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Archive for the ‘Organizational Communication’ Category

The New York-based global consulting firm, rogenSI, reports that employee morale declined last year to low levels not seen since 2009/10.

And that was during and immediately after a severe financial crisis.

The firm’s 2012 Global Mindset Index surveyed 4,000 business professionals, and half said they felt “overwhelmed and undervalued”. Respondents also said that they were motivated more by ” a fear of failure than a drive for success” on the job.

Additionally, 64 percent of respondents said their primary driver for staying at their current job was money.

Clark Perry, director and lead researcher of the Global Mindset Index, says that over the past four years and in other surveys, he has seen a historical link between depressed employees and low gross-profit margins.

According to Crystal Kim, who covered the research in Barron’s January 28, 2013, issue, the bottom line in all this is that “businesses and markets are much better served if they can connect job security to a focus on personal achievement, rather than on sales and profits only.”

And how should business leaders do that? Through effective, two-way, strategic organizational communication. There is no other tool as powerful in the business executive’s tool kit than employee communication.

Obviously, in a weakened economy, employees worry about their jobs much more so than when the economy is good, businesses are growing, and jobs are more plentiful. Employees are fearful of losing what they have and take fewer chances, preferring to play it safe. Effective employee communication must deal with the realities of the economy and what it means to employees, creating a dialogue between employees and management in which issues can be discussed candidly and real solutions to mutual success can be found.

If business leaders want innovation and positive results, then they must create an environment in which innovation and positive results can flourish, an environment in which employees feel secure enough to concentrate on personal achievement without fear of failure. Open and honest two-way communication helps shape such an environment.

Employees want to be successful personally, and they want their organizations to be successful. The most effective way to facilitate these mutually desired outcomes is by communication that provides employees with solid information about the organization’s strategic situation and how they fit into it.

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Folklore of employee communication always includes the “grapevine”, or word of mouth, the unofficial communication channel in organizations. The grapevine often centered on the water cooler, where employees were said to congregate and gossip.

That 1940-ish image of organizational communication seems outdated in view of Web 2-0-enabled communication, but the grapevine remains real. However, like so much else in communication/PR, the grapevine has been updated with new technology. For example, email. Emailed news can spread rapidly throughout an organization before employees can even get to the water cooler.

Employers often seek to restrict the flow of communication via the grapevine, which can at times be dangerous. Such communication is often filled with rumors, distortions, misinformation, and lies. This typically occurs when there is a vacuum created by an inadequate organizational communication program. Inaccurate grapevine communication often goes beyond the confines of the organization and does harm among the organization’s publics.

With the rise in usage of social media, the grapevine is now more powerful and faster and with greater reach. Using Twitter and Facebook, among others, employees often discuss ostensibly taboo subjects with much wider audiences than just co-workers.

Accordingly, are employers justified in restricting such communication? Not according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

As reported in The New York Times recently by Steven Greenhouse, The NLRB has declared in a  series of recent rulings and advisories that many employer-sanctioned restrictions are illegal. The NLRB argues that employees have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.

The NLRB’s ruling applies to virtually all private sector employees, Greenhouse writes, advising that certain broad social media policies are illegal. According to the NLRB, employees have the right to vent.

High marks were given to Wal-Mart’s social media usage policy, the Times reported, which includes prohibitions against “inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct.”

Some advice:

  • Managers of organizational communication programs should revisit their employers’ social media policies and update them where appropriate.
  • Employee communication managers should monitor and pay attention to what is being said via the grapevine. Correct the misinformation with facts. Telling employees the truth will counter the misinformation that often circulates via the grapevine.
  • Employees should think before posting. Consider what you are about to write, for Google never forgets. Is what you wish to say harmless or hurtful?  Think about it. What you consider a righteous vent may be a career-limiting move.

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The practice of organizational communication is all-important today. An organization must communicate effectively with its internal audiences or face real peril. Here are some of my thoughts (“Lesterisms”) on the subject of how to conduct effective organizational communication:

Lesterism #1: Never assume anyone knows anything. Organizations are funny; you can never assume that any individual organizational member knows what is going on — strategy, major issues facing the organization, organizational performance, organization happenings, news about other employees, etc. Therefore, look at everything that is happening around you and explain it to organizational members. You will have a lifetime of work. There is so much happening in organizations today that is worthy of being reported and discussed. Be alert. Be curious. Poke around and find out the details of what is going on. Report that to your internal audiences. You will find that what you are doing begins to feed on itself, and your stream of valuable information increases.

Lesterism #2: Know your audiences. You simply must conduct research into who your audiences are and what they are like. This transcends mere demographics and moves into psychographics. Know who you are talking with and what information they want, when they want it, and how they want to receive it.

Lesterism #3: Using a  media mix is always better than a single medium. Do not concentrate on one medium to share a message. Instead, use a mix of media, including social media and traditional print and broadcast media. You need them all to effectively communicate a two-way message. A good channel strategy is a mixture of all types of media.

Lesterism # 4: Communicate frequently. This is where social media and electronic media are extremely valuable. Using those tactics, you can communicate easily and frequently. However, this does not preclude publications. For example, a more frequent and cheaper production value publication is always better than a more expensive, less frequent publication. If you can afford it, you could have a frequent newspaper-style employee publication plus a quarterly magazine. Each’s editorial objectives are unique and individually useful. But augment those with very frequent social media and electronic media updates, such as Tweets, blog posts, podcasts, and a supervisors’ ezine.

Lesterism #5: The cornerstone of an effective employee communication program is an employee publication. An employee publication should not be the only thing that makes up your employee communication program, but it remains the most effective tactic. Employees are an information-seeking audience. They want the information you provide them. Organizational communication has high persuasive impact among the other types of tactics, including interpersonal communication, news media, and advertising/promotion. And tops among the individual tactics that constitute organizational communication is the employee publication. Make it strategic and two-way, allowing for feedback and discussion.

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