Over recent weeks, I have been exploring organisational communication. Having studied business management and human resources before, many of the concepts and theories introduced in Miller (2012) were already vary familiar. I had not however, considered what these organisational theories meant in terms of communication or public relations.
The classical approaches of the industrial revolution considered organisations in a mechanistic way, and are primarily focused on task efficiency. Frederick Taylor’s scientific management exemplifies this approach. The basis of Taylor’s theory is the idea that each task has one optimal or correct way, and that employees should be chosen and trained accordingly. Taylor also suggests that operations level staff don’t contribute to thinking or planning (Miller 2012). In contrast, human relations focused theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs consider the motivation of the employee and recognise that workers have an inherent desire to seek development and recognition (Miller 2012). Human relations and human resource theories acknowledge the value of individual and innovative contributions by employees. The cultural approach goes one step further in suggesting that the collective values of the employees form the direction and environment of the organisation as a whole.
Farace, Monge and Russell’s types of communication flow shows what this means for internal communications, explaining that classical organisations are limited to task-oriented asymmetrical communication, while human resource approaches open up (and require) communication of much broader content, in a more symmetrical way (Miller 2012).
Given, among other PR scholars, Cornelissen’s understanding that internal communications is integral to the PR role, this understanding of organisational approaches gives some understanding and perspective to tackling this task (2011). It could even be argued that by advocating for a more symmetrical way of internal communication, a PR practitioner can broaden the operations of the organisation. It seems to me that it could be a cyclical relationship.
However, it appears to me that this body of theories would dictate more than just the internal communication of an organisation. Chia and Synott provide a similar framework as an understanding of public relations practice as a whole (2012), discussing systems theory, cultural and critical perspectives.
To simplify, the organisational structure dictates the nature of communication internally. Ethical and honest PR would express this internal nature to their wider publics. If an organisation participates in task, social and innovation communication in all directions and through all channels, the opportunities for their external communication would be much greater.
In my human resources studies, I have discovered that competitive advantage in today’s market relies on attracting talented employees (Stone 2013). To do so, the image of the organisation as an employer needs to be positive. With new media, this is more transparent than ever. So, to reflect on this research, it seems that organisational communication is inextricably linked to many things, including the achievement of organisational goals.
Chia, J & Synnott, G 2012, An Introduction to Public Relations and Communication Management, 2nd Ed, Oxford, Melbourne, Victoria
Cornelissen, J 2011, Corporate Communication, A Guide to Theory and Practice, 3rd Ed, SAGE Publications, London
Miller, K 2012, Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Boston
Stone, RJ 2013, Managing human resources, 4th Ed, Wiley, Milton, Queensland