The term “hope” is future-oriented: It’s defined as the belief that the future will be better than the present. This is an incredibly valuable feeling to instill in the workplace as it can have a positive impact on employee morale.
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While employers can’t actually make individual staffers feel hopeful, they can instill hope as a part of their company’s culture. And they can do this as early as the hiring process.
“We start by hiring people who care about hope — about making the future better than the present,” said Daniel McCollum, CEO of Torrent Consulting, a cloud consultancy in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The company, McCollum explained, encourages new hires to create a hope-based hashtag that’s related to their personal career goals. They’re then asked to write the hashtag on a wall in the office to be a source inspiration that can guide their actions at work.
“Our greater purpose for instilling hope in the workplace is to give our team members a community of support around their hopes,” McCollum continued. “We want to turn those hopes into action. We aim to not only instill hope, but prove that it was worth it, as we all work together to create greater impact.”
Let’s look at how several companies have worked to effectively instill hope in their workplaces:
1. Lead by example.
Employees need to believe they’re part of something bigger, and they look to their leaders to provide that hope. As Jordan Scheltgen, the managing partner of Cave Social, said he believes, hope needs to come from a deeper place — a sense of conviction.
“People want to feel like they’re part of something that’s heading in the right direction.” Scheltgen explained by email from his marketing agency in Los Angeles. “It’s part of our culture, not only to hope for the best, but to do everything in our power to will it into existence.” Hope for the future, Scheltgen added, is fueled by getting results in the present.
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When company leadership shares its deep commitment to creating a positive workplace, that commitment trickles down and directly affects employee morale. “Leaders within the company need to be hopeful and motivated, and provide a sense of safety for employees,” Scheltgen continued.
“This is contagious, and people will get behind a vision if they feel like the leaders within their company are all in.”
2. Share the vision.
As CEO of Rose Red & Lavender, a flower and event studio in Brooklyn, New York, Kimberly Sevilla ran into some roadblocks early on. Her employees, she said, struggled to buy into her plans.
But the source of the problem was obvious — she hadn’t explained her vision.
“I would push initiatives without sharing the vision in a concrete manner,” she said via email. “My employees doubted me and didn’t support my business. I always felt like I was pushing and pulling them along, and it was hard work.”
Despite earning a lot of attention after being featured in magazines and blogs, the company struggled to achieve a profit. It was then that Sevilla decided to get her employees involved, having everyone pay heed to what the company vision was for five years down the road.
“We wrote what our vision was for the business,” she said. “We used this huge piece of paper, adding what worked and what needed to be changed. Everyone involved took ownership of the statements written there.
“That was transformative. All these things had been in my head, and never fully visualized to the team. I think that my doubt and lack of hope held me back from sharing what the vision really was.”
As Sevilla learned, employees need to see what leadership sees in the company’s future. When they get onto the same page, and when leaders encourage employees to share their feedback, hope is restored.
3. Celebrate the positive.
When David Waring co-founded Fit Small Business, his New York-based media company dedicated to helping small businesses succeed, it focused more on fixing its own internal weaknesses than celebrating its strengths, he said. And that led to low morale.
“It’s hard to be hopeful about the future if you are not kept in the loop on what the plan for the future is,” he explained by email. “Make sure everyone is kept in the loop on both the successes and failures of the company, as well as what the plan is for future growth for the company and the individual employees themselves.”
By scheduling weekly meetings where everyone could discuss the exciting projects happening, the company finally helped its employees see hope in the future, Waring said. And that move, he said, resulted in a drastic improvement in employee morale.
4. Provide perspective.
Neutun Labs, a health technology company in San Francisco, helps people living with epilepsy track and manage their lifestyle.
While its mission is motivational, CEO Eric Dolan said he found that his employees needed to better understand what they were working on and how they were making an impact in others’ lives.
“We have new employees meet with people who have the condition we’re building technology for, and learn about the problems they need to deal with on a daily basis,” Dolan told me via email. “In just one dinner or coffee, engineers understand how deeply rooted this problem is, and are motivated to build a better future for those with chronic diseases.”
Showing employees that their hope is tied to patients’ hope, Dolan said, gets everyone excited and engaged with the future of the company. “We want to build the best-in-class technology that will have the greatest impact on people’s lives,” he explained. “This keeps our team motivated and focused on what matters.”
Instilling hope, then, requires self-reflection by company leaders, who can practice that reflection simply by asking themselves and their teams what actually excites them. “Once you understand the thing that will drive your team and yourself more than financial gain,” Dolan said, “it’s all uphill from there.”
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Building hope into the workplace, in other words, takes work, but the impact it has on employee morale is well worth the effort.