Many organisations have paid attention to communication. Over the years, some innovative and successful practices have been evolved in a number of Indian organisations. For example, in BHEL (Bhopal Unit), Management Employees Communication Meetings (MECOMs) have been effectively used. A MECOM as an open forum, in which more than 700 persons participate. It has contributed to mutual sharing of information and concerns and better understanding between management and employees. It has helped in effective implementation of decisions. Establishing this system was not easy: a great deal of OD work had to be done prior to and during the evolution of MECOM.
In Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) the Chairman keeps communication with his employees by answering every letter that is addressed to him (some 80,000 in a year) and has an open house at his residence between 7 and 9 every morning where anyone can walk in and discuss personal or work-related problems. He also holds dialogues with large groups, sometimes consisting of as many as 2500 persons. A very systematic attention has been paid to communication in VSAT Industries (including regular business-related communication with the union) with great benefits.
Communication ensures the flow of goal-oriented information and messages between different individuals and groups. in all directions, to help them perform their roles more effectively. Communication minimizes distortion of information (studies have shown that in downward communication the information loss in terms of original messages is about 40 per cent by the time it reaches GMs. 60 per cent by the time plant managers receive it. 70 per cent by the time general foremen get it, and the loss is as high as 80 per cent by the time it reaches the worker). Communication also minimises hierarchical and psychological distance and maximises collaboration amongst individuals and teams in an organisation. More specifically, the following are the objectives of communication in an organisation: information sharing, feed- back, control, influence, problem solving, decision making, facilitating change, and facilitating group development. There are mainly four directions of organizational communication:
I) DOWNWARD COMMUNICATION
II) UPWARD COMMUNICATION
III) HORIZONTAL COMMUNICATION
IV) EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION
I) DOWNWARD COMMUNICATION: The following types of communications are suggested along with some mechanisms:
a)Diffusion of routine information: This can be better done through circulars, bulletin boards and so on.
b)Diffusion of procedural information: This can be done by circulars, especially prepared notebooks and manuals.
c)Socialisation: As already suggested, socialisation of individuals in the value system of the company should be done through induction booklets, special programmes, and meetings. Sharing of information from higher levels with the employees may also help employees to feel they are a part of the organisation.
d)Job-related information: This needs to be done by interpersonal communication between the job holder and his reporting officer.
e)Feedback on individual performance: The most effective way of this communication is the appraisal review and coaching meetings held on the basis of performance appraisal results.
f)Employee development: Employee development is done through dyadic communication, based on trust between a manager and his employee, training programmes. and group meetings. A more effective communication for development is by the model set by senior managers.
II) UPWARD COMMUNICATION: Upward communication is as necessary as downward communication. There are several purposes for such communication. These are suggested below, along with possible mechanisms of developing them.
a)Management control: Use of management information ensuring regular flow of information helps in achieving effective management control.
b)Feedback: Feedback from lower levels to higher levels is very useful. Such feedback can be provided by use of special questionnaires and interviews. Exit interviews conducted when people are leaving the organization are used for feedback on important aspects which the people at higher level must know.
c)Problem solving and involvement: The effective mechanism for solving person related problems of lower level management by the higher levels are grievance procedures and periodical meetings called by the higher level management. Another good method which may help the people at lower levels in the organisation to participate in problem solving is a suggestion scheme, which however, needs to be well designed, properly executed, and periodically reviewed to save it from becoming ritualistic. A small Task Force may be constituted to prepare a scheme, and monitor it for sometime. Periodical meetings allowing all employees to express their feelings and give feedback, to the management, to help them to take follow up action on problems has been found to be useful in some organisations. VST Industries have introduced the scheme in a planned way (Vidyasagar , in NHN, 1989: 150).
III) HORIZONTAL COMMUNICATION: Communication across business groups, regions and units is very important to develop collaboration and reduce bureaucratisation. The following tasks can be achieved, with different mechanisms as suggested below:
a)Experience sharing: Functional group meetings (like those of Finance, HRD, R&D, EDP people and others) from different business groups, along with other relevant people from the cor- porate departments may be helpful.
b)Problem solving: Participation of people from different business groups in solving common problems can be achieved by setting up a special Task Force (group to work out details and, in many cases, to implement action plans) and a Problem Clinic (group to diagnose problems and suggest alternative solutions, using special techniques of diagnosis).
c)Coordination: Standing committees are meant to make coordination more effective.
IV) EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION: Communication with external agencies, like current and potential customers, government agencies. competitors and potential collaborators, resource providers (banks and financial institutions) is very important, but often gets little attention. The following purposes can be served by the suggested mechanisms:
a)Image building: Annual reports, balance sheets, brochures. advertisements and the like are important mechanisms, deserving detailed planning in terms of form and content. Participation of Company Executives in professional bodies like Management Associations, Chambers of Commerce Sub- Committees also help significantly.
b)Credibility building: Balance Sheet and correspondence (prompt, purposive, and precise) contribute to the credibility of the company.
c)Influencing: An organisation should not shy away from its role of influencing policies and decisions in the concerned industries and other forums. Well-prepared dialogue by the top management and participation in conferences and forums must receive the attention they deserve. One general weakness of Indian companies is the lack of expertise and seriousness in influencing external agencies. One of the most important roles of Corporate Management is to develop an aggressive (in the positive sense) posture and competence to deal with critical issues. This ability has been amply demonstrated by many organisations.