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How to tackle the problem of morale?

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A basic problem in the transit industry has been a waning business volume. As private auto traffic has gone up, transit volume has gone down. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) shared in this problem.

In analyzing the situation to see what could be done about it, CTA found that there was serious driver dissatisfaction. Moreover, studies indicated a direct relationship between driver attitude and the frequency rate of accidents. Personnel with excellent service records also had excellent safety records.

CTA officials concluded that a reduction of accidents, in frequency and severity, would have a beneficial effect on over all costs.

At the root of the safety problem, however, as well as the popularity of transit travel, lay the attitude of drivers. This was no chicken and egg situation. Driver morale definitely came first. It was the key to reduction of costs and improvement in customer relations.

How to install a new spirit of service in the organization?

The Training Department came up with an answer. It was as follows:

Dick Torp was in the Chicago transit business from 1947, for eight years. While this hook was in preparation, he joined the public relations staff of Crane Company, as assistant editor of Crane World. A native of Chicago, he received his journalism training at Northwestern University.

"Courtesy Caravan”, embracing all CTA employees, came in contact with the riding public.

Participation in the Courtesy Caravan was placed on a voluntary basis. Efforts were spurred by management through personal contact with drivers. Rewards were in terms of individual recognition, team pride, and security for the whole organization.
Internal CTA media were used to seek cooperation of employees. External publicity announced the campaign to the general public.

Internally, the employee publication and bulletin boards plumped for the Courtesy Caravan. The station superintendent discussed with each driver the purpose of the campaign. Operating personnel received a series of eight leaflets covering:
  1. Personal Appearance.

  2. Information for Riders.

  3. Pass ups.

  4. Schedule Adherence.

  5. Smooth Operation.

  6. Curb Loading.

  7. Fares and Transfers.

  8. Load Distribution.
Two specially outfitted buses carried the campaign to each station. Sessions for station personnel were held in the buses. Topics included loss of passengers, and personal services. There was a film presentation with a message from the general manager. Personnel at the sessions received a tie clasp labeled "CTA Courtesy Caravan."

Following the bus visit, a comprehensive bulletin board campaign went into action. It showed the number of complaints and commendations for the station personnel each week. Names were posted of individuals receiving commendation for the week.

Externally, news was released about the whole program. The press was invited to cover any phase of the campaign that interested them. Members of the CTA Training Department made radio and TV appearances. Car cards went into buses reading "This bus is part of the Courtesy Caravan. Glad to have you aboard."

Even in the early stages, results were gratifying as measured by employee morale, improved safety record, and customer good will. The program was put on a continuing basis.

The Borden Company:

When an organization faces a substantial public relations problem it should use the services of a trained practitioner whenever possible. There are occasions, however, when this is not feasible. For example, there are times when experienced assistance is not available locally, or when there are budget limitations. In such cases it is sometimes possible to turn to counselors for help in analyzing the problem and setting up a course of action to be carried out mainly by the regular plant personnel.

This is a case of this type. While the program outlined here was developed for the branch of a large company by a staff of public relations people, the program was executed by a plant management group having little experience in public relations.

And the program worked; its success was proven by before and after opinion testing. This is what happened:

The Borden Cheese Company, a division of The Borden Company, operates the largest cheese factor)' in the world at Van Wert,

A native Chicagoan, Aiilton Fairman was educated at Loyola University, and the University of Chicago. After a short period as a book salesman, he was associated with the City’s News Bureau, Chicago American, Post and Herald Examiner. He entered public relations via publicity, handling work including the International Eucharistic Congress. In 1935 he joined the public relations staff of Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. He spent two years in Washington, and in 1937 became Midwest Director of Public Relations for The Borden Company. In 1943 he was transferred to New York in charge of Borden's over all PR program. He was president of PRSA in 1951 and editor of the Public Relations Journal in 1954 and 1955. He lives in Stamford, Conn., Ohio.

