Published on April 18, 2018, at 2:54 p.m.
by Elizabeth Driver.
Many factors contribute to a company’s success: a quality product, strong brand personality, organized operations, loyal consumers, etc. All of these functions serve integral roles in the business structure. Focused on the bottom line, company leadership often overlooks an essential piece to this puzzle: the employees.
This past summer I interned with Alabama Power Company’s Western Division office, where I assisted with internal communications. As I organized division-wide service projects and wrote feature stories for the company’s internal newsource, I fell in love with employee relations. Through my experience with Alabama Power, I learned that employee relations is one of the most rewarding business functions, and here’s why I believe it is.
Driving company success
Strong employee/employer relationships are vital to the success of an organization. In an article, Forbes compares these behind-the-scenes relationships to the “gears that move the mechanism of a company.”
Every day, employees interact with customers and complete tasks that push the organization’s operations forward, contributing to its overall success. A strong internal relations program and a positive work environment motivate employee productivity and loyalty, which in turn lead to an increase in profits.
In a year-long study of 50 companies, Towers Watson found that organizations with strong employee engagement had a 19 percent increase in operating income and a 28 percent growth in earnings per share (EPS). On the other hand, organizations with weak employee engagement saw a 32 percent decrease in operating income and an 11 percent decline in EPS.
The ultimate brand ambassadors
In the current social media age, consumers can interact with companies 24/7. Due to the demands of this always-on communication, it’s nearly impossible for executives to be the sole voice of an organization. Company leadership has to rely on employees to continuously build and maintain a positive brand image for their business. After all, who is more knowledgeable about a company’s product or service than the people who create, deliver and work with it every day?
Southwest Airlines provides a great example of how employees can successfully serve as brand ambassadors. According to a PRNews article, Southwest has always given its staff communication freedoms, especially when it comes to in-flight announcements. Many of these customer interactions have gone viral on social media. This leeway has proved successful by gaining not only customer loyalty, but employee loyalty as well. Last year Time Magazine named Southwest one of the “top 10 best places to work.” In 2016, Forbes listed Southwest as one of the “top companies most beloved by its employees.”
In his Platform Magazine article, Ethan Wiggins explains three ways Southwest uses internal communications to create employee brand ambassadors.
The best investment a company can make is in its employees. A quote by Sybil F. Stershic, an organizational adviser and author of “Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most,” sums it up best: “The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”