Organization communication: who has role responsibility for this critical aspect of internal and external success? In 1925 journalists were hired to write employee “magazines”, which morphed into the employee newsletters of today. These early public relations efforts established a downward-oriented approach to corporate communication.
According to the Redding/Thompson article required in the Organizational Communication Master’s Degree program at Chico State University, “The first Ph.D dissertation specifically addressed to a topic in Industrial Communication was completed in 1952, in Personnel Administration, a department of the Business School at Ohio State University. The author was Keith Davis, and the title was, “Channels of Personal Communication Within the Management Setting”.
1967: a branch of NASA convened a “Conference on Organizational Communication”, which meant, according to a paper featured by Tompkins:
– Formal Communication: downward directed, communication focused on relationships and morale, relative effectiveness of different media, and measuring/data gathering instruments.
– Informal Communication: related to HR, interpersonal, and trust building, upward directed (including feedback), and horizontal communication.
In the 1980s, an International Association of Business Communicators survey showed most organizational communication graduates landed entry level jobs writing employee publications and then there was an interesting shift: instead of business school graduates being sought out for business communication jobs, speech graduates were recruited for these positions (Redding). Consider the impact of this change on academic practice and business development. I’ve been teaching and training at Butte College for more than 15 years, and can give testament to the fact that teachings in the departments of Business Communication, English, Communication Studies (which includes Speech) are often at odds.
Fast forward to today. My English and Communication degrees led to writing organization educational materials. That work led to be offered training jobs: one-on-one consultations, classroom-style training, and writing training manuals. I am frequently asked about the path to becoming a corporate trainer, and my answer is several paths can lead to this career. In the organizations I work with, communication role responsibility is varied and sometimes non-existent.
This week pay attention to communication role responsibility in your organization. Who is leading? HR? Marketing? Guest Services? Sales? The CEO or President? The owners? The quality of your organization communication determines the quality of your organization culture. Understanding the history of organization communication helps us understand how we landed here, today, and evaluate the effectiveness of current communication standards. Someone must champion internal communication if organizations are to evolve and thrive.
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