six-minute survey, the Behavioral Assessment helps you measure any person’s behavioral profile. In this case, I posted a job ad, included a link to the assessment, and watched as candidates rolled into the system.

An immediate standout appeared named Alexandra. Clicking into her candidate profile, I quickly saw why. While her behavioral profile wasn’t a perfect match, it was close. PI illustrated this by taking the BDR Behavioral Target and overlaying Alexandra’s assessment results. A 3-star fit rating further emphasized that she was worth following up with.

Confirming candidate fit

Alexandra’s profile looked good on paper, but I needed to confirm those credentials. I came up with a list of non-negotiables. The ideal BDR would be:

  • Competitive and proactive
  • An active listener
  • Great at asking questions
  • Comfortable with rejection
  • Resilient

Looking at the job target, I noticed Alexandra was a Specialist. This profile is known for being cautious and introspective—traits that are somewhat at odds with the frenetic, extraverted world of sales. These were areas of misalignment I knew I needed to dig into. Thankfully, PI features an Interview Builder tool that generates interview questions to help do just that.

When it came time to interview Alex, I brought up the client-facing nature of the role and asked if she could provide an example of when she was forced to overcome rejection. She answered with aplomb. I went down the list of interview questions suggested by the software. Each answer impressed me more than the last.

Naturally, I hired her.

Building a balanced team

As I onboarded Alex, one thing stood out to me. Her Formality drive was high, suggesting she values rules and structure and prefers getting things right on the first try. Yet, sales is a relatively low-Formality field. Compared to the majority of her peers, she might:

  • Have a lot of questions before starting a task
  • Want some practice before feeling ready to jump in
  • Ask for examples of others doing a task the “right” way
  • Require additional guidance to do her job well

If I didn’t know this information ahead of time, I may have thought, “Wow, why does Alex have so many questions? Other people seem to just get it and go do it. What’s the matter?”

But instead, I do know—and we celebrate it. Whenever I announce a change in strategy or give directions to the group, I wait, smile, and ask, “Alex, what did I miss? What questions do you have?” She laughs and tells me exactly where I wasn’t clear. You see, Alex catches important mistakes or specifics that may normally go unnoticed were it not for her attention to detail.

In short, Alex’s differences make us better.

Hiring isn’t just about finding the right fit for the role. It’s also about finding the right fit for the team. By bringing Alex into the fold, we gained someone who brought balance to our group dynamic. 

Alex also has a higher Patience drive than most on the team, which has helped her perfect her skills as only a Specialist can. Walk the sales floor at PI, and you’ll catch her throwing darts in between calls, perfecting her throw. I watched her hustle a few people in games because they didn’t realize just how hard she worked at it.

Stop chasing unicorns. Start finding gems.

I hired Alex back in 2021 and couldn’t be happier. 

Yes, it takes her more practice than others to learn a skill. But like any Specialist worth their salt, she persistently works at her craft to master it. Case in point: She now leads the entire sales team in close rate. 

Hiring someone like Alex shouldn’t be an anomaly. Any organization can make great hires like we do—provided you equip yourself with the proper data. PI Hire leverages both behavioral and cognitive assessments to help you make informed hiring decisions and find personalities with incredible potential.

Hire like your competitors do, and you’ll be rejecting candidates based on arbitrary factors like “He was shy!” or “She doesn’t have 10+ years of experience.” Likewise, treat hiring like a pass/fail exercise, and don’t be surprised when your new hires either sink or swim. In this race for talent, you can’t afford a mishire to set you back weeks or months.

Know your candidates, hire them with confidence, and invest in their strengths. Do this, and you’ll have a cohort of future leaders while your competitors search for unicorns that don’t exist.

Modernized Talent empowers Entrepreneurs & CXOs to de-risk strategy execution and increase the velocity of change management with people-centric strategies.

With our help, you can retain your top talent, boost your team’s productivity, and enhance operational efficiency, all while avoiding the costly pitfalls of low morale and high turnover.

Experience seamless transformation without compromising on your company’s most valuable asset – its people.

Find out more by visiting modernizedtalent.com or connecting with us on LinkedIn.

Imagine being told the job you just accepted will provide you with opportunities to work at a fast pace, and interact with others. But a month or two in, you realize not only is the work incredibly repetitive, but you’re on your own all day, with no need (or opportunity) to collaborate with the rest of your team. 

How long would you want to stay in that role? 

Job fit is the sense of feeling productive and satisfied in your work because your day-to-day tasks energize you. When we place someone in a role that is a good fit for their strengths, they tend to be productive, happy team members who stick around. When we don’t, we set them – and the organization – up to fail. 

Poor job fit leads to disengagement and, eventually, turnover. Creating a Job Target is a vital step in the PI Hire experience, aiding you along the way as you search for, interview, onboard, and coach employees.

You can’t make a smart hire or have robust performance conversations without knowing what behaviors and cognitive ability the role requires. Job Targets allow you to see how a person’s behavioral and cognitive results match your ideal targets for a particular role. 

Right person. Right role. Every time.

PI Hire gives you the data you need to better predict which candidate will succeed in the role, and stay for the long term.

But how do you know the target you’ve set is attracting the right candidates? 

It’s sure not a set-it-and-forget-it process. Here are a few steps to ensure your target is working for you (i.e., identifying the right people for a role).

Step 1: Identify the key stakeholders with knowledge and relevant perspective of the job. 

You don’t need to include every person who is on the interview team, just the three to five people who know the role best. Typically, this is the hiring manager, a top performer currently in the role, and someone from your recruiting team.

Step 2: Align on what’s needed in the role. 

One of the most common mistakes is not having alignment on the primary behavior and cognitive requirements of the role. Everyone needs to understand – and agree on – the top expectations, and the most important and most frequent behaviors needed for someone in that role to be successful. 

This conversation can help uncover discrepancies, which could even help people currently in the role. 

For example, based on previous experiences, the recruiter may believe a role requires opportunities to connect and interact with others, but the hiring manager might not agree. When these situations arise, it’s a great opportunity to ask:

  • Is this behavior important and frequent for the job?
  • Could someone be successful in this role without this behavior?
  • How independent does this person need to be? How often will they need to collaborate with other people?
    • This will help determine if the first factor in the target, Dominance (A), should be higher or lower.)
  • How outgoing or persuasive do they need to be? Is this a more reserved or analytical role?
    • This will help determine if the second factor in the target, Extraversion (B), should be higher or lower. 
  • Will this job be fast-paced, or handle multiple priorities? Will this job need someone who is more methodical, or able to handle repetitive tasks?
    • This will help determine if the third factor in the target, Patience (C), should be higher or lower. 
  • Does the job require a lot attention to detail, or closely following rules and guidelines?
    • This will help determine if the third factor in the target, Formality (D), should be higher or lower. 

This conversation might also help a stakeholder see the job’s requirements in a new light, or underscore that the organization is looking for something new for the role. For example, a role may have formerly involved speaking to customers in person, but that function is now done through an automated messaging system. So, the ideal person in the role may need a different behavioral profile or cognitive ability. 

Provide each stakeholder an opportunity to discuss why they think the job requires certain behaviors. If they still cannot come to agreement, the person who is most familiar with what is required to succeed in the role should have the final say. This is why it’s important to make sure you have the right stakeholders from the beginning. 

Step 3: Create the Job Target in the software. 

