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Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to propose a definition of internal communication based on intangible resources rather than organizational boundaries. Design/methodology/approach The paper reviews the resource‐based theory of the company, the constructivist theory of communication and the situational theory of publics. It then proposes a resource model (RM) of internal communication based on interactive processes aimed at creating two catalytic resources for organizing: knowledge and allegiance. The field research explores whether this model captures the concept of internal communication prevailing in business, based on interviews with ten internal communication managers in Italian companies. Findings The companies in this paper display a strong awareness of how intangible resources, such as knowledge and employee attitudes, contribute to the company's success. Consequently, they seek to promote active communication behaviours among employees. The RM depicts many characteristics of the way managers currently perceive internal communication. Research limitations/implications Because of the qualitative nature of the research, the results do not have universal validity. Practical implications The paper suggests that the main function of internal communication departments is no longer to transmit messages but to promote active communication behaviours at all organizational levels. Originality/value The paper suggests a definition of internal communication that would help to generate the intangible resources that fuel organizations: knowledge and allegiance. It supports a new focus on active communication behaviours of employees.
Promoting active communication
behaviours through internal
communication
Alessandra Mazzei
Institute of Economics and Marketing, IULM University of Milan,
Milan, Italy
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to propose a definition of internal communication based on
intangible resources rather than organizational boundaries.
Design/methodology/approach The paper reviews the resource-based theory of the company,
the constructivist theory of communication and the situational theory of publics. It then proposes a
resource model (RM) of internal communication based on interactive processes aimed at creating two
catalytic resources for organizing: knowledge and allegiance. The field research explores whether this
model captures the concept of internal communication prevailing in business, based on interviews
with ten internal communication managers in Italian companies.
Findings The companies in this paper display a strong awareness of how intangible resources,
such as knowledge and employee attitudes, contribute to the company’s success. Consequently, they
seek to promote active communication behaviours among employees. The RM depicts many
characteristics of the way managers currently perceive internal communication.
Research limitations/implications Because of the qualitative nature of the research, the results
do not have universal validity.
Practical implications The paper suggests that the main function of internal communication
departments is no longer to transmit messages but to promote active communication behaviours at all
organizational levels.
Originality/value The paper suggests a definition of internal communication that would help to
generate the intangible resources that fuel organizations: knowledge and allegiance. It supports a new
focus on active communication behaviours of employees.
Keywords Communication, Corporate communications, Employee relations, Knowledge creation, Italy
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Internal communication is generally defined as the communication flow among people
within the boundaries of an organization. Many scholars emphasize that effective
internal communication is a prerequisite for a positive external corporate image
or reputation (Tench and Yeomans, 2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997;
Sholes, 1997; Goldhaber, 1993; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). Other authors note the role of
internal communication as a relationship management and commitment-building
function (Cutlip et al., 2006; Jo and Shim, 2005; Ledinghan and Bruning, 2000; Grunig,
1992). Many scholars draw attention to a lack of satisfactory theoretical models to
describe and interpret internal communication (see Welch and Jackson (2007) for a
review). New theoretical perspectives have been applied to internal communication,
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1356-3289.htm
Internal
communications
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Received March 2009
Revised April 2009,
September 2009,
December 2009
Accepted January 2010
Corporate Communications: An
International Journal
Vol. 15 No. 3, 2010
pp. 221-234
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1356-3289
DOI 10.1108/13563281011068096
including stakeholder theory (Welch and Jackson, 2007) and a multidisciplinary
approach (Kalla, 2005a).
Scholars often distinguish internal from external communication by referring to
organizational boundaries. They implicitly or explicitly consider the organization as a
system continuously interacting with its external environment (Cutlip et al., 2006; Tench
and Yeomans, 2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997; Sholes, 1997; Goldhaber,
1993; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). But organizational boundaries are an inaccurate criterion
to use in defining internal communication for a number of reasons. For example,
all employees are members of the external public and receive messages from dozens of
sources and media channels. Organizations must be careful to communicate news
internally before employees learn about it from the general media, as in the case of a
merger or acquisition. The timing of certain news announcements from the organization
is critical and employees should never be blindsided. It is almost impossible to isolate
internal from external communication flows.
