Magazine article Communication World

The Changing Role of Today's Communicator

Magazine article Communication World

The Changing Role of Today's Communicator

Article excerpt

Most communicators wouldn't argue with the statement that communication continues to play an increasingly integral role in organizations. The 1991 Wyatt Communication and Training Survey found that to be the case. Issues formerly the concern of senior management are becoming the communicator's to explain and translate for employees.

The survey was designed to give insight into the direction of the communication and training professions.

We wanted to find out how employee communication and training programs are used to help meet corporate goals and to facilitate change, and to compare this information to where the communication profession was in 1986 and 1989 when we conducted similar surveys. Sol we asked a large number of CEOs and professionals in human resources, compensation, benefits, communication, and training what they think -- and more than 2,200 gave us their answers.

The survey itself asked for information regarding the role of communication in the respondents' organizations, as well as what respondents see as the primary issues and objectives for communication.

Issues for the '90s

Listed in order of priority, here are the top five organizational communication issues:

* Changes in performance management;

* Quality improvement;

* Corporate values and mission;

* Employee involvement; and

* Controlling health care costs.

As communicators, our role in addressing these issues within our own organizations has become more strategic, more analytical and more important. Senior executives are having to inspire, motivate, and challenge convention -- and we play a significant role as communicators in helping them attain these objectives.

Of the five priorities, 72.9 percent of those surveyed saw the need to communicate changes in performance management -- specifically, the expansion of performance management programs to measure more than individual performance. Today, performance management must provide methods for measuring individual accountability, teamwork, quality and effective communication. As employees become more empowered and are asked to take responsibility and accountability for the bottom line, it's clear that present performance management systems are slowly becoming obsolete.

Moving down the list of priorities, 69.2 percent of survey participants recognize quality improvement as an important business objective to be communicated. Although many of us are just beginning to understand what quality is all about, we must take the initiative and share this newly found expertise with those who can make the difference -- employees. We'll need to act as mediators, disseminating ideas from above and translating them into actions for employees, and providing employees with the power and tools to pass ideas up the organization.

Almost equally important (according to 68 percent of survey respondents) is the need to communicate the corporate mission and values. Traditionally, top management has been responsible for instilling the corporate mission and values into the organization's strategies. Yet, as communicators assume more responsibility within the organization, it becomes even more important for their efforts to also reflect the corporate mission and values, translating them into day-to-day initiatives to which employees can relate.

Next in the priority line is employee involvement, which 57 percent of participants agreed was an important issue for communicators today. This was followed by 48.6 percent who found controlling health care costs a priority in our communication efforts.

At first glance these may seem like disparate issues, but, in fact, they are closely linked. Successful quality initiatives require employee awareness of corporate mission, values and objectives; employee involvement in translating these ideas into actions; and employee commitment to them as demonstrated in their individual and combined performance. …

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