There are multiple ways to create a Job Target. You can choose which is best for the role or for your organization based on your knowledge of the science or comfort with the targets our system automatically generates from decades of experience. 

Step 4: Review the target you’ve set, and adjust if necessary. 

This is where things really start to come together.

You’ve gained agreement on the Job Target, and you’re using it to hire a great candidate. Download the interview guide, and determine which members of the interview team are responsible for asking which questions. If you’re using it for a performance conversation with a current employee, download the coaching guide too, so you can focus on the areas that are crucial to their success in their role (or the role they aspire to move into). 

Congratulations! You have a Job Target.

Review the Job Report and matching Reference Profiles to help verify that you’ve accurately captured the needs and expectations of the job. The matching Reference Profiles should be viewed as suggestions – they do not indicate that candidates who do not match the Reference Profile will be poor candidates.

Remember to look at the whole person – their assessment results, experience, and values – in any hiring exercise. In doing so, you can mitigate some of the inherent bias we all bring to the process. And you’ll proceed with much more confidence in the hires you’re making.

The post-COVID labor landscape is constantly shifting. Every day, roughly 10,000 people are reaching retirement age, helping to usher in a generational shift in the workforce. Meanwhile, remote and hybrid work have become the norms in many industries, transforming the role of the long-sacred office. And then there’s the question of how technology like AI will shake up different industries — both for better and for worse.

Despite all this change, one constant is the importance of effective leadership. In fact, with so many aspects of work now in flux, the difference a good leader can make may be greater than ever. With nearly three-quarters of Gen Zers now thinking about calling it quits, reevaluating how you lead your employees may even help keep your team — or organization — intact.

So let’s take a closer look at the importance of good leadership, as well as what goes into becoming a more effective boss.

Why businesses need good leadership

Good leadership is about more than just keeping workers happy or boosting team morale (although both of these are significant). It also plays a crucial role in increasing and maintaining high levels of productivity, shaping company culture, and helping the organization adapt and innovate for the future. Here are some specific ways effective leaders do this:

  • They define and bring to life a vision. Whether a company is just starting out or is still adapting after 100 years, strong leaders know how to create a vision and long-term goals that are both realistic and inspiring. Not only this, but they know how to lead by example, showing the rest of the organization how to live up to its ideals.
  • They build a healthy environment. Good leadership focuses not just on the company at large, but also on the individual employees. It means creating a place where everyone feels valued, included, and engaged. Under effective leadership, employees will feel like their contributions matter and their voice is important. They’ll feel motivated to take risks, try new things, and invest more effort in their work.
  • They make productivity a priority. Smart leaders understand that pushing employees to perform more without also providing support will only result in burnout. Instead, they know how to set up employees for success by establishing expectations, setting performance standards, and providing regular feedback. They help everyone do their jobs better by properly clarifying their roles and responsibilities.
  • They establish a growth mindset. Companies with effective leadership will give employees plenty of opportunities to learn and grow in their jobs. They’ll offer training, skills development, and maybe even mentorship. They’ll give employees a long-term outlook by helping them not only grow in their jobs, but also advance their larger careers.
  • They reduce conflicts and retain talent. Good leaders know how to put in place a framework to hold productive discussions, share constructive criticism, and reduce the chances of conflict. In this way, they understand that retaining the best employees means building a place where everyone feels supported, even when they’re challenged.
  • They help make better decisions. The best leaders help foster more effective and informed decision making throughout an organization by emphasizing the importance of considering multiple perspectives and valuing inclusivity. Their ability to make timely and well-thought-out decisions is pivotal for organizational success. 

While leaders still need talented workers and resilient infrastructures to help a company succeed, research shows that the trickle-down effects of good leadership are strong. A good manager not only improves the performance of their direct reports, but also of multiple layers of employees below them. Their efforts can be felt throughout a company, helping everyone better address customer needs and, as a result, improve the bottom line.

A personalized leadership approach for each team member.

PI’s behavioral insights help leaders inspire and coach each employee in a way they truly connect with.

18 ways to become a better leader

Although leadership is often described as a talent, there’s no reason it can’t be taught. All it takes is some awareness of the various skills and traits that make up a good leader. The following should provide you with a good general overview of how you can start leveling up your leadership game.

1. Build connections.

Effective leaders don’t just direct — they also connect. This can mean several things. At its most basic, it’s about making sure you have a productive relationship with each person on your team. You don’t need to be friends (this can be counterproductive), but you should have a rapport. 

Beyond this, it also means connecting employees to resources, encouraging interactions within your team, and promoting collaborative opportunities. You could do this many ways. For example, you could encourage team members to attend relevant networking events or facilitate team-building sessions within your own organization. You could even hold individual discussions with employees to better understand how you can support their career growth.

2. Give direct feedback.

Knowing how to give straightforward and honest feedback is a hallmark of good leadership. By not beating around the bush and instead simply speaking clearly to your report about their performance, you’re not only making it easier for them to understand how they can improve and succeed, but you’re also showing them respect.

It can be useful to do this within a larger performance assessment framework. On a regular basis, sit down with each employee to discuss what they’re doing well and what still needs development. Be as clear and constructive as you can be. For example, if the quality of their work isn’t meeting expectations, point this out and ask them what you can do to help them improve. You’ll get much better results, much faster, than if you instead try to spare their feelings.

3. Understand why you want to become a better leader.

Wanting to improve your leadership skills is admirable in and of itself, but the best leaders will have a reason for becoming a better leader. This will give you a goal to work toward and provide you with a consistent source of motivation. You’re not just trying to grow and become better. You’re trying to accomplish something specific.

These reasons could be almost anything. For instance, perhaps you want to improve the performance of your team or even your entire organization. Or maybe you’re interested in advancing your own career and gaining a promotion. You may even just want to see if you can successfully get your team past a project. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that keeps pushing you to improve.

Introverted leaders

4. Be empathetic.

While good leaders should focus on goals, they also know that the only way these goals get accomplished is through the hard work of the people they manage. And since people are human, that means knowing how to deal with their moods, their emotions, and their larger lives outside of work. It means knowing how to be empathetic.

Empathy may be one of the most important soft skills a leader can cultivate. It shows you care about your team members as people, not just workers. This will deepen your connection with them, helping to motivate them to work even harder for you. Try it out by practicing empathy in everyday situations. For example, employ active listening to better understand your employees, or give them an open invitation to share their concerns with you. And always show the same patience and compassion you’d want others to offer you.

5. Practice listening.

Did we just mention active listening? It’s worth calling out on its own. For those who aren’t familiar with it, active listening is a way of listening and interacting with someone in order to promote understanding. Think of it as listening on purpose. It not only helps ensure nothing gets missed, but also encourages the person talking to share more. This makes it a key strategy for leaders to understand and empathize with their employees.

It’s something you can try out today. Start by focusing on your physical gestures. Sit still and maintain eye contact to show that they have your full attention. If they stop talking, don’t rush to fill in the silence. Instead, give them space to finish what they’re saying without interruption. When they’re finished, restate what you heard to confirm you understand correctly. You may be surprised by how much these small efforts can improve your conversations.

6. Communicate clearly.

If there’s one thing all good leaders have in common, it’s strong communication skills. More specifically, it’s the ability to clearly articulate their expectations for their employees, give them any directions or instructions, and offer useful feedback. 

