Organisational Communication / Corporate Communication – The Five Questions: when? why? what? where? how?

Corporate communication and organisational communication are sometimes interchangeably used, as is the case with van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:14) who stated, “we propose the concept of corporate communication as an integrative communication structure linking stakeholders to the organisation” but also state van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:13), “Not all of the communications in an organisation are work-related, nor are they necessarily relevant to fulfilling organisational objectives.”

Are Corporate Communication and Business Philosophy really only oxymorons? Goodman (1994:4) points out, “organisations of all sorts and sizes which are committed to communicating with their employees have a communicational philosophy.”

Hargie and Tourish (2009:25) also ask a fundamental question in business ethics (another oxymoron?), “what can be gained from a proactive focus on communication, both internally and externally (…) when staff are treated as dispensable liability, customers as little more than a damned nuisance and suppliers as potential industrial spies?”

As with most things in life, when a change has to be brought about within an organisation, one has to be prepared to be confronted with opposition to such change. Lets not forget the adage,”better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

However, it is also a known fact that if an organisation continues to progress with the above cited facts and sayings, then it is, sooner or later, going to run into troublesome times which are going to be directly

proportional to the size of the company and the amount of time that such beliefs are put to practice.

Barker and Angelopulo (2006:122) point out, “Without exception, changes in the external environment(s) necessarily require changes in the internal environment(s) of an organisation, thus having a direct bearing (positive or negative) on the communication networks with employees.”

So we can safely deduce that as we evolve in time, the outside environment of an organisation evolves too, and the inside of the organisation has to evolve too. The best way for an organisation to keep evolving with the times and to make sure that there won’t be any “black sheep” or “spin off” organisations, the communication has to be up to date and in tune with the times.

Another aspect that affects the communication and can be tantamount to the organisation’s progress is the multicultural aspect of it’s human resources. As more and more multinational companies take over or run out local businesses, locals are in a constant tussle with executives out to preach the multinational’s gospel which originate from the headquarters.

We have also to consider, as Blundel and Ipolito (2008:43) point out, “the danger of relying on shorthand, stereotypical accounts of cultures that ignore local and individual-level factors and the reality that cultures are  dynamic and constantly changing.”

As a result, we now not only have times to evolve with but dynamic cultures to adapt to. This means that communication has to have a common denominator – the message – as the words are adapted to the environment’s times and culture.

“Designing the workplaces have placed more emphasis on the technical systems, the tools, techniques, procedures and devices used by the workforce and have tended to overlook opportunities to redesign technologies to meet the needs of people” argue (Pasmore, Francis, Haldemann and Shani, 1982; Goodman, 1994:45).

In conclusion, we can say that:

– corporate communication and organisational communication as a whole should be proactive, that it has to evolve with the times, the environment and the oirganisation’s dynamic culture as its demographics and human resources evolve, and in continuing with this last point, that technologies should be adapted to the people who use them rather than trying to adapt people and their tools to the organisation’s evolving processes.

Reference

Barker,R and Angelopulo,G.,(2006), Integrated Organisational Communication, Juta & Co, Cape Town, RSA, available at http://goo.gl/0z11n accessed September 2011

Blundel,R and Ipolito,K.,(2008),Effective Organisational Communication:Perspectives, Principles, Practices, 3rd ed, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK, available at http://goo.gl/vKABv accessed September 2011

Goodman, M.B.,(1994), Corporate communication: theory and practice, State University New York Press, available at http://goo.gl/hEs8N accessed October 2011

Hargie,O and Tourish,D,(2009),Auditing Organisational Communication: A Handbook of Research,Theory and Practice, Routledge, Hove, UK available at http://goo.gl/SP9Va accessed October 2011

van Riel, C.B.M., and Fornbrun, C.J.,(2007), Essentials of Corporate Communication: implementing practices for effective reputation management, Business and Economics, Routledge, Hove, UK, available at http://goo.gl/ybf4z accessed September 2011

Employee Empowerment – What does it cause? How does it work?

Employee empowerment has been the main subject of the past two posts on this blog and we will not stop at that – although the next one might well be directed at organisational (and/or) corporate communication.

