4. Communication and Involvement

Communication and involvement were seen by all companies as crucial in generating commitment, teamwork, co-operation and understanding. It is not possible here to go into all the approaches to involvement and communication in use in the companies in the survey. Communication can be seen as taking place at a number of levels e.g., company level, departmental, work group and individual levels (called "one on ones" in one company). In addition performance management and appraisal provided a good opportunity for communication. Two of the companies also had developed open door policies through which employees could raise issues, either personal or work-related, that concerned them. The following two examples gives some idea of the extent of the lengths companies could go to in communicating with employees.

Example 1.

On a quarterly basis all employees in groups attended what was termed a Business Up-Date Meeting through which they were kept up to date on company objectives, progress, plans, trends in the market place, competitors? strategies and progress. One such quarterly meeting for instance included information under the following headings (and these are by no means exhaustive):

  • Quarterly Revenue compared to Revenue for the previous 21 quarters.
  • Quarterly Net Income
  • Quarterly bookings
  • Revenue trends on a geographic basis
  • Company stock price and fluctuations over a number of months
  • Progress on the company?s Long Range Strategic Plan
  • Report on company-wide developments including progress on new products
  • Report on performance-based Cash Bonus for employees
  • Business up-date for local plant including production, performance, safety, progress in reaching/outstripping performance objectives, performance comparisons between local plant and other plants world-wide, productivity improvements, production costs and production plans for the future
  • Review of sales and marketing including performance and business challenges for the medium term
  • Plant related social activities

This was only one of a plethora of initiatives in the area of communication developed in the company in question. Not all companies perhaps went to such lengths, though all companies had relatively well developed systems of their own which had been tailored to their own needs. Generally all companies used multi-initiatives in the area, judiciously using mixtures of the written word, managers and supervisors, team briefings and the like. Management and supervisory training was frequently used to emphasise the importance of communication and the development of communication skills and practices.

Example 2.

All companies valued informal communication processes as much as formal ones. One company in particular placed so much emphasis on it, that it explicitly recognised it as a strategy under the title of "management by walking around". The practice was used to keep up to date with individuals and their activities and to recognize employee concerns and ideas as well as to reinforce trust and respect for people. The practice involved:

  • Managers consistently reserving time to walk through a department and to be available for impromptu discussions.
  • Individuals networking across the company
  • Coffee talks, communication lunches, hallway conversations. Provision was made for coffee talks on the last Friday of every month and applied to everyone in the organisation.

On the job involvement, as might be expected from companies which espoused individual contribution, figured high on agendas. Thus change and management strategies frequently led to flatter structures, team working with accompanying changes in the role of supervisors, and use of project teams. Some further discussion of these is included in the second half of this presentation.

Use of project groups was common in many companies particularly in regard to problem analysis and as part of change processes. One company in particular used them widely in examining shift systems, in developing communication programmes and the like.

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