Employees can be a company's greatest asset, or conversely, its greatest liability. If you ever doubted that, just remember the last time you were treated rudely by a department store salesperson. Or, how often have you been at a restaurant and experienced poor service from a waiter who is having a bad day?

Those are just a couple of examples of how employees with a bad attitude can adversely affect a company. But it's not just retail businesses that are affected. A worker on an assembly line can slow up the production process. The receptionist at a law firm can irritate one of the firm's best clients. No company is immune from the possibility of a disgruntled employee having a negative impact on the smooth flow of business.

So what does a company do in order to minimize the likelihood of problem situations? One method is to develop an internal public relations program that is centered on employees. Such a program can include many aspects, so let's take a look at some examples.

One very effective technique we have utilized is an employee incentive program.

For example, a while ago one of our clients in the insurance industry asked if we could help with a low morale problem they were experiencing. We took on the assignment and our first course of action was to interview a representative group of the employees. We discovered that many of the employees' tasks were of a repetitive nature. Or to be more direct - they were bored!

To create some excitement we initiated an "Efficiency Awards" incentive program, which was introduced in dramatic fashion with an employee party at a Center City nightclub. The ongoing program included awards for outstanding performance in specific categories. Employees earned such prizes as dinners-for-two and cash bonuses. The grand prize was an all-paid trip to Disney World for a family of four. A subsequent survey of employees revealed not only greatly improved morale, but also increased productivity!

Other examples of employee PR programs are: Recognition awards such as employee-of-the-month, creation of employee advisory panels and annual dinners with awards for employee years-of-service with the company to name a few.

All of these programs are also photo opportunities. Be sure that pictures are taken of the presentation of the awards to the employees and distribute them as photo captions to local newspapers and industry trade publications. Your employees will be thrilled to see their picture in the papers.

Finally, don't overlook the importance of an internal newsletter, which can be published four or six times a year. This enables your company to feature employees for their accomplishments at work and in the community. It's one more way to help build the morale and loyalty of your employees.

Joe Greenwald is the president of Greenwald Communications Associates, Limerick. You can send e-mail to joe@greenwaldcomm.com or visit the Web site: www.greenwaldcomm.com

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