Communicating and Training for Quality: a Leadership Function Jose C. Gatchalian, Ph.D Chairman, Quality Partners Company, Ltd.

Former Dean, University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations

Leadership in quality is generally supported by two vital functions: communication and training. Communication lies at the very heart of the leader-follower nexus and therefore plays a crucial role in relationships at work. The quantity and quality of communication between management and employees at the enterprise level is a significant factor in establishing and maintaining harmonious and productive industrial relations. Information that can be shared may include present day-to-day quality issues that affect the company. Communication channels should ideally provide a channel for management to obtain feedback regarding programs or policies and their implementation. Training, on the other hand, is a crucial component of workplace communication and empowerment. Empowerment involves decentralizing power within the organization to individual decision makers, and further down to the bottom rung of the workforce. It adds dynamism to the employer-employee relationship by affording workers not just a voice in decision making on matters that affect their interests and welfare, but also provides the opportunity for them to contribute creative and innovative ideas towards achieving company goals of enhanced product or service quality and productivity. That is, if they are properly and adequately trained. As a key motivational tool, individual employees are encouraged to take responsibility for quality in terms of carrying out activities, which meet the requirements of their customers. In this respect, the strategy of Workplace Cooperation constitute one of the latest innovations in communication which is providing quality leaders a valuable platform for action.

Definition of Concepts
Communication and training, together with information, are generic concepts that are multidimensional. They need to be defined in the context of work relations within the workplace. Communication may be defined as a process of sharing information between company leaders and their workers through certain channels to attain mutual cooperation. Training is a process of learning for improving knowledge, attitudes and skills. Information may include messages, meanings or words that the partners in production (management and workers) share with each other to arrive at mutual cooperation. Workplace Cooperation - a process of working together to attain shared goals such as quality goods or services, better productivity and profitability of the organization.

The process of communication has four elements that are usually found in any communication situation: source, message, channel and receiver. The source initiates the communication process. The message or information contains the intention of the source in communicating to the receiver. The channel is used by the source to ensure that the message reaches the receiver. The receiver finally decides whether to accept or reject the message. In the workplace, the source is often the manager, and the receiver is commonly the worker, at the interpersonal level. At the organizational level, the source is the management while the receiver is the collectivity of individual workers or employees. Various messages may be conveyed between source and receiver – including such matters as a quality policy, project, or technology, compensation and salary scale, downsizing, subcontracting, retirement, code of conduct, etc. The channels could be varied. At the personal level, our five senses such as sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste are considered our built-in channels. At the group level, the methods that could be used in delivering messages are seminars, meetings, workshops, etc. At the mass level, the channels are the mass media such as the radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, book, movies and the Internet.

The Communication Process
The basic communication process may be depicted in the schematic diagram below:

Effective Communication
Communication is said to be effective when it attains the changes that it hopes to achieve. The attainment of these changes could be immediate or delayed. The delay could be due to the expected effect(s). Immediate effects could easily be achieved in terms of awareness. Most delayed change could be observed in change of behavior or practice. Attitude is usually more difficult to change than either knowledge or skill. Communicating and promoting quality in an organization is an essential function of leadership. Training is a method of actuating and implementing this important function. The diagram below demonstrates the integrating link between communication and training, in terms of change in knowledge, attitude and skill (K A S). As the source and initiator of messages, the leader can enhance the knowledge, change the attitude and improve the skills of his followers in the organization.

s K A S

m I.R . H .R . C .B . O th er T o p ics

c LECTURE CASE ROLEPLAY O th er M eth od s

r K A


Figure 2. Communication and training interface

Experiential Approach to Training
The experiential learning technique represents an innovative approach toward training, best suited to the development of a highly-skilled, motivated and high performing workforce. Experiential learning incorporates a flexible structure of classroom activities, simulation exercises, and actual experiences in “real life” situations. The learners’ acquisition of knowledge and skills related to their work must be facilitated by competent trainers. The primary role of the trainor is one of creating learning environments which are stimulating, relevant, and effective.