Knowing how to do this in the moment may take some practice, but you can help yourself out by setting up open communication channels for your team. Make it clear that your team can come to you with questions or comments anytime they like. Use active listening during conversations and, when it’s your turn to talk, try to keep your comments short and to the point. By avoiding unnecessary information, showing empathy, and opening your doors to employees, you can go a long way toward making yourself heard.

7. Always be learning.

Leaders should never be comfortable resting on their laurels. If the past few years have been any sort of evidence, the world is undergoing a constant rhythm of change. Just keeping up with these transformations and staying relevant requires a continual commitment to learning new technologies, understanding emerging trends, and adapting to new societal changes and ways of work.

As a leader, it’s your job to be at the forefront of all this. You can make continual education a priority by reading up on the latest news, taking relevant trainings and workshops, and attending industry events. Doing all this has the added benefit of setting an example for the rest of your team. This will help create a culture of continuous learning where everyone is encouraged to stay up to date on the latest advancements. The result should be a more creative, forward-thinking organization under your leadership.

8. Share your knowledge.

Just as important as taking in new knowledge is sharing and disseminating what you already know. You want your reports to see you as not only someone who can keep the team focused and aligned, but also as someone who they can turn to for useful advice and information as they need it. This will help instill confidence in you, as well as inspire your team.

And just like pursuing education opportunities for yourself will help promote a culture of continuous learning throughout your team, you can also make knowledge sharing a habit for everyone simply by doing it. Once established, this will go a long way toward eliminating harmful information silos and spreading institutional knowledge around. And that will help make your team more resilient and adaptable in the face of change — a clear sign of effective leadership.

9. Be grateful.

Gratitude is another essential soft skill good leaders should practice. Without it, even the most effective leaders may end up leaving their reports feeling alienated and distant. That’s because people want to be recognized for their work. Even just a small acknowledgement of their effort can help make a major difference to team morale and engagement.

But there’s a lot more you can do than simply saying “thanks” (although that’s a great place to begin). For example, you could consider putting down in writing what you value about an employee, then sharing it with them during their regular review. If they’re comfortable with it, you could also share it across the entire team, or even institute an “employee of the month” program to show your appreciation. The important part is making sure that everyone knows you notice and value their effort.

10. Keep an open mind.

Keeping an open mind is good for anyone, but it’s especially important for leaders. By guarding against entrenched thought processes and staying aware of any personal biases, you’ll be better equipped to manage your team more equitably, stay flexible in the face of change, and adopt new and potentially innovative ideas.

However, learning how to keep an open mind can be tricky. It involves a continuous process of self-awareness so that you can recognize when you may be closing yourself off, as well as why. Start by examining yourself to learn where you may have blind spots. Common culprits are any places you may lack knowledge or direct experience. Take note of these, then make an active effort to remain open and nonjudgmental whenever you find yourself resisting anything related to them. Don’t be discouraged if you mess up here or there. This will likely be a lifelong process.

11. Encourage creativity.

Although creativity isn’t something that can just be switched on, leaders should always be looking for new methods to encourage it. The most effective way to do this is by trying to challenge team members to come up with new ideas, while also giving them the safety and support to fail. You need to know how to make people comfortable with taking risks.

By helping your reports explore their more creative side, you’ll set yourself up to benefit from more original ideas. But you’ll also be providing your employees with a greater level of intellectual stimulation. Rather than requiring them to do the same sort of task over and over, this will push them to explore new territory. The challenge of this can be incredibly satisfying, especially if this encouragement doesn’t stop at the office door but continues beyond work, to diverse creative outlets elsewhere. 

12. Be passionate.

Good leaders inspire and drive their employees through a healthy dose of passion. This is almost a classical trait of the effective leader — consider the powerful speeches of Churchill or the intensity of Steve Jobs — but it’s important to note that the best leaders know how to align their enthusiasm within a well-defined standard of ethics. They let their passions carry them, but don’t push their employees too far. That way they earn their trust and respect.

You can demonstrate this by directing your passion and energy toward bringing out the best in your employees. Make a particular effort to collect your team’s ideas and suggestions, then apply this input toward building out projects and processes that reflect everyone’s efforts. Show you care as much about building up others as you do about building out your team’s success. That will be the most inspiring kind of passion of all.

why change initiatives fail

13. Encourage others to make contributions.

Bringing out the best in everyone means knowing how to encourage all types of people — whether introverted or extroverted, new to the job or experienced — to make valuable contributions. This way, no one will be left out of the dialogue simply due to their role or personality. Instead, by making an effort to include everyone, the workplace can become more equitable.

Good leaders tackle this challenge by taking advantage of a variety of strategies. For instance, they could augment their brainstorming sessions by including an asynchronous aspect that allows team members who may be more reluctant to speak up in a room to share their ideas. Alternatively, the simple act of celebrating someone’s contribution can be enough to encourage others to come forward with their own ideas. By staying on the lookout for constructive opportunities like this, you can help cultivate trust, turning your workplace into a space where everyone feels free to speak up.

14. Offer rewards.

As a leader, don’t neglect the value of a good reward. Although showing recognition should begin with some kind of spoken or written acknowledgment, a tangible reward can serve as an extra dose of positive reinforcement. It shows that you not only value the employee, but are willing to put your money where your mouth is.

These rewards can be anything. You could offer small ones like a free coffee at a local cafe or a lunch at a local sandwich shop just to show some quick appreciation for a job well done. If you want to recognize something more significant, you could offer paid time off or even a vacation. Try to be creative and thoughtful. The best rewards will help elevate morale and productivity across the company because they show how much you appreciate your employees.

15. Try new things.

One way good leaders become (and stay) good leaders is by always trying out new stuff. Because they keep an open mind, they are always looking for new strategies to bring their team together, new ways to motivate and inspire, and new processes to get them performing at their best. 

Of course, this enthusiasm shouldn’t be chaotic. A good leader should also do their research into any new tools, methodologies, or strategies they’re interested in. They should also consult closely with their reports to see what will work best for them. Carried out correctly, this impulse for innovation can help leaders set their teams and companies apart from their rivals by enabling them to embrace the best of the cutting edge.

16. Find a mentor.

A leader should never be their own island. Just because you’re the top person on your team doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out advice and direction from someone else. The best leaders know that there will always be someone who can shine a light on their shortcomings or help them carve out a path for growth. That’s why they so often lean on a mentor.

Try to seek out someone who not only has a list of skills and experiences you find impressive, but also who shares a similar set of values with you. This will ensure that the two of you will be able to have a productive and long-term dialogue. You should be able to learn not only from what they tell you, but from their own actions and decisions they’ve made. Like yourself as a leader, they should serve as an inspiration and model to aspire to. They should push you, through both word and deed, to become the best leader you can be.

17. Earn trust.

Trust is essential to every relationship, including leadership. Without a foundation of trust, employees would have no reason to follow your directions or even expend the effort of working alongside you. They need to know that the time they spend under your guidance will be time well spent.

Good leaders know that the only way to build this foundation is by earning it. You can start doing this by, first and foremost, showing each member on your team the respect and compassion they deserve. Follow through on your commitments, show up on time to your meetings, and practice empathy over discipline. If you mess up, show integrity by taking responsibility for your actions. And, as always, acknowledge everyone else’s good work and value to the team. 

18. Be self-aware.

In the most expansive sense, effective leaders know what they’re doing. This means they know what they can do well and what they still need to improve. They recognize what actions or results make them most happy, as well as the triggers that set them off. They are fully aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots because they know how to examine themselves.

