Organizational communication – all about human dynamics and synergies

My thoughts about organisational communication and importance of corporate culture.

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Organizational and corporate communication – what’s the difference?

Van Riel and Fombrun (2007) define corporate communication as “managing all internal and external communications aimed at creating favourable starting points with stakeholders on which the company depends”. I accompany this by viewing corporate communication as set of actions with the aim to establish a strong, unique and favorable reputation in the eyes of stakeholders. Corporate communication is speaking as an organization; the voice is given and consistent, whereas organizational communication recognizes the multiple voices of individuals within an organization.

Cornelissen states that whereas corporate messages speak to many audiences at once with the aim stated above, organizational communication typically addresses specific audiences with discrete messages. How I see it, organizational communication has a well-defined target with well-considered message, whereas corporate focuses on the integration and coordination of an organization’s communications. In nutshell, corporate communication aims to be objective whereas organizational is subjective; interpretation and presenting views depends on the communicator depending on their experiences and feelings.

Communication as the shaping force of an organization

Interpretive discourse can be used as a way to view organizational communication as a dynamic process actually creating the organization, which come into being through the everyday communication practices of their members (Putnam & Pacanowsky, 1983). I agree, seeing communication as the shaper of the reality of an organization: its operations, policies and ways of doing things.

According to Mumby, one feature of an organization is control. I find ideological control especially intriguing and relevant in the business today. It refers to the development of a system of values and beliefs with which employees are expected to identify strongly: “If employees have been appropriately socialized into the organization’s system of beliefs and values, then they should have internalized a taken-for-granted understanding of what it means to work in the best interests of the organization.” Ideological control is strongly linked to corporate culture. Disney and Wholefoods are great examples of companies with strong corporate culture and recruitment process with high emphasis on employee profile. I personally believe that this is the direction to which most organizations are going towards, increasingly realizing that people are not motivated working under heavy bureaucratic control. When motivated in a right way, employees’ contribution to organizations will increase from what traditionally is expected.

How do values shape an organization’s reality?

Stakeholders are increasingly paying attention to organization’s values. In my opinion, the employee must be able to fully assimilate with the organizations values. I, for one, will choose the organization to work for based on their values, as I’d not able to work to my full potential if I cannot connect with them. I personally think that one should connect with the organization’s values to an equal level as if it was their own business. This is a win-win situation for all parties: the company has motivated, entrepreneurial minded employees whereas the employees get to develop themselves and feel fulfillment through their work. This applies to entire stakeholder network, including suppliers, customers, society and so on. I, for example, have so far found only one company that fulfills these criteria: Wholefoods. For illustration, I will share their values:

  1. We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available
  2. We satisfy, delight and nourish our customers
  3. We support team member excellence and happiness
  4. We create wealth through profits & growth
  5. We serve and support our local global communities
  6. We practice and advance environmental stewardship
  7. We create ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers
  8. We promote the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education

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These values are very close in line with the ones I would choose if I founded a business today. To successfully carry out this, in my opinion, best recruitment method would be conducting personality tests upon recruitment process to make sure that employees will fit in with the corporate culture. This is naturally beneficial for the potential employees as well, in order to being employed to a organization whose interests and ways of operating are not in line with theirs. This is even more important during the time of corporate colonization (Mumby); the boundaries between work and other aspects of our lives are becoming increasingly blurry. Thus, it is increasingly important for employees find their work meaningful.

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Collectivist organization is a structure that emphasizes shared power and widely dispersed decision-making responsibilities. I personally see this kind of structure to often be optimal for an organization to maximize the potential that lies in its human talent. Often it is the grassroots level that has great insights for operations. A great example is postmen. They operate the same route for years and gain incredible amount of insights that would be highly useful in business development. However, as the communication gap between the top management and postmen is so wide, these insights never reach the business development function, and thus a lot of potential remains non-utilized.

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Conclusions

My view towards organizational communication is closely in line with the interpretive discourse; it is the shaping force on an organization’s reality. It is vital that companies make their corporate culture explicit for all stakeholders to make sure that mutual understanding is reached to fully maximize organization’s resource potential. Surely, some traditional organizations such as factories will continue being led by bureaucratic control. Luckily, however, often in these kinds of organizations it is how stakeholders, including employees, prefer it to be. Factory workers are often happy by being led from up and being able to clearly structure different hierarchy levels. However, emerging trend is a shift towards flexible organization in which decision-making is dispersed. Values and corporate culture are crucial in forming the identity and operations of an organization. Recruitment will not be a “grilling” interview from the HR towards the potential employee; rather, it will be a mutual conversation of shared interests, skills and goals for both the person and the organization (represented by the recruiter) to evaluate whether they would make an ideal match.

References

Mumby, Dennis (2013) Organizational Communication. London: Sage.

Christensen, L. T. & Cornelissen, J. ( 2011). Bridging Corporate and Organizational Communication: Review, Development and the Look to the Future. Management Communication Quarterly 25 (3), 383–414.

Communication and organizations, an interpretive approachLinda Putnam‪, Michael E. Pacanowsky (1983)

‪Essentials of Corporate Communication: Implementing Practices for Effective Reputation Management. ‪Cees B.M. Van Riel‪, Charles J. Fombrun (2007)

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/core-values

Reaction II Corporate Communication Research

Sonja Hannus

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