What do Rewards and Penalties Have to do with PR?

How much attention do you put on internal PR in your company?

Do you reward your employees well?  Do you validate the good things your executives do?  Do you tell your partner, your sales team or your IT staff thank you?

These questions point out the places where human nature can fall down.  It can also tell you a lot about the “PR” of that person or business.  When I am asked to come in and evaluate a company’s internal PR, I look at one main factor before anything else… how they operate on the fundamental datum of rewards and penalties.

What do I mean by this?  Rewarding and penalizing based on merit, or rather based on true production, will determine whether you win the war in business, against the suppressions of life or whether it is against naysayers who would rather hate than participate.  In other words, rewarding those that deserve it and penalizing those that do not, you will actually form your public relations image to your employees and subsequently to your community.

Did you know that Sun Tsu’s philosophy on war contained the very basics that I am talking about here?

Take your employees for example.  I know a company in a small community that typically pays WAY below industry standard.  I mean WAY below.  Yet they demand high caliber people and the work that they have to do is not for slackers.  It takes people with highly technical skills, communication abilities above the norm, judgment over what they see and what they study so that they can make the very best decisions for their clients.

But that is not all.  These employees are willing to work there because the company has a stellar purpose.  They demand perfection which when achieved makes every employee more competent.  This type of competency builds great morale.

However, these employees started to drop off like flies after a while.  It really wasn’t the low pay for most of them that made them leave (even though that is a deciding factor in many cases.)  It is because they never got acknowledged.  No one said thank you to each other for a job well done - because no one from above ever acknowledged the staff when they did a job well done.  It was all “expected.”  So the inability or unwillingness to acknowledge emanated from the top. And was filtered to the staff and the place was pretty gloomy.

This was a prominent company in their little community.  What do you think happened when the employees all started to quit?  Yes, they had a PR nightmare on their hands.  Their public relations went haywire, all because they did not compensate their employees to the degree that they were getting more wealth due to their employees’ efforts.  And what’s more, they did not even thank them when they did make them rich.  And management could not even figure out why the production levels of the staff were lower each year and there was a bunch of infighting amongst the staff and management.  I guarantee you had they make a big to do over their staff’s accomplishments on a regular basis they could have prevented this from happening.  But eventually they were going to have to change their pay structure.  Eventually some high achiever was going to work for them that would question the discrepancy in the income and would have demanded more - and rightly so.  People should be rewarded for their work.

On another note, another business in a large metropolitan area had all the right aspects this other company didn’t.  Great pay, above the norm actually, and they gushed over their staff all the time.  People LOVED working there.  But something else happened in this area of rewards and penalties.  One of the highest producers was not protected by management, yet allowed other staff to “bad mouth” this person in very covert ways.  In other words, they allowed their own protection of this valuable employee to be compromised by not investigating anyone that made snide or seemingly “joking” comments that degraded that individual’s repute.  The end result: that high-powered individual finally left.  That individual had a top-notch opinion of his employer.  He would have died for that company.  But when he failed to be protected, when the rumor-campaign got the best of the inner executive circle, it lowered his opinion of the company and the management…so in essence their PR went down the crapper.  Do you think others noticed it?  You bet.  Whether anything was said openly or not.

The naysayers, no matter how jokingly they seem to make their comments should have been hung by their toes for saying anything against the high producer.  And if the person “complaining” was a high producer as well, then he or she should have been made to put whatever “complaint” they had in writing in the proper employee reports.  That would have stopped it dead in its tracks because written reports can be acted upon and if they are written on a stellar producer, you should start to be very suspicious of the person writing the report.

The point here is that your PR, your public relations image within the community and within your organization, has e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g to do with your ability and willingness to reward your staff and acknowledge each other.  AND it has everything to do with your ability, your willingness to penalize your staff, no matter how close of friends you are with them, when they are not working or operating up to par or are acting below the best interests of people that push support and help your way.

This goes a long way in developing good customer service campaigns and delivering top notch products.  Happy employees make happy customers.  This is a key factor that drives sales and delivery.

I know a company in Tampa Bay that applies this datum to a tee.  I heard the CEO speak at an event for C-level executives and entrepreneurs.  He shared what he does to make his employees all KNOW that they are appreciated.  Besides regular picnics, parties and fun acknowledgment capers, he has given everyone of his employees a raise every year, yet his salary has remained the same since 2005.  Likewise on the penalty side, when his IT department “held him hostage” through negativity, infighting and just plain unwillingness to work creating ½ million dollars in losses caused by departmental naysayers who infected the whole area, he terminated the entire department.  Why?  Penalizing the area that was running the company into the ground despite warnings was what was needed to win the war.  You may think that is harsh.  I think it was appropriate given the circumstances.  The naysayers were given plenty of warnings.  “Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, shame on you.”

Now what do you think their company is like financially?   No debt, healthy reserves in the bank and a stable employee base... and incredible community PR.  I don’t think that is a coincidence at all.  Rewards and penalties all the way, baby!

So, how are your rewards and penalties affecting your PR?

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