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The role internal communication plays as a public relations function the corporate culture of universities of technology
Grobler, Anna Maria
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According to George Bernard Shaw, “The main difficulty with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” Effective internal communication is crucial for successful organisations as it affects the ability of strategic managers to engage employees and achieve objectives (Welch & Jackson, 2007:177). According to Toth (2007:480), internal communication is one of the most important specialities of public relations, it is the force that develops “structures and cultures” within an organisation. Mersham and Skinner (2001:8) infer that communication permeates all activities in an organisation: it represents an important work tool through which individuals understand their organisational role and integrates organisational subunits. According to Grunig and Hunt (1984:23) symmetrical public relations models will increase the likelihood of employee job satisfaction and their satisfaction with the organisation as a whole. In addition, Toth states that “satisfied employees are more likely to be loyal to the organization they can identify with” (2007:481). The author further propounds that “the more participative the culture, the more symmetrical system of communication”. To augment the aforementioned statement, Kitchen argues that an organisation’s communication system and models are an important contributing factor for staff morale and productivity (2001:81). Employees tend to have higher morale and are more motivated in the workplace if all channels of communication are open. To extrapolate “open communication” systems, this paper will distil Grunig and Hunt’s (1984:21-31) symmetrical model of public relations as departure point to effective corporate communication, but also focus extensively on the internal communication matrix (Welch & Jackson, 2007:185) that will provide answers to the anti-luvial question on who communicates, to whom, in what way, with what content and for what purpose (Welch & Jackson, 2007:185). A modern organisation cannot function effectively without a positive internal climate and well-functioning channels of internal communication. To research the goals of the organisation’s internal communication strategy it should be responsive to employee needs and concerns (Seitel, 2004:288). The author further propounds the importance of internal publics as a stakeholder by arguing that in the new information era, managers have realised that the assets of the institution lie very much in the hands of the employees (Seitel, 2004:288). According to Garbarino (1977:32) the concept of culture is not new, as Ethnographers have studied the cultures of various societies since the 17th century. It is however only since the 1980’s that the impact of culture on organisational processes is being studied by scholars (Smircich & Calas, 1987). Organisational-or corporate culture is understood to be the firmly implanted values and assumptions of the organisation (Ouchi, 1981; Schein, 1990). Martin, Sitkin and Boehm (1985:99-124) identified two schools of thought regarding the question of cultural change. Cultural pragmatists argue that it can be changed due to the fact that it is a cultural efficiency managed to suit organisational goals set by the dominant coalition. Wilkins and Ouchi (1983:479) on the other hand argue that corporate culture is something that develops over time through unconscious evolution among a majority of people in the organisation, not through the dominant coalition. “Cultures specific to an organization evolve over time and influence the way in which individuals in the organization interact and react to the challenges posed by the environment” (Sriramesh et al., 1992:584). Sriramesh, Grunig and Dozier (1996) followed the lead of other organisational scholars (e.g. Wilkins 1983a) by using organisational culture to explain variables of primary interest to scholars in the field of public relations. They used corporate culture in particular to explain the nature of the communication system inside organisations. Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002:482) generated theoretical propositions about two distinct types of organisational culture which they contrasted as “authoritarian” and “participative” cultures in the Excellence study. This study further aims to establish the importance of values, symbols, meanings, beliefs, assumptions and expectations as an integral part of corporate culture, and that there is a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship between culture and communication. According to Sriramesh et al. (1996:239) altering one “will facilitate a modification in the other”. Siehl (1985) emphasised, after looking at change of leadership in organisations, that “once the desired value system was identified and articulated, the entire workforce (not just the managers) may have to strive to change or manage the organisation’s culture.” (Sriramesh, Grunig & Dozier 1996: 237). Sorge and Warner (1997:09) argue that “the core of culture is values”. Deal and Kennedy go so far as to say that they are of the opinion that successful companies succeed because their employees can “identify, embrace, and act on the values of the organization” (1982:21). The aim of this study, based on theory, is that there is a reciprocal relation between internal communication and corporate culture based on open symmetrical communication at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) can potentially modify the organisational culture of the University.