The plant is the sole manufacturer of Liederkranz Brand cheese and also makes cream cheese and Camembert. Only about 400 of the town's 10,000 people actually worked in the plant at the time the program was started, but the milk from which its cheese was made was purchased from some 2,000 farmers living within a 40 mile radius of Van Wert. Consequently, the total employee and farm payroll made the plant a major factor in the local economy.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the plant management was forced into a very rapid expansion, a not uncommon situation at that time. The situation at the Van Wert cheese plant was that imports of foreign dessert cheeses had been cut off during the war, and Americans turned to domestically produced Camembert and Liederkranz Brand in increasing numbers. Demand on the Van Wert plant skyrocketed. Expansion was imperative.

Expansion began but the cost to the company was eventually to be measured in more than just dollars. During those hectic days of growth with so many seemingly more urgent problems to be settled, the plant's employee and public relations efforts began to slip. Internal communications in the plant became less effective, and the company neglected to tell the full story of its service to the public. Soon, at the very time when labor was hard to get, there appeared to be an unhealthy degree of employee discontent and an increase in employee turnover. Even among those workers who stayed, as well as those who joined the plant, there were many who were dissatisfied and grumbling; their work became less and less efficient. And, of course, some of these rumblings spilled over into the town itself. The people's former appreciation of Borden's important contribution to their economy gave way to less favorable attitudes.

Because these expansion problems were fairly common ones, the Van Wert management and the Public Relations Department of The Borden Company decided to cooperate in a pilot PR program. Their purpose was to establish basic PR procedures to meet the situation and, at the same time, to serve as a demonstration for use by other company units facing similar situations, present and future.

The obvious first step in the program was to determine, as nearly as possible, the precise reasons behind employee and public unhappiness with the company. A scientifically planned survey by an independent research firm was conducted in Van Wert to dig out these reasons. Borden's was not identified as the survey sponsor although the company revealed this sponsorship after the survey was completed. Samples were taken from among both townsmen and Borden employees. Since attitudes toward several important Van Wert employers in addition to Borden's were sampled, it was possible to gauge Borden's relative popularity or lack of it as well as to define the reasons for it.

The survey results showed that both townsmen and Borden employees had a number of unfavorable opinions of the plant. For example, both groups thought one of the other large Van Wert employers did much more than Borden's to make the city a "good place to live and work in." Neither group thought the company was doing its share to support Van Wert community projects. Borden's was not considered by either group to be the best place in town to work. The management was not recognized for its contributions to the community. There was some evidence of a dislike for foremen, and the promotion system was considered unfair by some workers. Other questions brought equally disturbing responses.

Armed with the knowledge gained from the poll, however, Borden's public relations people were able to prepare a comprehensive, long range program that was aimed directly at the heart of the problem. It was designed to operate on a continuing basis at the local level under the direction of local management. Its purpose was to improve the employee’s attitudes toward their jobs and Borden, and to foster a more harmonious atmosphere in the community and the area from which the company drew its milk supply.

Broken down, the proposed PR program called for the following measures to improve employee attitudes:
  1. Greater use of plant bulletin boards.

  2. General distribution to employees of the company's annual reports.

  3. Publication of news, interesting to Borden men, through an unusual house organ, a half page ad ran every other week in the local newspaper.

  4. Plant tours for employees and, sometimes, their families.

  5. Centralization of personnel records and counseling services.

  6. Better indoctrination of new employees.

  7. Revision and codification of the promotion system.

  8. A Pilot Operation Involving Employees and Community

  9. Adoption of a program for training prospective foremen.

  10. Installation of more adequate comfort and welfare facilities. 10. Formation of an employee’s bowling club.
To improve overall community relations, it was suggested that the following steps be taken:

  1. Work to increase public appreciation of the importance of Borden's products to Van Wert.

  2. Promote Borden's locally made cheeses in restaurants and grocery stores in the town.

  3. Publicize the fact that Liederkranz comes from Van Wert, and Van Wert only.

  4. Demonstrate Borden products and not just cheese in local stores.

  5. Promote the use of Borden products by local service, church, and women's groups.

  6. Provide Borden products to the local high school's home economics classes.

  7. Publicize the part Borden's plays in the local economy through employee and farm payrolls and through taxes.

  8. Arrange plant tours for local groups.

  9. Run institutional ads in the local paper with emphasis on cooperation in local projects and events.

  10. Organize a speaker’s bureau of plant executives and supervisors to address local groups.

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