This paper begins with a literature review of the resource-based theory of the
company, the constructive theory of communication and the situational theory of
publics. Drawing on this review, the paper proposes a definition and a model of internal
communication that abandons the concept of organizational boundaries and focuses on
intangible resources for competitive advantage. It then presents qualitative research to
determine whether the resource model (RM) of internal communication can adequately
capture the concept as companies understand it. Finally, the paper offers suggestions for
future research and managerial implications.
2. Literature review
This paper is built on the resource-based theory of the company, the constructive
theory of communication and the situational theory of publics.
The resource-based theory of the company
The resource-based theory of the company states that competitive advantage stems
from firm-specific resources that a company owns and that assure its uniqueness in its
sector (Rumelt, 1984; Barney, 1991). A sustainable competitive advantage requires the
ownership of resources and the ability of a company to access, use, exchange and
combine them (Teece and Pisano, 1994). Some authors suggest that knowledge-based
resources are the less imitable and highlight the processes individuals use to integrate
their tacit and specialized knowledge with that of groups (Grant, 1996). Other
researchers have asserted the social nature of the knowledge generation process in
organizations (Nonaka, 1991).
The processes of organizational learning and knowledge generation build on a
network of trust relationships which foster the exchange and sharing of resources, both
within and among organizations, and set up the social capital of a company (Coleman,
1988, 1990). Skills, behaviours and interactions of human resources form the foundation
of intangible resources for competitive advantage (Colbert, 2004). Knowledge tends to be
embedded in workers’ competencies and abilities. Knowledge creation and sharing
depend upon the social interactions among employees and with external communities
(Snell et al., 2001).
Together, these concepts emphasize that knowledge and trust relationships are
fundamental elements of a company’s competitive edge. Communication among
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colleagues, trust, common objectives and shared values also enable knowledge creation
(Kalla, 2005b).
Communication as constructivism and enactment
To describe the generation of knowledge and trust, one can adopt an approach that
considers communication the foundation of organizational structures and processes
(McPhee, 2001). Many studies claim that communication itself constitutes organization
(Tompkins, 1984). For example, when a manager presents a project through oral or
written communication, he essentially defines the team structure and initiates further
action. In this theoretical framework, communication is equivalent to organization and
creates the social context of organizations (Tompkins and Wanca-Thibault, 2001;
Putnam et al., 1996). Communication has been defined as constructive (Miller, 2006) or
constitutive (Penman, 2000; Craig, 1999).
Some scholars assert that, through communication, people enact their organizational
environment (Weick, 1977) according to protocols of interaction consistent with the
expectations they share about reciprocal roles (Heath, 1994). Communication and
relationship processes allow a company, its members, and its stakeholders to become
mutually meaningful and influential. Taylor (1993) asserts that an organization is a text
produced by means of conversations among many authors.
The constructivist approach says that communication is a social process of
interaction and/or interpretation that gives sense and meaning to social reality,
organizational actions, events and organizational roles and processes. This concept of
communication is consistent with the resource-based theory of the company. The theory
of enactment points out that each member of an organization can enact processes to
negotiate meanings and make the organization operate. Therefore, the responsibility of
effective communication does not lie only in the hands of managers.
The situational theory of publics
The situational theory of publics examines the different attitudes of people toward
communication (Grunig, 1978; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). Publics can passively process
received information or actively seek, interpret and spread information and then
engage in action.
Active or passive communication behaviours stem from the level of awareness people
have about a situation, the perception of obstacles to redressing the situation and their
involvement in the situation. More aware and involved people tend to be more active,
whereas people who believe themselves powerless tend to exhibit passive
communication behaviours.
Field studies that apply this theory to internal publics have found that active
communication behaviours differ from passive ones in many aspects. For example,
involved employees actively engage in interpersonal, horizontal and cross-functional
communication; seek information from multiple sources, from other specialists, and
from the environment; and they search for management-, job- and task-related
information (Grunig and Hunt, 1984).
Some researchers give insights for expanding the active communication behaviours
concept. Ritter (1999) developed the notion of networking competence. This notion refers
to the ability of co-workers to build and maintain relationships with outside people and
institutions who can provide knowledge. MacMillan et al. (2000, p. 11) extended the
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concept of loyalty to the one of active allegiance. Loyalty implies deciding to stay in a
relationship and avoiding opportunism. Active allegiance implies behaviours such as:
[...] referring others to the firm or speaking well of it; contradicting others who seem to be
falsely critical of the business; informing the management of the business if they believe
something they observe is wrong and may harm the business in some way; and, themselves
deliberately doing things to preserve or enhance the good name of the business.