Lets consider the subject at hand: how employee empowerment works, and what does it cause to happen?

For one, in most cases, if the organisation which considers employee empowerment as a measure to progress, it is bound to bring about change and has to manage it..

Thakkar (2011), states that “successful balancing [in an organisation] requires employee trust [and] employee empowerment. The author goes on to define employee empowerment as “giving the employee a reason to be proud of be doing what s/he does” and goes on to point out that “loading employees with responsibility without empowering them is like making them fly without providing them with oxygen”.

If these practices have been known to exist in an organisation, then employee empowerment is going to lead toa radical change, which will originate amongst the employees and needs to be managed as all resources do. If the HR managers of your organisation are confronted with the above-mentioned mistrust or distrust, then they have to undergo training themselves in order to learn  how to manage such a change prior to making it occur on the one hand, and to adapt the processes to the organisation’s needs rather than vice versa as mentioned in a previous contribution.

Communication plays an important part in handling the change. “Ultimately the success of any change effort depends on how effectively the strategy for and the substance of the change is communicated to those who are the targets of change.” (Witherspoon and Wohlert, 1996 in Frahm and Brown (2003:3)

The authors go on to quote other specialists in the field as they state, “within the implementation phases, communication is often a top down sales pitch” (Okumus and Hemington, 1998) which is “argued to lead to cynicism about change” (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997; Wanous, Reichers and Austin, 2000 in Ibid)

Such cynicism has to be overcome in the organisation so as to allow the management with an opportunity to lead by example as they bring about a coherence between that which is ‘broadcast’ to the outside world, that  what is ‘preached’ within the organisation and that what is practised by the ‘preachers’. (Thakkar, 2011). Incoherence is known to be rampant in organisations “where there is a lack of communication between the departments governing the organisation’s internal and external communication policies.” (Motiani, 2010).

Nayab (2011 a) points out that in order “for employees to be given the responsibility, the organisation’s culture  :shares information openly, encourages open communication with regular [constructive] feedback, facilitates leadership by guiding the empowered employee, involve the employees in strategic planning exercises so that  they are aware of the organisation’s vision and objectives, and apply that knowledge to strategic work.”

The other question asked above is, How does employee empowerment work?

Nayah (2011 b) points out that “organisations that engage in providing empowered employees with the means to carry out their work, will gai, thanks to: better employee performance, novel and better adapted ways to overcome operational issues, exploit opportunities and improve products and services.”

As we have seen, employee empowerment requires engagement on behalf of the organisation which wishes to reap its benefits. As in any case, employees only given responsibilities without the necessary resources to carry them out will only end up frustrated and that can only take all persons involved in a downward spiral.

As I  close this section on employee empowerment, I’m reminded of Archimedes Principle which states “an object, immersed in a fluid shall be buoyed by a force equal to that of the fluid displaced by the immersed object.” Similarly, an employee who is empowered and when the organisation is sufficiently flexible to let him act, will reap from the benefit of his work (which can be compared to the buoyancy).

Reference:

Frahm, J. and Brown, K.,(2003), Organisational Change Communication: Lessons from the Public Relations Communication Strategies, ANZCA03 Conference, Brisbane, available at http://www.anzca.net/conferences/anzca03proceedings.html

Motiani, K (2010), A Study of the Correlation between improved Intra- and Inter-Organisational Communication and Operational Efficiency and Efficacy in Luxembourg’s Non-Profit Organisations, University of Liverpool

Nayah, N., (2011 a), Overworked Employees Are not Empowered. Learn Why Here, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123587.aspx

Nayah, N., (2011 b), How Employee Empowerment has pushed Companies Ahead, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment, available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123676.aspx

Thakkar, H., (2011), How to manage change from Employees?, Learning and Development, HR Planning, available at http://www.hrgyaan.com/how-to-manage-change-from-employees/

Resources, what why, which one, and how?