Leaders who are self-aware will have the greatest capacity for improvement. They will know how to lean on what they’re good at and know when to reach out for help. They’ll be able to see when a situation is beyond their capabilities and take the necessary precautions to ensure success. In this way, they’ll exemplify how everyone on their team should act. They’ll be an emblem for representing yourself with authenticity, even when that means admitting you aren’t up for the challenge.

Enhancing your leadership skills in the workplace

Becoming a better leader is not something that will happen overnight. Instead, it will be a gradual process that you will have to practice continually. Because of this, it can be helpful to think of it not as a goal, but as a mindset. Like a good exercise regimen, improving your leadership skills is a habit you’ll have to set for yourself.

That said, you can start this process off on the right foot by doing a thorough evaluation of where you stand as a leader. Conduct a self-assessment, ask your reports for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, then compare the two. This will give you some good insights into your skills as a leader, any opportunities for improvement, and areas you may not be a good judge of your own abilities.

Next, set some clear goals for yourself. While these should be aspirational enough to motivate you, they should also be attainable enough to remain realistic. Try to do this by tying them to either your team or organizational objectives. It can also be good to make them specific. This way, you have something to aim for as you start your leadership work.

From here, it’s up to you to forge your own path. This can be a good time to practice some self-awareness. Ask yourself whether you’re the type of person to cast a wide net and try everything from enrolling in leadership courses to diving into research to seeking out a mentor, or whether you’d be more likely to thrive with an incremental approach. Regardless, remember to stay consistent with your efforts and to keep asking for feedback along the way.

And, it’s worth repeating, be patient. Even if you feel like you aren’t making much progress, the very fact that you’re putting in the effort means you are becoming a better leader. Others will recognize this and appreciate you because of it. You may even find they already think better of your leadership skills.

Unlock your full potential with The Predictive Index

Drive growth, engagement, and performance with science-backed solutions for organizational success

What sets PI apart

  • PI’s assessments are backed by 60+ years of behavioral science, approved for workplace use and revalidated annually to reflect the evolving world of work.
  • The Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments are just two features within the broader talent optimization platform, which helps you hire with confidence, empower new leaders, build cohesive teams, and keep your talent engaged.
  • The PI experience is supplemented by a best-in-class consulting network, there to guide you through the complex modern labor landscape.

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Reinforce the value of PI, and encourage prospects to take action.

  • Develop Exceptional Leaders with PI Inspire Interpersonal relationships have never been easier with the launch of our new product, PI Inspire. Discover how to be a better manager with customized guidance for all of your working relationships. Launching on 9/21.
  • The Predictive Index for MS Teams is here for 2.0 Hire and Inspire Clients! Help your clients keep PI top of mind by downloading our app from the Microsoft Teams app store today. Notifications on candidate assessment completions ensure your clients never a great candidate in their email inbox again. Inspire users can pull about information right into Teams to improve any working relationship in real-time.

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How winning hearts and minds is key to unlocking the workforce

You’ve read The Predictive Index’s new report all about why middle managers are not ok. 

(You haven’t? Go read it! Then come back here. We’re diving deep…)

Turns out there’s more to the story. In their understandable pursuit of hard-and-fast business results, people-centric skills are too often overlooked. So-called “soft” skills—think communication, creativity, and having a growth mindset—are no longer optional. In fact, they hold the key to helping others realize their full potential.

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at where people leaders need to do more to support their middle managers and ultimately the success of their business. Based on what we learned from surveying 340+ managers and people leaders, we know that soft skills offer a solution to the problems middle managers are facing (and creating!). 

Join us to: 

  • Discover five critical skills people leaders often lack
  • Learn how your middle managers can boost performance and employee engagement
  • Identify your organization’s most pressing improvement areas

Panelists TBA!

Matt Poepsel, PhD
VP of Professional Services,
The Predictive Index

Hema Crockett, she/her

Co-Founder, Gig Talent

Jackie Dube, she/her

SVP of People Operations


The best employee experience platform

Discover everything you need to know to connect, communicate, and collaborate with your employees in a way that increases engagement and inspires success.

Ineffective talent strategy, unengaged employees

It takes more than icebreakers and team-building activities to truly get to know your employees. It’s impossible to effectively optimize talent without visibility into the employee lifecycle or a clear understanding of the employee experience.

  • Low employee engagement: Team members who don’t feel 
seen, heard, or appreciated are less likely to feel invested in organizational outcomes or initiatives, leading to lower productivity and a loss of morale. 
  • Higher employee engagement: Employees who are dissatisfied with their work environment, company culture, or day-to-day duties are more likely to entertain offers from recruiters, leading 
to lower employee retention rates as well as the cost and disruption of finding and onboarding new hires.
  • Poor communication: It’s difficult to fix a problem you don’t understand (or worse, aren’t aware exists). Collecting in-depth data about your employees and their experience offers clarity 
that opens lines of communication.

Gain clarity, empower performance

Leverage must-have behavioral data and actionable insights that illuminate the strengths, caution areas, preferred work style, and most important needs of team members to achieve an improved employee experience that will increase productivity and profitability.

  • Optimize the employee journey: Understanding behavioral drives makes it easier to build cohesive teams, clarify career paths, and strategically align talent with the right roles.
  • Improve company culture: Create an atmosphere that prioritizes trust, communication, and a genuine commitment to employee well-being to enhance employee performance and increase retention rates.
  • Increase employee satisfaction: Modern employees value leaders and organizations that value their time, talent, and efforts. Behavioral data allows you to tailor your communication style to motivate and inspire direct reports, resulting in more fulfilling work and more successful outcomes.

As a people-focused employee experience platform, the suite of tools offered by The
Predictive Index supports and nurtures culture, connectivity, and collaboration at every
stage of the employee lifecycle, from onboarding to off boarding.


Hire with certainty

Find the right person for the right role every time. Empower your human resources team with HR technology that helps attract top talent, identifies traits needed for each role, and improves the candidate experience.


Enhance leadership skills

Take leadership to the next level by using behavioral insights to solve people problems, fine-tune your emotional intelligence and communication skills, and implement data-driven solutions to mitigate obstacles.


Build cohesive teams

Create and inspire high-performing teams with an in-depth understanding of how people work and who works well together. Use behavioral assessments to identify misalignment between the team and its goals and leverage recommendations to close the gap.


Boost engagement

Open up lines of communication and gain valuable employee feedback with pulse surveys. Addressing the feedback collected in employee surveys builds stronger company culture and offers an easy opportunity to identify ways to improve every workday.

The Predictive Index is more than an employee experience platform; it’s a tool that builds stronger bonds, better teams, and broader potential. Stop the guess-and-check method of management and take a scientific approach to talent optimization to streamline the journey to success.

Change the way you work together

Frequently asked questions

What is employee experience?

Employee experience is the overall journey an individual goes through from the moment they first engage with a company for a job to the time they depart. It’s shaped by the workplace environment, the relationships formed, the tools provided, and opportunities for growth. Think of it as the day-to-day reality of working at a place and how it aligns with one’s own goals and values. A positive experience leads to better job satisfaction, engagement, and retention, making it a key ingredient for a company’s success.

Why is employee experience important?

Employee experience directly influences an individual’s performance, motivation, and commitment to their role and the organization as a whole. A positive experience fosters a sense of belonging, enhancing productivity and sparking innovation. Conversely, a negative experience can lead to decreased engagement, higher turnover rates, and even reputational damage for a company. In today’s competitive job market, employee experience can be a distinguishing factor in attracting and retaining top talent.
Prioritizing the well-being and experience of employees isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a strategic move that impacts an organization’s bottom line and future growth.