Snell et al. (2001) suggested that employees have a psychological contract based on
commitment, collaboration, productivity or compliance with their company. Those
with an intense psychological contract contribute the most to their company’s success
(Snell et al., 2001). They are also the most active in terms of communication behaviours.
3. Research design and method
Analysis of the literature revealed that knowledge is the most valuable resource a
company needs for competitive advantage and it requires trust relationships and active
communication behaviours from people involved in knowledge generation. Based on
this theoretical background, this paper defines internal communication as a set of
interactive processes aimed at generating the catalytic resources that make a company
work. These two resources consist of knowledge to fuel working processes and
employee allegiance that encourages them to apply their knowledge to company
processes (Mazzei, 2004, 2007).
In bringing together all theoretical insights regarding publics and their
communication behaviours, the active communication behaviours considered in the
present study are to seek, use, disseminate and share information and knowledge
purposefully; to search for informal, horizontal, cross-functional communication;
to engage in negotiating for mutual understanding; to search for information about
corporate strategies and values; to inform managers about problems, whether potential
or existing; to disseminate positive information enhancing the company’s reputation; to
defend one’s own company against attacks; and to maintain and nurture relations with
colleagues, clients and partners.
In this paper, a RM of internal communication has been drawn to contrast with a
system model (SM). The first is based on the system theory of organization and it lies at
the basis of the most widespread literature about internal communication (Cutlip et al.,
2006; Tench and Yeomans, 2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997; Sholes, 1997;
Goldhaber, 1993; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). While the latter is based on the resource-based
theory of the company. The two models are built delineating the following variables:
internal communication definition criteria, aims, criteria for categorizing employees,
channels, linkage of internal communication with human resource management
systems and elements of the internal communication plan.
Internal communication definition criteria in the SM are mainly organizational
boundaries and distinguish between the internal and external environment (Grunig and
Hunt, 1984). In the RM, they are intangible resources such as motivation, involvement,
trust, loyalty, allegiance and knowledge (Kalla, 2005a).
Internal communication aims in the SM include targeting messages, disseminating
information, delivering communication outputs, educating people to share the
company’s objectives and standards and creating the willingness to be a member of
the company (Argenti and Forman, 2002). In the RM, the aim is to stimulate allegiance
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and promote active communication behaviours such as engaging in mutual
understanding with colleagues (Grunig, 1978; Grunig and Hunt, 1984).
Criteria for categorizing employees in the SM include hierarchy, organizational roles,
age and level of education. In the RM, the main segmentation criteria are competencies
and psychological contracts, and communication audiences include suppliers,
consultants, contractors and industry partners.
Channels and instruments in the SM disseminate information toward employees in
a push manner. In the RM, most important communication channels and instruments
offer information to be used in a pull manner and are based on contents generated by
employees.
Linkage of internal communication with human resource management systems in the
SM is weak. Internal communication conveys job-related information such as contracts,
benefits, career paths and reward systems. In the RM, internal communication is
specifically related to the human resource function, to organizational well-being, and to
professional development. Further, it conveys strategic information.
The main elements of the internal communication plan in the SM are the audiences
and instruments used to deliver messages (Sholes, 1997). According to the focus on
intangible resources in the RM, the most important elements of the internal
communication plan are communication aims and processes, such as cultural
accommodation within the firm (Cornelissen et al., 2006). Managers of related functions
are considered essential to promoting active communication behaviours.
The research presented here tries to determine whether the concept of internal
communication prevailing in companies is closer to SM or RM using the given
criteria. If so, it could fill a conceptual gap. The data in this study consist of the
opinions of managers and professionals about the nature and scope of internal
communication in their organizations. The data do not reveal whether the RM has been
implemented.
Because of the exploratory nature of the study (Yin, 1994), the research used
qualitative analysis to test the RM. Data gathering was based on semi-structured
interviews conducted in 2008 by telephone or e-mail to internal communication
managers of ten companies operating in Italy. The companies were all members of a
professional internal communication network. The researchers were institutional
partners in this network and could easily establish relationships with managers who
were interviewed, assuring the consistency of data gathered by means of telephone and
e-mail interviews.
