The Importance of Communication
If business environment is characterised by uncertainty and change, high quality internal communication should be a priority
Organisational change should be supported by consistent and frequent communication
Positive, constructive feedback on performance & greater involvement in decision making can improve motivation
In large firms, it is often hard to ensure all areas are focused on achieving the corporate objectives> poor communication can leave with no sense of direction/ purpose.
Can make workers peripheral to decision making feel vulnerable when dealing with customer enquiries
In change> communication is vital so that does not create an atmosphere of mistrust and fear > would lead to declining motivation and productivity> negative impact on competitiveness through increased costs.
Advantages of good internal communication;
All areas of the business are pursuing the same corporate objectives; change can be introduced more successfully; employees identify with the culture of the organisation and have more loyalty to it.
How can internal communication be improved?
Big difference between effective and increased communication
Technology does not guarantee good communication; it may lead to information overload.
· Establish the needs of the employees before changing the existing communication. High tech may not be necessary. May be seen as intrusive rather than supportive. On the other hand, receiving important information from head office very quickly may be a benefit to mobile workers.
· Improving skills in all areas of communication. Employees are likely to resist change
· Cultural and language differences can be barriers to good communication in large organisations.
Costs to improved communication
Without the appropriate training, possibility that employee representatives may slow down the business’ decision making process and create discontent within the workforce by ineffectual feedback process.
Decision making would be impossible if every member of the organisation was consulted directly before a choice was made.
Some form of representation is put in place, with a clear remit about what can and can’t be discussed.
Purpose should be to encourage constructive dialog and not simply pay ‘lip service’ to the principles of good communication.
Everyone must be aware of the structure and objectives of the system.
Employee groups: forums made up of employee representatives from selected areas of the business and representatives of the employers.
They meet to discuss and raise issues that affect/ are likely to affect employees.
Staff representatives are employees who have been elected by their colleagues to represent them at meeting with the employer.
‘Bridge the gap between management and the work force’
Assist two way communications.
Trade union: an organisation of employees, which acts collectively in dealings with management for mutual protection an assistance and is often concerned with wages and conditions of employment.
Negotiate on behalf of a group of employees.
There may be several or one single union agreement in place.
Works council: a committee representing the employer and elected employee representatives of a plant or business meeting to discuss working conditions, grievances and pay.
Very successful in several European companies, and has become the default provision in the UK.
Has to be introduced by law if requested by employees in an organisation employing 50 staff or over.
· An election of representatives
· One representative for every 50 employees.
Information for discussion on recent and probable developments in the company’s activities must be provided.
E.g. economic situation, situation, structure and probable development of employment, decisions that are likely to lead to major changes in working decisions including change of business ownership and collective redundancies.
Advantages of employee representation
· Managers seem less remote as employees have easier access to them at all levels
· Employees encouraged to voice their views frankly and freely (may be reluctant without representation) – should reduce tension and clear up uncertainty and misunderstandings
· Managers should find it easier to maintain confidentiality with small numbers of representatives
· Provides an opportunity to discuss/ order priorities > increases sense of involvement > effectiveness and efficiency.
· Managers can gauge the likely reaction of employees at an early stage in decision making
· Quality of employee input into decision making is improved
· Listening, diplomacy, making presentations and problem solving skills improved
· Trust and cooperation improve> better understanding of the need for change > increased acceptability of decisions > improved business performance.
Disadvantages of employee representation
· Managers feel undermined if actions scrutinised
· Rep’s may want to discuss sensitive issues> more likelihood of breaches of confidentiality.
· Employees may try to determine order of priorities within the organisation which may be to further their own interests, rather than those of the business
· If managers do not take the input of representatives seriously> lead to resentment, mistrust> undermine attempts to improve business performance.
Industrial dispute: a disagreement between employers and employees/ employee representatives over an employee related issue
Aim should always be to reach agreements about the way forward, and it would be misleading to assume that either employers or employees deliberately set out to instigate industrial unrest.
Methods for avoiding industrial disputes
· Consultation and involvement by creating channels of communication. Could include a staff forum or working group to collect ideas from workers, employee consultative body to discuss major issues as they arise, regular consultation with a recognised trade union, and team or group meeting with feedback sessions.
· An effective grievance procedure that has been agreed by employees/ representatives which allows employees to voice their concerns before they develop into major issues
· Acas: an independent and impartial organisation established to avoid and resolve industrial disputes and build harmonious relationships at work. Helps to work together to resolve problems before they turn into disputes.
· No strike agreements mean that in return for an enhanced pay and working conditions, the unions agree not to take industrial action for a stipulated amount of time. (industrial action: sanctions imposed by workers to put pressure on a business during an industrial dispute, including overtime ban , work to rule, go slow and ultimately strike action. )
Methods for resolving industrial disputes
· Conciliation/ mediation: an independant third party encourages continued discussion between those in disagreement to reach a compromise and resolve their dispute.
· Arbitration: where no agreement can be found between parties in dispute, they agree to accept the judgement of an independent third party. The decision to go to arbitration may be an agreed stage in the parties’ dispute resolution procedure, although this is not always the case.
· Build into employment contracts a provision for using alternative means to resolve disputes rather than through legal action. Using a less antagonistic process than the court of industrial tribunal system may allow an acceptable compromise to be reached. Larger firms of solicitors now have specialists who act as mediators under such arrangements.