Corporate success should be based on an approach where employees are
valued as much as profits, says David Morgan Rees
When did you last meet somebody who loved their job and thought their
company was wonderful?
The world of work seems full of unhappy and dissatisfied people,
desperate to get early retirement, who are frustrated and angry, with
appalling tales of management short-sightedness, intrigue and
inconsistency. Opinion surveys regularly chart their fear and
Although I’ve now retired I’m still a private investor in British plcs.
So I’m all for efficient and successful companies because my standard of
living depends on quality management. But my own observations of what is
increasingly a battlefield instead of a creative enterprise environment
fill me with disquiet.
I’m worried by the way in which human talent, skill, experience and
loyalty are wasted or thrown away. I’m disgusted by the proliferating
symptoms of macho management masquerading as firm leadership and the
incredibly mean ways in which the growing ranks of part-time, low-paid
workers are exploited.
What relevance has all this to public relations practitioners?
Everything, because the profession, in its increasing preoccupation with
the external, with public affairs and corporate branding is losing sight
of a fundamental truth - that good, credible PR, like charity, begins at
home within an organisation.
Why do most annual reports devote so little space to how they look after
and improve their human resources? The glowing pages about community
relations and environmental responsibility are a sham if employees are
obliged to tell a different tale to relatives and friends. But if
employees feel proud and involved in their company’s success because
they are well-led, respected and well-informed, their consequent loyalty
is the most precious added-value around and the best guarantee of
corporate success - provided that top management knows where it’s going.
So what can PR practitioners, both in-house and as consultants, actually
do to help cure this crisis of confidence within enterprise? Much, much
more than at present. They must re-examine their basic values and
principles for a start. Why did they choose public relations as a
career? Are they just compliant messengers or are they people of
integrity who can change ideas and attitudes by standing up for what
they believe is right, honest and fair?
PR practitioners should continually learn about best world practice in
internal communications - how people at work are made to feel valued and
involved as contributors to corporate success. Armed with this knowledge
they must get bosses and colleagues to listen and adopt as appropriate.
And if and when people have to lose their jobs then, because it’s
critical both to corporate reputation and employee morale, PR people
must ensure that the reasons are honestly communicated (and the
customary euphemisms banned) and that the parting is done with fairness,
humanity and dignity. Embittered present and former employees can
undermine even the best external PR programme.
The ‘bottom line’ must always be satisfied and involve people not just
profit. Getting that truth across is perhaps the biggest challenge PR
people face today. God help us all if they don’t succeed!
David Morgan Rees, FIPR was formerly head of PR for a large UK