The presence of an internal communication department and an articulated internal
communication program were the primary criteria used to select companies. All the
companies selected are large organizations (each of them has thousands of employees)
and operate internationally. They are either Italian multinationals or branches of foreign
companies and they operate in different industrial sectors, from manufacturing, retail
and banking to strategic consultancies.
The researchers verified the collected information through examining official
documents, internal communication presentations and plans, company brochures,
publications on corporate social responsibility and diversity management programs and
corporate web sites describing communication and human resource management topics.
In some cases, there were additional contacts with respondents after the interviews to
ask for clarification and further information.
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The interview topics concerned the variables of the internal communication models
(Table I). For each topic, the interview contained one or more open questions for a total
number of 9.
The researchers analysed interview transcripts through a qualitative
(or ethnographic) summary (Morgan, 1988). They closely examined each answer and
selected quotations from the interview transcripts to find the best statements related
to the research issues. They categorized each answer according to the research coding
scheme presented in Table II. Some answers belong to the SM, others to the RM, while
some answers contained features of both models. Table III gives an example of the
categorization strategy applied to the interview transcripts.
4. Findings
Although the study was qualitative and statistical tests were not part of the design, the
researchers included the number of companies belonging to the coding scheme
categories to complete the data analysis (Table IV), as suggested by Morgan (1988).
Internal communication definition criteria
One company gave a definition of internal communication reflecting the SM: “Internal
communication in my organization is defined as a purposefully-oriented information
exchange among employees”. Two companies defined internal communication based only
on intangible resources: “organizational values and culture-sharing, knowledge creation
and dissemination to build a common language”; “to create an organizational identity”.
Most companies gave definitions that fit both models. For example:
Internal communication is a human resource management lever to enable and improve
external communication; a managerial day-by-day function, the life of our organization.
We support managers, but we do not communicate internally.
Variables Asked questions
Internal communication definition criteria (1) How is internal communication defined in
your company?
Internal communication aims (2) What are the internal communication aims of
your company?
Criteria for categorizing employees (3) What categories of employees receive internal
communication in your company?
Channels and instruments (4) What are the internal communication activities and
instruments which will be applied in your company in
the immediate future?
Linkage of internal communication with
human resource management systems
(5) Is your company internal communication considered
a human resource management tool? Can you give
some examples?
(6) Does a program for diversity management exist in
your company? Can you give some examples?
Elements of internal communication plan (7) Does your organization have an internal
communication plan? What are the program elements?
(8) Does your company conduct an internal
communication audit? How?
(9) Which communication outcomes are evaluated by
your company? How?
Table I.
Variables of the internal
communication models
and asked questions
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Variables SM RM Both models
Internal communication definition
criteria
Organizational boundaries
and memberships
Key intangible resources
(knowledge, psychological contract
and its relational intensity)
The answer contains some features
of both models
Internal communication aims Message targeting, dissemination of
information, communication output
To promote active communication
behaviours
To share corporate values
and mission
To stimulate commitment, loyalty,
empowerment, allegiance
To create the willingness to stay
and to be part of the organization
Criteria for categorizing employees Hierarchical level
Organizational roles
Age
Education
Professional competencies
Psychological contract
Channels and instruments Information and content
push activities
Information and content pull
activities
Employee-generated contents and
activities
Linkage of internal communication
with human resource management
systems
No links or weak links to human
resource management practices
Relevant for human resource
management
Content: job-related information
(contracts, benefits, career paths,
reward systems)
Organizational well being
Professional development
Content: strategic contents
Elements of internal communication
plan
Targets and instruments Aims and processes
Involvement of specialists and
managers of other functions
Table II.
Coding scheme for
categorizing the
interview transcripts
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This definition refers specifically to the boundary between the internal and external
environment but at the same time highlights the active communication role of managers:
In my organization the term “internal communication” is not used at all. We simply say
“communication”. The communication team is expected to assure timeliness and consistent
messages, and increase the sense of belonging and dialogue among organizational units.
This definition refers to a strong integration between internal and external
communication and implicitly refers to organizational boundaries. At the same time,
it refers to an intangible resource (sense of belonging) and to a communication
behaviour (dialogue).
Internal communication aims
In three companies, communication aims expressed by the respondents were
categorized into the SM. For example:
Our internal communication aims are to facilitate the internal information flow, to avoid
overload, to reach all publics, to increase the sense of belonging”; “to disseminate information,
to tailor messages to the audiences, to listen to internal communication needs in order to
deliver communication consistent with organizational aims.