What is employee experience software?

Employee experience software is a category of technological tools designed to enhance the overall experience of employees within an organization. These platforms provide features that address various aspects of an employee’s journey, from the recruitment and onboarding process to daily operations, feedback, professional growth, and eventual off boarding. Such software might offer modules for internal communication, performance reviews, learning and development, feedback surveys, and even wellness programs. The main objective is to streamline processes, foster engagement, enhance productivity, and gather insights on employee sentiments.

By centralizing many employee-centric functions, these tools aim to nurture a positive workplace environment and help organizations better understand and address their staff’s needs and preferences.

How can I improve employee experience with PI?

Improving employee experience using the Predictive Index (PI) assessment tool involves using the insights gained from the assessment to create a positive and engaging work environment. Here are steps you can take to enhance employee experience with the Predictive Index:

  • Administer the PI Assessment: Begin by having employees complete the PI assessment. Ensure that everyone understands the purpose of the assessment and how it will be used.
  • Analyze PI Results: Work with PI practitioners or HR professionals to analyze the results. The PI assessment provides insights into individuals’ workplace behaviors, motivations, and cognitive abilities.
  • Customize Employee Development: Use the insights from the assessment to tailor development plans for each employee. Identify their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Effective Onboarding: Incorporate PI insights into your onboarding process. This can help new employees understand their roles better and get acclimated to the organization more quickly.
  • Team Building: Form teams with complementary skills and styles. Leverage PI data to create diverse, well-rounded teams that can collaborate effectively.
  • Communication Strategies: Understand how each employee prefers to communicate and adapt your communication strategies accordingly. Some employees may prefer direct and concise communication, while others may require more context and detail.
  • Conflict Resolution: Use PI insights to address conflicts within the team. Understanding the underlying reasons for conflicts can lead to more effective resolution.
  • Employee Engagement: Focus on aligning individual and team roles with employees’ behavioral drives and motivators. When employees are engaged in work that aligns with their natural tendencies, they are more likely to be satisfied and productive.
  • Employee Recognition: Recognize and reward employees in ways that resonate with their motivators. Some may prefer public recognition, while others may prefer private acknowledgments.
  • Professional Development: Offer training and development opportunities that cater to employees’ learning preferences and cognitive abilities. This can help them advance in their careers and improve their job satisfaction.
  • Feedback and Coaching: Provide feedback and coaching that is tailored to each employee’s behavioral style. Be aware of how different individuals respond to feedback and adapt your approach accordingly.
  • Continuous Feedback Loop: PI is not a one-time assessment. Regularly revisit and reassess employees’ profiles as their roles and responsibilities change.
  • Leadership Development: Use PI insights to identify potential leaders within your organization and invest in their development. Ensure that leaders understand how to effectively manage teams with diverse behavioral styles.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Continuously monitor the impact of these efforts on employee experience and adjust your strategies as needed. Solicit feedback from employees to understand what’s working and what can be improved.

Create an exceptional employee experience

Elevate each and every employee in your organization by honoring their individuality, encouraging personal and professional growth, and fostering an environment that supports innovation, authenticity, and the contributions of everyone.

What will motivate your employees? It’s not a question with just one simple answer. For some, it may mean having a strong social connection with coworkers. Others may want work that does some kind of measurable good, represented by results that tie directly to company goals. And there may be a significant faction that just wants something tangible, like free food.

Regardless, most people can recognize a highly motivated workplace when they see one. Employees will be more engaged, productive, and collaborative. Work will get done faster and, very likely, will showcase a higher degree of creativity. Studies repeatedly support this. Some even report that high employee morale can lead to up to 21 percent higher profitability.

So while it may be hard to say what, exactly, motivates your employees, it’s still a question worth asking. Let’s explore some of the different ways you can answer it.

How do we define employee morale?

Employee morale is an umbrella term that refers to the general feelings and attitudes of workers at an organization. It may be used to describe how satisfied employees are with their work, their level of happiness or motivation, or their enthusiasm or engagement, among other traits. 

Because it is closely linked with higher levels of productivity, retention, and other positive workplace goals, measuring and assessing employee morale is a key way to determine the likelihood of success at work. Likewise, knowing strategies for motivating employees and maintaining high morale during difficult times are key skills for team leaders to cultivate.

What makes employee morale crucial in a workplace?

High employee morale has continuously been linked to organizational success. Put simply, that’s because a workplace environment that’s positive and engaging will produce employees who will want to do good work. Here are some other ways strong morale can benefit a company:

  • Increased retention: When employees are happy, they won’t want to leave their job. The result will be a greater number of long-term employees, which will mean more experience and greater institutional knowledge. It will also mean lower recruitment costs.
  • More collaboration: If employees enjoy working together, they’ll be more likely to keep working together, as well as seek out other positive workplace relationships. This will lead to more shared ideas and, possibly, greater efficiency.
  • Higher levels of innovation: When the workplace is positive and supportive, employees will feel more comfortable expressing ideas, taking risks, and making suggestions. They’ll feel more free to be themselves, which can help encourage new ways of thinking.
  • Better mental health: High morale is typically the result of a workplace that’s focused on support, encouragement, and employee growth. All this can help reduce stress and lead to better mental health.
  • Reduced conflict: If employees actually want to work together, and it’s easy for them to do so, then they’ll be much less likely to engage in negative behavior. They’ll be too focused on getting work done to get into fights or distract each other with politics.
  • Lower costs: A supportive and positive work environment will mean more work gets done more efficiently. It will also mean employees show up more often and stick around longer, which just might lead to higher quality work. All this is why high morale is often linked to reduced costs.
A team of four people sits around a table and creates a talent management strategy

Best practices to uplift team morale

Although lifting team morale isn’t something you can likely do in a day, there are plenty of strategies for making sure a workplace remains positive and supportive over the long-term. Not only will the following best practices help make employees happier, but many of them are also great ways to improve productivity, efficiency, and collaboration in general. 

Open communication

How safe and comfortable workers are with communicating with one another plays a central role in team morale. That’s because an office with an open dialogue is a place where strong relationships form. People are sharing information, both personal and professional, which enhances engagement and builds trust. And that helps make for a better workplace.

So how do you create a culture of open communication? A good place to begin would be to establish some guidelines. Outline a few rules for how workers should talk to one another, share information, and respect each other throughout. Be sure to address particularly sensitive conversations, such as how to give and receive criticism, or how to handle a disagreement. You could also create processes for handling conflicts when they arise. If you can, try to make all this a collaborative process, both to get everyone’s buy-in and to demonstrate a commitment to open dialogue. 

Clear company vision

A clear goal to aim for is one of the best ways to boost morale. It aligns everyone’s goals, but also provides them with a sense of belonging by making them feel like part of something larger than themselves. It also inspires them to work harder and support each other, helping to increase staff connection and engagement. 

When creating your company’s vision, try to make it as specific and easy to understand as possible. Focus it on the future and don’t be afraid to make it lofty and challenging, but not impossible. It should be something your company can achieve. And don’t forget to make it inspiring. You can do this by tying it to your company’s values and making it inclusive, unifying, and passionate. Then, once you’ve got it down, share it widely with workers by using tools like employee handbooks, placing it in regular communications, and making sure it is a part of the everyday decision-making process. 

