Employee Morale is Key as Cos. Hire More Workers

As a communications executive, it's a near guarantee that you'll be handling more employee communications in the future. A study released Oct. 22 by the American Management Association shows that 73 percent of 1,168 firms surveyed about job elimination and downsizing reported that they had created new jobs. When Hill and Knowlton and Yankelovich Partners released their 80-page study, the thrust proved to be the recognition by companies that employees aren't just cogs in the corporate machine - they're the oil that keeps corporations running smoothly. The more than 250 upper-level corporate communicators who responded to the survey revealed the importance of internal communications efforts and practices in several ways: out of eight corporate communication issues (including investor relations, creating company awareness and addressing industry issues), employee communications was ranked No. 1 but 39 percent also said employee morale was fair or poor. Tom Buckmaster, chairman of Hill and Knowlton Public Affairs Worldwide, sees that 39 percent as proof that companies are focused on employee communications and employee programs as a way of affecting two key shifts: the way they measure corporate change (an employee can be one of the most accurate and timely barometers you have) and creating corporate excellence (who cares what you show the rest of the world if your employees are leaving in droves?). In fact, he said H&K, which has 500 U.S. employees, is gearing up to roll out a 360-degree review process (employees won't just be reviewed by their supervisors but also by subordinates and their peers). Fast Facts: Warding off Marginalization in the Future While speaking Sept. 18 at the University of Delaware, Gary F. Grates, CEO of Boxenbaum Grates, New York, cautioned that companies that rest on their laurels are in danger of becoming marginalized - what Grates said happens when your company just keeps pace in the industry. In PR, surveys, measurement and benchmarking can help signal mediocrity but solutions can be difficult to find. Grates advises that as the theater of firms competing for the almightly PR dollar continues to expand, there are several avenues you can take to prevent this. Although we thought some (such as "practice communications as a strategic, behavioral function that's integrated in the management of the business") were rhetoric, here are the pointers we thought worth passing on: Open new channels to obtain data from analysts, reporters, customers, shareholders, etc. Use the 40 percent rule - if more than 40 percent of your data and comes from internal sources, then you need to seek out third-party perspectives on your company and industry; Establish links to other functions such as finance, marketing, sales, customer service, etc., so you can see the work through those dept.s' eyes; Take advantage of technology - this isn't only the Internet but also intranets, satellite communications, groupware, e-mail and voice mail; and Always focus on measuring value rather than measuring effectiveness. (Boxenbaum Grates, 212/490-3355)

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