Kumar and Goyal (2011) have stated that “Over the last two decades, the ERP market has grown from strength to strength , and the ERP system has almost become an integral part of any part of any enterprise worth its salt.” The authors then go on to report that “the ERP market is currently about $ 40 billion in total revenue, consistently ranks among the top IT spending priorities for enterprises, and is expected to grow to more than $ 50 billion by 2013.” (Ibid)

With such figures flying around, I, for one, am obviously going to ask some basic questions and share the outcome of my thought-process and research with you in the course of what follows:

– who is spending the money?

– whom is the money being spent on?`

– to what end is the money being spent?

– what exactly is “ERP” (Enterprise Resource Planning) and did it exist previously – in other words, have we not yet realised that this wheel had already been invented and was in use prior to being baptised ERP by some marketing and/or management gurus and/or priests?

– that the ROI is worth the effort seems obvious – I do not see any enterprise “worth its salt” (Ibid) to pick it up from the authors cited above – but then the question is, why has it gained importance today of all other days?

The same authors also quote the Project Management Institute in saying that “70 per cent of all ERP deployment projects fail, are late or go over budget.”

Now, wouldn’t facts such as these not send you raving mad and running amok? I was on the verge of the latter when I was distracted by a more pleasant sight that led me to a rare and brief moment of lucidity in which I asked myself the following question and its subsidiaries as follows::

– why did the ERP deployment fail though?

– is it because the leadership is not qualified enough?

– is it because the ERP deployment was not adapted to the enterprise’s needs?

– is it because, imposed on the resources, they did not understand how, why, when to best use them?

On the other hand, if the enterprises have spent $ 40 billion and are going to increment that spending by a further $ 10 billion, with $ 28 billion being lost thus far, the enterprises are planning a further loss of $ 35 billion by 2013. These facts sent me of my rocker all over again!!!

Another day, another line of thought: if processes as simple as “IDEA Board (Improvement Driven by Employee Action)” (Johnson, 2011) were to be deployed, and the billions of dollars spent on employee empowerment with initiatives of this type, then, not only would the improvements in those organisations’ operational processes be best adapted to themselves, but it would also mean that incoming managers would have to adapt their methods to suit the existing operations rather than twisting the organisation’s operations to suit their needs.

The above reflection would lead anyone worth his/her managerial salt to ask a him/herself a fundamental question: when an organisation employs a manager, is it to manage the resources as it best suits that specific organisation or is the employment based on adapting the organisation to the manager’s modus operandi?

Alleyne (2011) quoted Murray (2011) who shared that, “unless you train your managers and executives, [they] are not going to be able to speak the same language… [or] be able to lead by example… [even] sustain the program.” The author also quoted Beckles (2011) who referred to “the success of the Survey/Feedback/Action program within his company” (Ibid). Through my own experience, I have been able to learn that both of the above are based on efficient measures of communication within the organisation.

Robertson (2011), argues that “When done wrong, it [employee empowerment] can be devastating for both, the business and the workforce.”  In keeping with this train of thought, any financier worth his/her salt will definitely be very hesitant to relinquish any part of his/her control that s/he enjoys. That is the case of most corporate executives who have a lot to lose and not enough in terms of guarantee – as any banker would (re-)act.

As such, we stand confronted with the best interests of the business and it’s operation whilst safeguarding it’s resources versus the stockholders’ interests and the guarantee that they require to get competitive returns on their investment in the organisation.

Barnes (2011), points out “it is (…) fitting to give back to them [employees] what they rightfully deserve, especially those who have become the most loyal to the company.”

Polonsky (2005, 1063-4) defined stakeholders as  individuals or groups thereof who present “three features, namely:

(1) interdependency;

(2) affecting/being affected by the organisation;

(3) the sense of an interest or right in an organisation.”

Therefore, if we group stockholders and employees as stakeholders (as marketers like to label them), then we can deduce that it is in the best interest of the organisation to protect the interests of its investors as well as those of its employees.

While paying dividends to investors is one way of protecting their interests, rightly implemented employee empowerment measures are paramount to protecting the employees’ best interests. Both can be achieved by  means of better communication which will raise the organisation’s credibility amongst its investors and improve its operations carried out by its employees.

