Every employee on the payroll is a spokesperson for the company. And what they say in the marketplace carries more weight than the best annual report, the most creative advertising slogan or the most aggressive public relations campaign. Yet company after company fails to partner with this incredible asset. The results of recognition, communication and win/win partnership programs go directly to the bottom line in terms of increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and the creation of well-informed ambassadors to the communities and markets critical to the organization’s success.
In my experience as an account executive for a PR firm specializing in employee communication, I have seen these programs work for many clients. If an employee is unhappy or feels that the company is keeping things hidden from them, they will be the first to verbally destroy the company in the public’s eye. However, if they feel that the company is open, honest and recognizes employees that go above and beyond their job description, these employees will enable the company to succeed by talking it up in the marketplace.
In a recent survey that I conducted for ARAMARK Corporation, I found that employees want to know three things above all: vision/strategy, progress/performance and financial information. I organized a benchmarking study of 40 corporations and found that the companies who distribute this type of information freely to employees are well-known in the marketplace, have low absenteeism and their employees are loyal to the company. This is not to say that corporate relations is only about employees.
On the contrary, groups such as shareholders, the surrounding community, government, customers and the industry as a whole are all important. But, if you begin corporate relations at the foundation — with the employees — and make them feel proud to work for your corporation, the rest of the groups will fall into line much more easily than if employees feel kept out of the loop or if they get little or no recognition for a job well done. One vehicle that can disseminate information to the employee population is a corporate newsletter.
Newsletters can not only give the crucial information (vision/strategy, progress/performance, financial), but also human interest stories to help employees feel as if they are part of one big family even though they might have 40 locations across the globe. Videos are also a worthwhile method which can get the message out while showing employees the “live” version of executives in the company who they might rarely see face-to-face. Videos can humanize executives so that employees can relate to them not only as management, but as people.
Sales people are a different breed. Because they are always on the run, audio tapes make a great communication vehicle for this group. They can be played in the car between stops to see clients. Since sales people sometimes work out of their home or rarely see the office, it is vital to keep them apprised of the latest happenings in the company as well as making them feel like a part of the family even when they are alone most of the time. Recognition programs range from being very simple to very exorbitant.
Managers can praise employees for their hard work with little notes of appreciation or big bonuses at the end of the year. But sometimes it is nice for employees to receive public recognition. In our office, we receive “berries” at staff meetings for a job well done. These are simply tiny plastic pieces of fruit that we put in a small bowl on our desk for everyone to see. Then, the boss calls us in his office and gives us a reward for our “berry. ” This is done in private so that people do not compare their berry gifts.
The gifts can be anything including a long lunch hour coupon, a gift certificate at a department store, tickets to a Broadway play, one night’s stay at a resort in the mountains or even an extra week’s vacation. As a result, the staff feels appreciated, important and above all they work hard to do it all again. Employees are among a firm’s most valuable resources and therefore they should be treated that way. Keeping employees well-informed and recognizing them when appropriate creates a solid foundation on which you can build your corporate relations strategy.