This learner-centered experiential approach toward training allows the individual learners to manage and assume responsibility for their own learning. Experiential learning is exactly what the name implies – learning from experience. Experiential learning occurs when a person engages in an activity, reviews this activity critically, abstracts some useful insights from the analysis and applies the result in a practical situation. The experiential process follows the theoretical circle shown in the diagram below.

Experiencing Activity “Doing” Applying (Planning more effective behavior) Generalizing (Inferring from the experience truth about the “real world”
Figure. 3. The Experiential process of learning

Processing (Sharing and discussing reaction and observations)

There are a wide range of activities and exercises for providing trainees with experiences from which they may extract the data (information) to process and make generalizations. Individual and group activities used to facilitate the “experiencing” step includes: • • • • • • role plays case studies films and slides shows sharing descriptions of specific experiences placing in actual situations requiring them to react and/or perform allowing trainees to train one another

Workplace Cooperation – A Communication Strategy
One of the more recent and promising innovations integrating communication and training for quality is the adoption of the workplace cooperation strategy. This approach has been especially effective in creating new channels of communication and new techniques for training in quality. Thaler, et. al. have documented many cases on a wide international basis which demonstrates workplace cooperation as an effective communication and training strategy for continuous

improvement within companies. Excerpts from their published guidebook are utilized extensively below for purposes of this paper. According to Thaler (2002), innovations in labor-management-government (LMG) cooperation invariably open up new channels of communication, and vice-versa. In documented experiences from Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States, it was shown that their respective governments provided a legal framework, and sometimes funding, to encourage enhanced communication. A broad range of strategies that organizations can implement in order to attain substantial improvements in workplace relations, and to foster quality and productivity, include: offices and meeting rooms that can be redesigned with the intent of improving communication; formal and informal training that can be used to enhance communication; and information exchanges that may take place in venues such as quarterly and morning meetings, broadcast messages, newsletters, and bulletin boards.

The Architecture of Communication
Thaler (2002) states that new channels of communication may be facilitated (or frustrated) by the physical layout of the firm: for example, room arrangements at the office (or at the shop floor) can be a key to success. The example of Thai Honda in Thailand describes a practice called “One Floor Management,” which aims to open up the channels of communication: “Without private rooms and partitions, all associates can see each other. Working tables are arranged face-to-face whether they are staff member’s tables or the president’s table.” Communication flows more freely as a result. Some organizations feel they must add meeting space so labor and management have a place to collaborate and communicate. At Matsushita Refrigeration in Singapore, for example, they built a Union Room for union related activities and meetings

Training as a New Channel of Communication
According to Thaler (2002), training provides a channel to deliver new communication skills and new information. Participants often find training sessions to be a “safe” place to try out new behaviors, and new information may be easier to digest when it is presented in a new environment, away from the office or shop floor. It may also be helpful for management and workers to share the learning environment so that each can see the other in a new light and reinforce the idea that cooperation is a journey of discovery, made easier and more effective by mutual support. The national strategy for more effective labor-management cooperation in Chile included a primary focus on workforce training. APEC case studies from Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, and the United States (Atlantic Baking, Miller Dwan and Philadelphia Zoo) mentioned training in business fundamentals and the skills necessary for cooperation.

Morning, monthly and quarterly meetings
Outside of the Labor-Management Committee meetings, most of the firms held other types of meetings to move information to the workforce and to provide opportunities for two-way

communication. This channel of communication was so important to the survival of Hankuk Electric Glass Company in Korea that the President met with production line workers three times a day, at 3 a.m., 9 a.m., and 6 p.m.! Lunchtime roundtable discussions were also held at the Philadelphia Zoo that many more employees could participate in discussions that might affect them. Monthly and quarterly meetings were conducted at Matsushita Refrigeration Industries in Singapore. Matsushita’s quarterly meetings had fairly broad objectives such as company performance, skills training and safety and health, while the monthly meetings were narrower in focus, allowing in-depth discussion of specific HR policies.

