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Communicating with employees - a global strategy.

Modern technology in the form of satellite links, electronic mail and sophisticated computer graphics make global communication not just a reality but a necessity for many companies.

According to Kevin Shilling, a senior communications consultant for William M. Mercer based in London, worldwide demographic changes and the development of subsequent corporate cultures for multinational companies shed new light on the importance of effective communications. "An international employee communications strategy establishes a network for two-way communication and has several advantages for multinational companies," he said.

"First, a consistent message can be sent and received in all parts of the world where the organization operates," he said. "The reaction to that message is then relayed to corporate headquarters where it is monitored."

In addition, Mr. Shilling said that a corporation gains strength from a unified internal message. "Employees will develop a common understanding and commitment to the corporation's goals," he said. "They may even develop a sense of pride in being part of such a progressive, international company."

Other advantages of an international communications strategy include easier recruitment, retention and motivation of employees who can see exactly what part they play in a company's global success. Once that perspective is achieved, employees and managers alike are encouraged to strive toward even broader horizons.

"Local issues, such as different languages, cultures and attitudes, can be handled more easily within an international communication network," Mr. Shilling said. "They are part of the communication strategy and may alter from country to country although the corporate message will remain the same."

Finally, simple economics shows that an international communication strategy prevents money from being spent "reinventing the wheel" in each country. "The needs and aims of an employee communication program are constant, only the local details will alter," he said.

A U.S. Perspective

The 1990s will challenge American employers to adopt a less parochial attitude and reach beyond our border to a broader audience, said Jane Lump, an associate in Mercer's Chicago office.

"Two forces are influencing a new American communications mindset: The messages are becoming more complex and the media is so technologically advanced that they have collided," she said.

According to Ms. Lump, important messages that will drive communications during the next decade include corporate restructuring and change in the form of centralization or decentralization. "It is difficult enough to spread corporate culture through an existing company, but it is really hard when you merge two different companies into one entity," she said.

Ms. Lump added that corporate America is lurching toward an "age of consent" where a corporate elite does not hand down all crucial decisions from on high anymore at least not without some employee input. She also cited the move from an industrialized to an information-based economy, the worldwide decline of literacy and an older workforce as factors to contend with in the coming millennium.

"We are really seeing a decline of the print media in this country," Ms. Lump said. "In fact, most American adults are saddled with a sixth or seventh grade reading level.

"As far as corporate communications, most employees are in a What's in it for me?' mode." They want to know what the message is, how it affects them, and they want the information quickly. As a result, companies are using charts and graphs to shorten and separate messages, Ms. Lump said.-T.I.
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Author:Johnson, Tom
Publication:Risk Management
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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