Recognition & rewards

An easy way to make morale better is to simply start calling out people for their good work. A little recognition can go a long way in this regard. And when you add in rewards, you can show how much you value your employees even more.

Giving recognition can be as simple or involved as you’d like it to be. Something as basic and direct as thanking an employee after a project can have a huge impact. You could take this a step further and make your praise public. Share someone’s positive contributions over a group email or during the next team meeting. Remember to keep a record of them as well, then cite them when you hand out bonuses or any other rewards. And, maybe most importantly, work to make praise, recognition, and appreciation a regular part of the work culture. This way, everyone will be aware of their worth.

Professional development

Giving employees the tools and support to learn new skills and grow their professional careers is a great way to keep them motivated. It shows that you not only care about the impact that they are making, but believe enough in them to invest in their future.

Be on the lookout for any continuous learning opportunities you can provide your employees. This could be access to industry conferences where they can listen or participate in panels, as well as network. Or it may be sponsorship for courses to earn a professional certification of some kind. You could even organize meet-ups within your company for employees to meet and learn from one another. If you aren’t sure what you workers want, consider sending out regular surveys to assess what they’re most interested in learning and developing.

Work-life balance

If you want employees to be excited about coming into work, then make sure they have a life outside of it too. A healthy work-life balance correlates directly with high morale because it shows you care about them as whole people. You want them to take the time to relax and decouple from their responsibilities, not only because it will keep them from getting burned out at work, but because it’s good for them.

There are many ways you can show that a good work-life balance is a priority. For instance, you could institute monthly or quarterly company holidays for employees to recharge. Or you could provide them with a gym membership. However, one of the most effective strategies may be establishing a hybrid workplace. By giving employees the option to work from home when they want, you’re giving them the flexibility to avoid time-consuming commutes, take care of their families, and manage their personal affairs. You’re also showing that you trust them to get their work done, which is always a good way to increase morale.

Team-building activities 

All work and no play would make anyone dull. Even in the most collaborative and positive work environments, it can be exhausting to stay focused and engaged on the job all the time. And while individual time off may help employees avoid burnout, what can you do to ensure teams continue to work together effectively and efficiently. This is where team-building activities can help.

There is no shortage of potential activities to choose from. You could keep it simple by including some kind of ice breaker at the beginning of meetings, such as the always popular Two Truths and a Lie. Or you could organize a scavenger hunt in the office for different teams to compete against each other. If you feel like getting more ambitious, you could even arrange to have an activity off-site, such as a company picnic. Whatever you do, the point should be to cultivate employee relationships while doing something fun together. The bonds that form will carry over into everyday work.

Community engagement

If you’re looking for an activity to do together as a team that can bring benefits to both employees and the surrounding community, consider organizing a charitable event. Employees will be sure to appreciate the chance to help out the neighborhood. And it won’t hurt to work for a company that cares about doing good.

Community engagement initiatives are typically plentiful. You could give employees the opportunity to hand out meals at a homeless shelter, pick up trash in the streets or parks surrounding the office, or provide tutoring or training services to local youths. If you’re looking for remote options, you might consider virtual fundraising or other online volunteer activities. Regardless, it can be a good idea to reach out to your own employees to see what they’re most interested in. That way, they can be sure to find an activity that they find the most fulfilling – and morale-boosting – for them.

Competitive compensation

Don’t neglect the power of cash to help increase morale. While everyone likes earning more money, the real power of competitive compensation is in how well it shows your appreciation for your employees. There is no more tangible way to put your money where your mouth is.

Performance-based incentives, in particular, can be a great way to incentive employees and improve morale. These can be quarterly bonuses that reward consistent performance, or one-off rewards for work that is especially high-quality. Be sure to make the bonus significant enough to feel like an achievement, and always tie it closely to the specific work that the employee did to earn it. When you pair this with non-monetary recognition, such as regular public praise, you’ll start building a more appreciative, positive environment.

Encouraging creativity

The ability for employees to exercise their creativity in their job is an undervalued but effective strategy for improving morale. Creativity is closely tied to personal expression, which relates back to open communication. By allowing employees to showcase their full selves through their work, you are providing them with a powerful mode of inspiration.

Although creativity is subjective, there are plenty of ways to encourage it. Try to push managers to explore their employees  interests so that they can assign them tasks that they’ll find engaging. Also make professional growth a priority at the company, and leave time for employees to pursue their own personal projects. If possible, try to leave some room at the beginning of assignments for responsibilities to be reallocated based on level of interests. This way, employees can try out different tasks, then only commit if they are invested.

Empowering decision making

Workplaces where employees can take part in the decision-making process often have high morale. That’s because the act of including employees in decisions, whether they are everyday or highly strategic, shows that their input matters. Plus, it gives them a more direct connection to the work.

If your organization is small, then you could promote inclusivity by inviting employees or a representative to sit in on decision-making meetings. Or you could poll employees to give them a chance to influence company direction. A suggestion box, whether physical or digital, can be a slightly less direct but more efficient way to get employees involved in the decision-making process. Just be sure to highlight when you take up their suggestions, as well as be able to justify when you decide to go in a different direction.

employee engagement

Proven strategies to evaluate team morale at aork

Part of prioritizing team morale is knowing how to check in with employees from time to time to make sure the measures you’ve put in place are still effective. After all, situations can change. Workloads can increase, priorities can shift, and proactive efforts to inspire and motivate employees may fall off. That’s why the following methods can be helpful for ensuring healthy long-term morale.

Surveys and questionnaires

If you’re interested in getting a quick, point-in-time measure of your organization’s morale, then you can’t do much better than a survey. Try to include questions that cover the most critical topics. For instance, could ask employees to rate their job fulfillment or contentment on a scale of 1 to 10, or ask them if they feel like they can communicate openly. Try to keep the survey short to encourage more participation, but always include a space for open employee suggestions at the end. And by keeping responses anonymous (as well as broadcasting this fact), you can ensure you’re getting honest feedback.

One-on-one meetings

Private, one-on-one meetings are a more personal and hands-on approach to checking in. But they can also be a little trickier to pull off. In order to make them impactful, schedule them with employees well in advance so that they have time to prepare. During the meeting, make it clear that your job is to listen to the employee. Tell them you’re interested in hearing what they have to say and make an extra effort to ensure they’re comfortable. Your goal during these one-on-ones is to increase employee trust and engagement. To that end, it can be useful to hold these meetings with each employee on a regular basis in order to establish a strong relationship.

Observing behavioral indicators

Sometimes, the best way of measuring employee morale is indirect. Rather than asking employees how they’re feeling, you may be able to gain even more useful insights by evaluating their demeanor, work quality, and productivity. In order to do this correctly, however, you’ll have to come up with some measurable indicators. For example, you may want to take into account how often employees reach out to others to offer assistance, or how many projects they are able to complete. Regardless of your criteria, it’s vital that you make these observations consistently so that you can spot any patterns and changes as they occur.

Gathering feedback

In tandem with your own observations, it can be helpful to collect feedback from supervisors and peers on individual employees. Like the other methods, try to make this a regular part of evaluations so that no one person feels like they’re being singled out. Ask managers and employees to give you their honest appraisal of an employee’s attitude and to describe some ways in which they have contributed. You may even want to talk to them about their individual interactions with the employee. Taking these extra steps can help you gain a more complete picture of how engaged and motivated your employees really are.

