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There is a cartoon by Mark Anderson of the Devil saying to a worried-looking junior devil: "No, that's fine. Morale is supposed to be bad."
Most managers this side of Hell will tell you that morale in their organisations is excellent, but it usually isn't. People like a moan and, however attached they are to their jobs, there is almost always something they don't like: clueless bosses, malfunctioning computer systems, too much bureaucracy.
Usually, those complaints stay inside the organisation, unless disaster strikes and an outside inquiry reveals how dysfunctional the set-up was.
So it takes courage to investigate your own employee morale and publish the results for the rest of society to see, as three prominent organisations - the UK Treasury, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Apple - have done.
None of the three investigations was unprompted. The Treasury inquiry was internal, but was carried out at the urging of the National Audit Office and the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, which wanted to ensure lessons were learnt after the financial crisis.
Apple's investigation was a look inside Foxconn, its Chinese-based contractor, after bad publicity, including employee suicides and a factory explosion.
The investigation into the DHS, which is responsible for US border, cyber and air security, was conducted by the Government Accountability Office, but the department has itself taken on an outside contractor to conduct an "analysis of root causes of employee morale".
Good luck. The three investigations show rotten morale can have wildly divergent causes. The Treasury employees were deeply engaged with their work, the investigation found, but were unhappy because they felt badly paid. Staff at the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority earned 50 per cent and 100 per cent more respectively. Private sector workers in the City of London earned two or three times as much.
The consequences were startling. Treasury staff turnover was three times the UK civil service average. It peaked at 38 per cent in 2008 and was 28 per cent last year. More than half the Treasury's policy advisers had been there three years or less. "The vast majority of officials would have had no experience of a period of economic turbulence or bank failure," the report said.
By contrast, the DHS employees were as happy with their pay as any other federal government staff and more likely than other departments to think their workloads were reasonable. Their morale was low because they didn't feel their skills were used or that their managers communicated priorities.
The Foxconn report, conducted by the Fair Labor Association at Apple's request, was, perhaps surprisingly, the least damning of the three. The investigation found no child labour. Sick leave payments were higher than local law required. Foxconn had addressed the problem of aluminium dust, which caused the explosion.
The report did find examples of people doing more overtime than was allowed under Chinese law and periods when employees worked 11 or more days without a break.
However, only 17.7 per cent of workers thought their hours were excessive, while 48 per cent said they were reasonable and 33.8 per cent said they wanted to work longer hours. Why? Because 64.3 per cent
of the workers said their salaries were insufficient to cover their basic needs.
Public investigations are admirable, but having exposed themselves to the world, these organisations are under strong pressure to remedy their deficiencies.
It will be hard for the Treasury to raise salaries when it is imposing a pay freeze on the rest of the civil service. At the DHS, improving communication and using employee skills will be a long-term project.
Foxconn has agreed to reduce overtime without cutting workers' pay. How will it manage that? It operates on a 1.5 per cent profit margin. Apple's profit margin is 30 per cent and it has Dollar100bn in cash reserves. Clearly, it will have to pay its supplier more. At least Apple's answer is easy, if injurious to its profits.