These are just two aspects in which better communication can help in improving an organisation’s reputation amongst a more or less random cross-section of its stakeholders..

Reference:

Alleyne, R., (2011), Top Employers share Pearls of Knowledge, The Barbados Advocate, available at http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=business&NewsID=19543

Barnes, W., (2011), “Encourage Employee Empowerment Through Corporate Gifts”, Management, available at http://articlesbeacon.com/business/management/encourage-employee-empowerment-through-corporate-gifts

Johnson, M., (2011), Lean Leadership and Employee Empowerment, Michigan Tech – Continuous Improvement Blog, available at http://blogs.mtu.edu/improvement/2011/08/08/78/

Kumar, K., and Goyal, A., (2011), Best Practices for Successful ERP System Deployments, Supply Demand Chain Exevutive, available at http://www.sdcexec.com/article/10282391/best-practices-for-successful-erp-system-deployments

Polonsky, M. J.,(2005), Stakeholder thinking in marketing, Business & Economics, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39, Number 9/10, Emerald Group Publishing, available at http://goo.gl/pXjnw

Robertson, T., (2011), Negative Effects of Employee Empowerment, Chron: Small Business, Demand Media, available at http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effects-employee-empowerment-18691.html

Questions about job satisfaction, employee empowerment and communication

Mani (2010, 136) writes that “People are the most important asset of any organisation.” The author then goes on to state that “It is found that factors like stress, job climate, training, supervisor-relationship, employee benefits, job, compensation, employee empowerment, communication and company are the major contributors of employee satisfaction.” (2010, 137) What one usually wonders about when one is at the bottom of the chain in some organisations, especially international ones, is that where do these studies really get carried out? And who participates in them?

I am not questioning the truth in these studies, but just want to underline the fact that there are many more organisations in this world which not only believe in nothing more than financial gain and incrementing dividends for shareholders than the benefit of one and all stakeholders involved in the organisation’s operations.

One cannot deny the fact that politics plays an important role in all multinational organisations in view of the impact they have on a given economy’s unemployment rate, foreign trade balance, currency, stock exchange, and the number of millionaires that it counts over a financial exercise. Now whether politics plays a role in the organisation or is it the other way round hardly makes a difference to the wage-earner of an organisation because one way or the other s/he will invariably  end up paying more taxes over the next financial exercise – lest s/he gets married, procreates and/or pays through his/her nose to charity or stashes money away into a hidden, numbered account in one of the numerous fiscal havens of the world.

Marrelli (2010,9) writes, “A strong sense of the value of one’s daily work facilitates engagements and creates a foundation of high performance.” But how is it inculcated, if not indoctrinated into the employees? In my opinion, it is the reputation of the organisation on the one hand, but also the image of the work that the employees do, which guarantees such feelings. The fact of the mater is that in today’s overly media dependent world, most jobs are linked to an image which leads them to prejudged in the public eye.

According to the author (2010,19), “Non-supervisory employees’ perception of managers and executives are much less positive. They do not believe that their senior leaders are communicating openly and sincerely with them.”

So, if an organisation’s most important resource are the humans who work there, then why the discrepancies so often observed in so many of them? Why do shareholders still have the upper hand even if all management specialists have said and learned and preached that considering stakeholders in a holistic approach as more important than the only group of investors who expect ever-increasing dividends at the end of every financial exercise? Considering that the human resource of an organisation is included amongst the stakeholders, why do they have to continue to “fight for their rights” rather than just be given them – as naturally as investors get their dividends? These and so many more questions need to be answered in today’s society. Satisfactory answers to be found which will be applicable to all organisations of all shapes and sizes, in all fields of business, anywhere in the world.

Reference:

Mani, V., (2010), “Development of Employee Satisfaction Index Scorecard”,European Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 15, Number 1, pp 129 – 139 available at http://www.eurojournals.com/ejss_15_1_12.pdf

Marelli, A., (2010),”Managing for Engagement – Communication, Connection, and Courage”, Diane Publishing, available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RgPtJXTBQzkC&dq=marrelli+2010+employee+empowerment&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s