MOST companies like to do things by the book, so it is no surprise they see benefit in producing glossy coffee table tomes to celebrate their firm's history and achievements to impress new employees.

These hardcover books are usually published to mark a company anniversary and are filled with pictures, historical details and colourful anecdotes and recollections.

Companies say that such books serve to heighten awareness and pride among staff.

They have long been part of the corporate scene but in a new twist, firms are getting their workers more involved in the projects.

'Our corporate culture is very much shaped by our heritage, vision and philosophy,' said Mr Frank Benjamin, executive chairman of clothing retailer FJ Benjamin.

The company commissioned a 173-page book last year, entitled The FJ Benjamin Story, to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Staff were roped in to sieve through archives to select highlights while older workers and former employees were interviewed 'so that the story told in the book would be a rich myriad of anecdotes and memories', noted Mr Benjamin.

'Employees who are in tune with the corporate culture tend to be more effective as they know what is doable and what is not within the organisation.'

He added that the book also serves as a useful guide for new employees on what FJ Benjamin is all about.

Publishers Epigram, Xpress Holdings and Raindance, which compile many company reports, also produce such books.

Raindance managing director Elena Ling gets about one to three requests a year, from 'the Government, listed companies and even non-profit groups'.

And it is not just the big companies that are getting in on the act.

'Some that do not need a coffee table book or annual report may even ask us to produce a commemorative magazine just to take stock of the organisation's initiatives and activities over the years,' said Ms Ling.

National University Hospital (NUH) is one organisation that has produced such a book - an 84-page tome entitled 24/7 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It was launched by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong last year.

NUH took employee involvement to a new level.

'We wanted something different. We wanted a book for our staff, by our staff - the same people who work on the ground and are most familiar with the nuances and workings of the hospital,' said NUH chief executive Joe Sim.

Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel all pitched in, contributing 2,000 photos commemorating 'a day at the hospital'.

The production team, including Raindance, sifted through them and settled on 75 photos.

Some donated photos depicted the hospital's early days. 'These were invaluable in giving our staff a glimpse of how NUH started and what it was like in the past, and to help them better appreciate our heritage,' said Mr Sim.

One of the photographers, Associate Professor Chen Fun Gee, said that the project allowed him the freedom to express himself creatively, and gave him new insights.

'Personally, this project was an eye-opener, in the sense that even though I have been working at NUH for the past 24 years, it was the first time I had stepped into some areas, like the kitchen and the medication preparation area of the pharmacy,' said Prof Chen, a senior consultant.

Experts say that such books help to create more than just awareness of corporate heritage.

'It is very important for organisations to make employees aware of the heritage and philosophies as they are the underlying components of an organisation,' said Ms Renette Thom, a consultant at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters.

She added that for employees to feel a sense of belonging to an organisation, they needed to understand these philosophies.

Younger companies can also record their early history.

'Highlighting the current success and progress of the organisation is a good way to make employees aware and to motivate them to be part of the future and growing success,' said Ms Thom.