DO YOUR employees' actions, attitudes, dress, and communication skills really "sell" your image to the public, upper management or others in your industry?
Here are four questions you should ask. The answers will tell you what you should do to ensure success.
1. Do you offer advice and formal training sessions in effective communication?
A pleasant, confident telephone voice or the ability to impress people face to face can be invaluable skills for your staff. Your staff can use these strategies to boost their confidence:
* Introduce yourself at all social and company events. If you find it difficult, practise on "safe" people, such as friends or family members.
* When someone asks, "And what do you do?", never answer: "I work for the XYZ company" or "I work in Accounts Payable".
Respond with the big picture, saying something like: "Our department is in charge of the company's finances. We keep the company running by paying vendors in a timely manner".
* If you're nervous, ask questions. The key to connection is conversation, and the secret of good conversation is to ask interesting questions.
* Build your self-confidence in business or social situations by focusing on your past successes. Practise sharing these with your friends - this will help you "sell" yourself and the organisation to strangers.
* An international organisation called Toastmasters is excellent for improving speaking skills in a supportive, non-threatening environment. Your company could even start its own club.
2. Do your associates look like top professionals?
How many people come into contact with your staff each day? Your company image is talking, even when your employees are not.
Consider offering professional group or individual wardrobe and grooming sessions. Here are some tips from top image consultant Diane Parente:
* Image should reflect the culture of the organisation as well as personal style. Inappropriate clothes or grooming can invalidate the individual and even the entire department or company.
* Clothes do not have to be expensive, but they must fit. Ill-fitting clothing, no matter how costly or stylish, is unprofessional.
* Go easy on accessories. Women should avoid oversized earrings and necklaces, men should not wear earrings or too many rings, exotic shoes and visible tattoos.
* Look clean, neat, and healthy. Unpolished or worn out shoes announce that you don't care. Hands should be well manicured, hair and skin well cared for, and clothing clean and pressed, with no dangling threads or loose buttons. Take care of your teeth too.
3. Is everybody highly motivated about the work they do?
Every single member of your staff, no matter what the job description, is a public relations representative. Just one unhappy worker or one with a bad attitude at any level can do damage to your department's image.
Do you have strategies for maintaining high morale? Do you regularly encourage feedback and validate all ideas, implementing as many as possible?
When you do this, you give your staff "ownership" of the organisation, so they are excited about coming to work each day.
Put the right person in the right job. After you have asked the usual "resum" questions - job history, education, salary expectations, - candidates can be probed with questions that focus on their hopes, goals, inclinations and reservations. Questions you ask can include:
* "Tell me about yourself. All the exciting and interesting things."
People offer revealing replies to that question. So many people, even some top executives, say: "Oh, there's nothing exciting about me." You learn a lot about people's self-esteem when they answer that question.
* "If you could create a perfect environment to work in, what would it be like?"
Suppose the potential employee answers: "I don't like to have someone breathing down my neck. I like to be left on my own, to make up my mind how to do things." You know immediately that this is the wrong person for a job that is heavily supervised. Instead, choose someone who says, "I enjoy a lot of feedback."
* "Describe the best boss you ever had. What made him or her so special? Describe the worst boss."
If the description of the worst boss sounds anything like the person they would be working under, you know that person won't be happy.
* "What's your hobby?"
You may want to know something about a person's private life to determine if the hours or job demands are going to be stressful. For instance, if you need an employee who is bright and alert at an early hour and his hobby will keep him up late on weeknights, you both may have a problem.
4. Do you provide opportunities and incentives for learning all the latest developments in your business?
This would seem like a fundamental aspect, but sometimes it can slip through the cracks when budgets are tight and the pressure is on.
Make training a regular item in your budget, and follow through.
When your team looks good, you look good. With just a little help from you, each and every employee can "sell" your organisation by presenting a polished, highly professional image to the world.