Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Employee Annual Reports: Thriving Amidst Corporate Change

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Employee Annual Reports: Thriving Amidst Corporate Change

Article excerpt

EMPLOYEE ANNUAL REPORTS

Employee annual reports began to emerge as a trend earlier in this decade--one of many responses to the massive restructuring of corporate America. Since then, as reorganizations and mergers and acquisitions have continued, as global marketing has flourished, as 'automatic' employee loyalties have waned, and as employee information expectations have become increasingly sophisticated, many companies have added these publications to their employee communications roster.

Given the explosion of other types of employee publications, and the fact that employee annual reports are totally voluntary, the question is, why? Most organizations have several reasons, but they seem to share the common thread of needing a special format to communicate particularly dramatic or far-reaching changes within their own companies, their industries, and the economy.

"I think there's a great need to communicate to employees with a more sophisticated document that gives specific information," says Greg Samata, whose Chicago-based design firm handles about 20 annual reports per year, three of which are employee annual reports.

"The complexity and changeability of the economy so threatens feelings of security that employees need to know that a company is truly doing okay," says Bryan Peterson, a Dallas-based designer whose firm also handles dozens of stockholder and employee reports. "Morale is an increasingly important theme in these reports," he notes.

Hard facts, user-friendly format

In terms of function and format, employee annual reports tend to fall somewhere between the traditional nonsense, "just the facts, ma'am" stockholders' report and the more informal, consumer-oriented employee newsletter/magazine. Employee annual reports decidedly deal with important issues, including marketing, finances, competition and other external factors affecting the company. But statistics are commonly presented in user-friendly charts, or within an article discussing the company's progress and status from a broad-based perspective.

Similarly, while employee annual reports cover what's happening in the boardroom, they may relate this to the outside world, by "taking" readers into the field. Messages from top brass often appear, but they tend to have an informal tone.

Keeping tabs on one another

The employee report is also a way to consolidate information and inform each department/division/subsidiary of what the other is doing. With divestitures, expansions into foreign subsidiaries and/or acquisitions by foreign parent companies, this is a bigger challenge than ever. "Identity is a major issue," says Samata. "As companies grow, divest, move into international markets, they have to position themselves to their employees, as they do with other constituents. …

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