Broadcast messages
Thai Honda used a public address system to disseminate important news throughout the company. Other firms commonly use the telephone system, email, the internet or an intranet to record and broadcast essential information to employees.

The Open Communication Room is the title of Hankuk Electric Glass’ bulletin that is published every Tuesday and Friday. “Special emphasis was placed in this newsletter on communication between employees and management, and the president provided space for information sharing, and the exchange of opinions,” according to Dr. Chan Young Hur. Other organizations have used a response form in their monthly newsletters that can be used by employees to suggest operational improvements. Lots of white space and judicious placement of graphics best draw readers into newsletter text.

Bulletin boards
Thai Honda used bulletin boards to open new channels of communication. “There are the labour union’s boards and the company’s boards at Thai Honda. Due to mutual trust, the information can be released on the boards without any approval from the Human Resources department. No problems have occurred so far,” said officials.

LMCs as Vehicles for Workplace Cooperation
Along the lines proposed by Thaler as useful innovations for improving communication is the Labor-Management Committees (LMCs). The importance of this strategy is its impact on quality as well as on the quality of worklife. The concept and practice of LMC had been earlier presented by the author here in Tehran in July 2006, during the 7th International Conference of Quality Managers. Basically, the LMC is a forum wherein labor and management can express their views regarding felt problems and needs to each other and to share information about present and anticipated issues that may affect the company and its employees. This interchange, if regularized and institutionalized, can lead to mutual understanding, consensus and joint action to resolve issues between them. An LMC can serve as an organizational communication mechanism which can be utilized by both sides for mutual benefit.

The LMC can also serve as a participatory vehicle which can enable workers to have a say in decision-making on matters that affect their interest and welfare. It is a channel by which management can obtain feedback on its programs, policies and actuations. By consulting and involving employees in selected areas of decision-making, they can be given a chance to input useful ideas and suggestion that can meaningfully improve working conditions, work processes and relationships (Heron,2002).

Training and capacity building
The best results from Workplace Cooperation can be obtained with the joint efforts of welltrained and capable members of task forces or action teams. Enhanced problem-solving skills, the ability to utilize modern, quantitative tools and techniques, and capabilities for effective teamwork are essential for productive labor-management partnerships at the workplace. Workers’ empowerment and workplace cooperation are hollow aims, if not backed up by training and capacity building, particularly in the areas of quality and productivity. Successful experiences culled from case studies of company best practices clearly indicate that WPC should be a means and not an end in itself. And while the lessening of industrial disputes and grievances is an important goal, other higher, value-adding goals of successful WPC programs should be geared towards enhancing quality, productivity and competitiveness. In the case studies, demonstrable results have been produced in all these significant areas, which in turn have led to greater industrial harmony and better relationships at the workplace. In all cases, quality leadership proved to be the definitive factor, when focused on the functions of communication and training.

References: Cesar M. Mercado, Ph.D. 2005. “Communication, Information and Labor-Management Cooperation,” (Unpublished paper), DCAAP Gatchalian, J.C., “Workplace Cooperation: An Empowerment Strategy for Quality,” Paper presented at the 7th International Conference of Quality Managers, July 2006. Heron, L. (2002). “Improving IR at the enterprise level: A resource book for trainers.” Improvement of industrial relations at the enterprise level. Jakarta, Indonesia: International Labor Office. Knowles, M. 1980. The Modern Practice of Adult Education – Andragogy vs. Pedagogy. John Wiley and Sons, New York

Thaler, David, Ed. 2002. Responding to Change in the Workplace: Innovations in LaborManagement-Government Cooperation, BEST PRACTICES TOOL KIT, U.S. Federal Mediation& Conciliation Service, U.S. Department of Labor.

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