What are the telltale signs of low employee morale?

Despite your best efforts, sometimes employee morale might start dropping off anyway. But by remaining aware and looking out for any of the following signs, you can take action before the situation gets any worse.

Unusual behavior changes

Some changes in employee behavior may be obvious signs that something is off. These include a decrease in meeting participation, more pushback against management expectations, or an increase in missed deadlines. Others may be less obvious, such as the formation of cliques or an uptick in office gossip. Try to keep track of any of these signs as soon as they arise, as they can spread quickly. Even if only a handful of employees is engaging in them, morale across the company can still be affected.

Are employees less eager to raise their hand for new projects? Does it take more effort to get them to share updates or track their progress? These may be signs their enthusiasm is dropping off, which is never good for morale. Try to identify some reasons this may be happening. For example, do they have clear goals to aim for, as well as enough training and support to complete their tasks? If there’s nothing obvious, ask for feedback from your employees directly. They might be your best source.

Increased absenteeism or lateness 

If you notice more employees showing up late, or not at all, then you may have a morale issue. This is one of the more serious signs. A reduction in your workforce can quickly spiral into productivity losses and unhealthy team dynamics. Try to address these issues by adopting a more flexible approach to your workplace. If you haven’t already, give employees the option of working from home when they want to so that they have a better work-life balance. If this still doesn’t help, look at ways you can open up communication at the company so that you can better address any core issues.

Low productivity levels

Productivity may drop off for a variety of reasons – but whether there is a skills gap, a communication issue, or some other problem, team morale is likely to get affected as a result. You can try to get ahead of this by making sure everyone has all the resources they need to do their jobs effectively, then evaluating the teams and work structure for any potential roadblocks. Explore ways you can improve downstream communication and make workflows more efficient. If there is anything that’s not essential to the end goal, get rid of it. And throughout this process, make sure you continually ask for feedback from the employees themselves so that you know whether or not your efforts are working.

Poor communication

Communication has been mentioned several times previously, but it’s worth calling out on its own. If employees and managers don’t understand each other – that is, they can’t give directions, offer explanations, or share clear and constructive feedback – then morale will drop. That’s because weak communication not only leads to a lack of understanding, but can also foster mistrust. If you see this happening, you need to look for ways to foster more open and honest communication. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. For instance, make employees an active part of the decision making so that they have a sense of ownership. You could also establish channels for them to share their thoughts or advice, then regularly check in to see how they’re doing. Most importantly, lead by example in order to show how important it is for staff to properly engage with each other. Hopefully, better communication will follow.

two employees working together

Key reasons for low employee morale

Even if you know the signs, it can sometimes be hard to uncover the reasons behind a drop in morale. The following are some possible culprits you should be aware of.

Unclear job expectations or undefined roles

If employees aren’t sure what their job is or what is expected of them, it will be hard for them to remain enthusiastic about it. You can address this by first making sure everyone has a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Ideally, they should be able to describe what they do in a sentence or two. Because jobs can evolve, it’s smart to regularly check-in with employees to make sure they still have clear goals. If there’s any ambiguity, you can help realign them by using the SMART system to give them a better sense of direction.

Lack of recognition or appreciation

Even if everything else is humming along smoothly, if employees aren’t regularly recognized or appreciated for their work, then they will probably have low morale. Try to solve this by requiring managers to list out positive contributions alongside criticisms during regular reviews. You could even take this a step further by establishing recognition programs, such as an employee of the month. Gestures like these may feel small, but they’re a great way to increase employee engagement, loyalty, and morale.

Unfair treatment or favoritism

Employees who get unequal treatment, whether positive or negative, can throw the whole workplace off balance. More often than not, this happens in subtle ways, such as a senior employee who gets to work from home more often than their reports. That’s why it’s important to put in place a strict policy of equality and transparency. Make sure that any rules and expectations are applied fairly and consistently to everyone. This way, you’ll be better able to avoid the appearance of favoritism and avert potential conflicts.

Poor working environment

A poor working environment can be one that lacks a strong support system, is infected with pessimism or negativity, favors competition over collaboration, lacks an effective communication system, or some combination of all of the above. Whatever the case, the workplace needs to be a positive place for workers to go into if you want to maintain high morale. Whatever the issue, try to identify its root causes – such as an unclear company vision or overemphasis on revenue – then start putting in place measures that will improve these poor conditions.

Stressful workloads and long hours

Long hours on the job can be just fine in small quantities or with enough compensation – but when it becomes a regular occurrence, so much so that the effort is not recognized, morale is bound to suffer. To fix this, start out by identifying the reasons why workloads are so large. Have responsibilities been equitably distributed? Are the deadlines realistic? If possible, consider reexamining team structures and hiring policies in order to reduce employee stress. You should also consider more creative solutions, such as instituting a hybrid workplace, that could potentially solve this problem short-term.

Team morale: a shared responsibility

Maintaining a healthy team morale is like keeping oil in an engine: the longer you’re at the wheel, the more often you’ll have to check for leaks. That’s why, rather than thinking of it as simply another task to complete, it’s more helpful to consider it an inseparable aspect of leadership. The same way you have to remain constantly focused on new challenges and aware of unexpected changes to the workplace, so too will you have to stay committed to your employees’ well-being and success. 

Fortunately, the organizations that do this often find that this kind of commitment is its own virtuous cycle. By simply taking a proactive approach to team morale, staying aware of team dynamics, and trying to root out potential threats, they demonstrate how important their employees are to them. And that may be the best way to keep morale up.

Middle managers are not OK.

The Predictive Index and StudioID conducted a survey of over 300 middle managers and leaders to gather insights on major middle manager concerns, and the stark disconnect to what leaders think. The data revealed crucial opportunities for companies to enhance their talent strategies and address current HR challenges. Below are a few of the top findings from the report. Study finds 4 red flags tanking middle managers’ job satisfaction. Here’s what you can do about it.

70% of middle managers would love to return to being independent contributors
if they could keep the same pay

Executives know middle managers have some concerns—but they’re either not focusing on the right solutions or disagree on what’s truly troubling middle management.

79% of middle managers say they’re at risk of burnout from the stress of managing people

And 81% of executives agree their middle managers are at risk of burnout from the stress of managing people

So what can you do about it? Learn more in the report.

Nearly six in ten executives (58%) are very confident middle managers’ concerns are heard when they approach them about important issues.

In reality? The same percent of middle managers feel the exact opposite—58% of middle managers claim they are not very confident their concerns are heard when approaching executives about an important issue.

Get to know the problems your middle managers are facing.
Download the report.

The full Middle Manager report has 15 pages of data analyzed by people scientists, and commented on by subject matter experts in the field, for you to apply to your organization. Make your business and culture stronger by diving into the report.

Leaderformance is a Predictive Index® Certified Partner empowering clients throughout the UK and EU to address the challenges faced by modern organizations. Our clients excel in delivering business initiatives, optimizing people and teams, crafting their people strategy and creating the most desirable workplace where engaged employees succeed.
Our passion for client success is driven through the powerful Predictive Index® assessment solutions, our leadership education and our team’s extensive corporate expertise

Hi! My name is Carolina, and I am a recruiter at The Predictive Index. Despite my current career path, I wasn’t always in hiring.

Prior to People Ops, I was a member of our Partner Recruitment team. Before that, I was unemployed, having been laid off by my previous company. An eight-month job search—and interviews with dozens of hiring teams—eventually brought me here. 

