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Valuing Internal Communication; Management and Employee Perspectives

Valuing Internal Communication; Management and Employee Perspectives

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Published by Kevin Ruck
In a review of 12 leading recent academic and consultancy studies it was found that there is no consistent approach to measuring internal communication. Underlying internal communication theory is not always applied and emerging theory is missing from many approaches to measurement. The emphasis is on process not content, reflecting a managerial not an employee perspective. There is a reliance on a quantitative research methodology and outdated survey instruments. A new conceptual model is explored as a framework for a new approach to measurement that reflects the linkages between internal communication and employee engagement. This is supplemented by consideration of how the use of internal social media impacts internal communication theory and measurement.
In a review of 12 leading recent academic and consultancy studies it was found that there is no consistent approach to measuring internal communication. Underlying internal communication theory is not always applied and emerging theory is missing from many approaches to measurement. The emphasis is on process not content, reflecting a managerial not an employee perspective. There is a reliance on a quantitative research methodology and outdated survey instruments. A new conceptual model is explored as a framework for a new approach to measurement that reflects the linkages between internal communication and employee engagement. This is supplemented by consideration of how the use of internal social media impacts internal communication theory and measurement.

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Published by: Kevin Ruck on May 17, 2011
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VALUING INTERNAL COMMUNICATION; MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEEPERSPECTIVES 1Valuing internal communication; management and employee perspectivesKevin Ruck and Dr. Mary Welch, University of Central Lancashire, UK Author noteKevin Ruck, Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire;Dr. Mary Welch, Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire.Correspondence about this article should be addressed to Kevin Ruck, The PR Academy, Maidstone Studios, Vinters Park, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 5NZ.Email: kevin.ruck@pracademy.co.uk 
Abstract
 
VALUING INTERNAL COMMUNICATION; MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEEPERSPECTIVES 2
In a review of 12 leading recent academic and consultancy studies it was found that there is no consistentapproach to measuring internal communication. Underlying internal communication theory is not alwaysapplied and emerging theory is missing from many approaches to measurement. The emphasis is on process notcontent, reflecting a managerial not an employee perspective. There is a reliance on a quantitative researchmethodology and outdated survey instruments. A new conceptual model is explored as a framework for a newapproach to measurement that reflects the linkages between internal communication and employee engagement.This is supplemented by consideration of how the use of internal social media impacts internal communicationtheory and measurement.
Introduction
The role of communication is becoming an increasingly important factor in the understanding of the value of intangible organisational assets (Ritter, 2003 p. 50). Communication within organizations is linked to higher levels of performance and service (Tourish & Hargie, 2009 pp. 10-15) generating communication capital(Malmelin, 2007 p. 298) and social capital (Lee, 2009), grounded in organisational relationships. It is thereforeimportant for managers to be able to assess internal communication. Many well established tools developed inthe 1970s are still used, such as the Communication Satisfaction Questionnaire (CSQ), the ICA Audit, theOrganizational Communication Development audit, and the Organizational Communication scale (P. G.Clampitt, 2009 pp. 58-61). Though managers have long recognised the importance of internal communication, itis often seen from the perspective of management rather than the employee. As Welch and Jackson (2007 p.187) argue, “research into employee preferences for channel and content of internal corporate communication isrequired to ensure it meets employees’ needs”. This is echoed by Uusi-Rauva and Nurkka (2010 p. 303) whoassert that “little research has focused on finding out what employees consider important in the internal “expertcommunication process”“.This paper is based on a review of twelve leading academic and consultancy studies representing 10,928respondents. It argues that approaches to assessment are too narrowly focused on process, rather than content.Assessment tools are outdated, rooted in a positivist research philosophy, and take little account of employeecommunication needs and the rise of internal social media.
 
VALUING INTERNAL COMMUNICATION; MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEEPERSPECTIVES 3
Communication, organisational identification and engagementEmployee communication needs
Before examining the twelve studies, this section explores the general approach to assessment of internalcommunication. Goldhaber et al., (1978 p. 82) found that an employee’s primary needs include, first, moreinformation about personal, job-related matters, and then, information about organizational decision making anda greater opportunity to voice complaints and evaluate superiors. According to the consultancy, Towers Watson(2010, p. x), “Most firms do well at communicating about the business; however…less than half of firms reportthey are effective at communicating to employees regarding how their actions affect the customer or increase productivity”. Towers Watson (2010) go on to report that internal communication messages are delivered either centrally or locally and content differs as shown in table 1 below.Table 1
Towers Watson 2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report.
Messages delivered centrallyMessages delivered locally
Explaining and promoting new programs and policiesHelping employees understand the businessEducating employees about organizationalculture and valuesTelling employees how their actions affect thecustomer Providing information on organizational performance and financial objectivesIntegrating new employees into theorganizationProviding individuals with information about thetrue value of their total compensation packageHowever, there is no evidence in the report to suggest that these topics are the most important ones thatemployees expect managers to discuss. Furthermore, the conclusion that firms do well at communicating aboutthe business is challenged by Truss et al., (2006 pp. 13-14) who found that 25 per cent of employees say thattheir manager rarely or never makes them feel their work counts. And only around half of all employees say thattheir manager usually or always “consults me on matters of importance” or “keeps me in touch with what isgoing on”. In general, 42 per cent of employees say that they are not kept very well informed about what isgoing on in their organisation (Truss et al., 2006, p. 17) and this applies to both the public and private sectors.An effective communication climate is, according to Robertson (2005) based on the following topics; job,

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