As a job seeker, partner recruiter, and now candidate recruiter, I’ve seen all sides of talent acquisition. How have those experiences shaped me as a recruiter? Keep reading to find out.

Understanding my recruiter journey

I joined PI in February 2021. It was my first time working in talent acquisition, and there was so much to learn.

One of the first things I leaned on was empathy. Back when I was unemployed,  I probably interviewed for at least 20 positions. Yet, nothing felt like the right fit for me. 

My experiences during that time ran the gamut. Some recruiters contacted me but never reached back out, while others wouldn’t leave me alone. Some spoke to me with zero awareness of the times we were living in, while many others were struggling with changes themselves. 

Those moments stuck with me then, and they still do now. When I found my home at PI—a place that prioritizes the humans at the heart of work—I vowed to bring my lived experiences to the way I recruit and assess talent. 

I wanted to be different than the recruiters that I’d spoken to in the past. With the following tips, I hope you’ll feel empowered to do the same.

Fast and Furious - Come work with me.

My three biggest tips for new recruiters

Looking to avoid mishires and land great people—every time? Here are three ways to do just that:

1. Empathize with the candidate.

As I mentioned before, empathy quickly became my north star as a recruiter. I knew what it felt like to be ghosted or forgotten in the process, and I didn’t want to make others feel the same way.

Remember: That voice on the other side of the phone belongs to a human being. What you say and how you act directly affects them, even after you hang up.

Your candidate is looking for a job for a reason. Try to understand what they’re looking for in their career and how this role helps them with that goal. I always start my interviews with, “Tell me a bit about why you are looking for a new position.” While I get answers across the board, the toughest ones to hear are:

  • “I am looking for a visa,”
  • “My current company doesn’t respect my background,”
  • “I don’t have any growth opportunities currently,” and, the hardest,
  • “I have been laid off and have to provide for my family.”

It can be devastating to turn away a candidate who’s said any of the following. And yet, as a recruiter, rejection is a part of the job. It’s OK if you or your team decides the person isn’t a fit—so long as you’re honest with them and timely with your response. I pride myself on being open with candidates and providing an answer—good or bad—within 48 hours.

Another way to build empathy with candidates is to consider the “whole” person when hiring. At PI, we talk a lot about the Head, Heart, Briefcase framework:

  • Head refers to a candidate’s behavioral makeup and cognitive ability
  • Heart refers to their personal values, interests, and beliefs
  • Briefcase refers to their resume and technical skill set

In recruiting, we can’t chase unicorns. Much like buying a “dream” house, you will never find a candidate who has absolutely everything you are looking for. Be prepared to compromise on certain factors—like one’s briefcase—in favor of the right personality and culture add for your team.

Recruiter meme (Adele)

2. Lean on your hiring manager.

Partner Recruitment may have “recruitment” in the name, but my job prior to People Ops was entirely different from what I do now. On that side of the business, I dialed hundreds of consultants a day to see if they were interested in joining the PI network. While many signed on with my team, I also got used to hearing “No, I’m not interested.” The rejection stung, but it built empathy (see above) and helped me prepare for my future role.

As a candidate recruiter, my biggest challenge came right away. My manager Emily left on maternity leave, and I was driving the truck with a blindfold on. I soon learned that my best friends in this new position would be my hiring managers. 

The first role I recruited for was a Product Marketing Manager. I realized quickly that I’d had tunnel vision in Partner Recruitment—I was so focused on hitting on my goals that I didn’t spend time learning what other departments at PI were doing. 

So, how did I screen resumes and hire for a position I didn’t know about? In the beginning, there was a lot of trial and error, and a lot of feedback from my hiring managers on what they were looking for. With time, I developed a process that worked. When I got word that a position was approved, I put time on the hiring manager’s calendar. Before the conversation, I’d send them a form to collect information on what they were looking for in a candidate—such as:

  • Hard skills (e.g., technical skills, software knowledge)
  • Soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence)
  • Values (e.g., being collaborative, being team-centric)

From there, I sent the PI Job Assessment to the hiring team so we could collectively learn what Reference Profiles align best with the needs of the role. We finished by screening resumes together—for 30 minutes, the team gave feedback on why a certain candidate was stellar or why they weren’t a fit. 

Hiring takes two. By communicating openly and regularly with your hiring manager, you’ll learn from one another and only improve your talent acquisition process moving forward.

3. Know the person you’re hiring.

In Partner Recruitment, my job was to sell consultants and prospective clients on the appeal of The Predictive Index and the PI Behavioral Assessment. Yet, when I came to People Ops, I stopped selling PI and started using PI for myself. (That’s right—we use our own product when hiring.)

Using PI Hire was an entirely new ball game. One of the first steps was to use our software to set up a “Job Target.” As a hiring team, we aligned on the behavioral traits and cognitive ability needed to succeed in the role, then set that benchmark as our target. 

Sounds daunting, but PI made it easy. I selected an existing benchmark in our software, and the Job Target pre-populated based on industry data. From there, I tweaked the Job Target to my liking, published a job ad, and started sending out the PI Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments to candidates to find a potential match.

By the time applications started rolling in, PI had already scored candidates based on their potential behavioral and cognitive fit. I sorted candidates by fit, clicked into individual applicant profiles, and came up with a shortlist of people to follow up with.

Finding the right people is one half of the equation. How do you ask the right questions when it’s time to dig deeper? I was familiar with the four drives that influence workplace behavior, but I was struggling to phrase questions to address any drives that were off target. Thankfully, PI provided custom interview questions to probe for red flags—and find the right hire.

Right person. Right role. Every time.

PI Hire gives you the data you need to better predict which candidate will succeed in the role, and stay for the long term.

Recruit great talent, and hire with confidence.

Hiring is a constant exercise in self-improvement. I’m always looking to sharpen my skills as a recruiter and create a more inclusive candidate experience. As I was recruiting for that Product Marketing Manager role,  I went back to new hire orientation and attended sessions to deepen my knowledge of PI’s assessments. (Everyone needs a refresher sometimes.) Now, I feel like I can assess candidates with confidence—and pass that confidence on to my hiring managers. 

We ended up finding the perfect Product Marketing Manager (shout out to Lindsey!), and my manager was able to rest easy on her maternity leave. I’ll call that a win.

4. If one of your top-performing employees approached you with the following question, do you know how you would respond:

“If I told you I was quitting, what would you do to keep me here?”

You need to know who your top-performing employees are and make sure you are doing enough to keep them around. Top performers go-to firms where they feel valued and are rewarded, so at the very least be sure you are publicly pointing out the things that your top 5% are doing right.

5. Do we use behavioral data and analytics during the performance review?

A valid and reliable tool that provides behavioral benchmarks and highlights people’s natural behavioral needs can help eliminate some of the negative emotions associated with performance reviews. Evaluators can use this data to supplement other metrics and form the foundation for a productive conversation about behavioral expectations, norms, needs, and goals.

Successful companies and great leaders use the performance review process to motivate employees, incentivize employees, build and repair relationships, and to identify neglected areas in overall organizational development. They don’t fumble the feedback during this process because they use behavioral data and analytics to anchor the conversations in data. While these leaders might not wake up excited for performance reviews, they can at least know that feedback supported by behavioral data is a more pleasant, and less dreaded, conversation. 

Zach is the founder and CEO at Spark the Discussion.

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