Internal communication aims in six companies reflect features of both models, as for
example: “To inform the staff of business strategies; to improve the organizational
climate and to facilitate knowledge sharing” and “to disseminate information at all
levels, to support active collaboration, project-building and common results”. In these
cases, organizations attempt both to relay messages to internal publics through
appropriate tools and to promote communication behaviours and allegiance. In one
company, the internal communication aims statement was classified as reflecting the
RM: “Enabling employees to exercise their independence, judgment and creativity”.
Variables SM RM Both models
Internal
communication
aims
Company A: “to
facilitate the internal
information flow”
Company B: “to enable
employees to exercise their
independence, judgment and
creativity”
Company C: “to spread
information at all
hierarchical levels (SM); to
support active collaboration,
project development, and
common results (RM)”
Table III.
Example of the
categorization strategy
applied to the interview
transcripts
Variables SM RM Both models Missing answers
Internal communication definition criteria 1 2 6 1
Internal communication aims 3 1 6
Criteria for categorizing employees 6 0 4
Channels and instruments 0 1 9
Linkage of internal communication with human
resource management systems 1 4 3 2
Elements of internal communication plan 3 5 1 1
Table IV.
Count of the companies
for each variables of the
two models
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Criteria for categorizing employees
All ten companies use segmentation criteria based on organizational variables such as
the hierarchical distinction between employees and managers or between white and blue
collar workers. They also use socio-demographic variables such as the age of co-workers
or their professional life phase. Organizational and socio-demographic segmentation
variables are used in order to capture different communication needs and expectations
and pertain to the SM.
Four companies use variables that underline the psychological contract of employees
with their employers. For example, a service company devoted internal communication
activities to “professional communities. Our role, as internal communication managers,
is to help technicians communicate and develop their own professional communities
with colleagues from our branches all over the world”. The segment of professionals is
identified based on the psychological contract between employees and employer, and
assumes a specific orientation to action.
Channels and instruments
All the companies interviewed cited various channels for conveying information in a
push manner: house organs, newsletters, internal advertising, company radio, web TV,
bulletin boards, e-mailing to staff, meetings and external campaigns directed also to
staff. These examples refer to the SM of internal communication.
All organizations in this study integrate push channels with pull and interactive ones.
For example, they use online interactive meetings, online forums, employee-generated
intranets, call for ideas open to all employees for special projects, communication networks
with pivotal and gatekeeper roles, internal communication committees formed by
employees, employee lounges and restaurants, library, and internet points, organizational
theatre, unconventional events such as harvest in a vineyard, and a workshop to create a
company perfume. All respondent answers were classified as fitting both models.
Linkage of internal communication with human resource management systems
One company declared that “although motivating employees is very important,
internal communication currently focuses on building an effective system able to
convey information”, consistent with the SM. Two companies did not answer, while
three of them refer to both models. For example:
Internal communication is used to explain the Performance Management System, to
disseminate information about organizational life. We do not have any diversity management
program. Internal communication supports training for competencies.
This declaration, fitting the SM, refers also to professional development, a feature of
the RM.
Four companies made statements labelled as RM. For example:
Internal communication is a human resource management function. Internal communication
supports managers in their front line communication role. Internal communication is also
managed as a variable relevant for the organizational climate and it is also training-focused.
We implement extensive diversity management programs.
Elements of the internal communication plan
Three companies described their internal communication plans in terms that
categorized them as belonging to the SM. For example, one company declared that its
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internal communication plan explicates “instruments, events and specific campaigns”.
Among the interviewed companies, five fit the RM. One company’s internal
communication plan is based on communication aims and organizational values. It
then identifies instruments and activities that match the company’s communication
values, i.e. interactivity, dynamism and trans-nationality. Another company had
decentralized programs inspired by the strategic business plan and by communication
priorities including simplicity, clarity and efficiency.
5. Discussion and conclusions
This study proposes a definition of internal communication as a set of interactive
processes to generate knowledge and allegiance, definitively abandoning a systemic
perspective that refers to organizational boundaries. The exploratory qualitative
research was intended to understand to what extent the SM and the RM capture the
vision about internal communication of interviewed managers as it emerges from
findings.
Findings show that the definition of internal communication given by the
respondents in almost all cases leans toward the RM. Most companies define internal
communication by referring to intangible resources, such as knowledge, or
communication behaviours, such as dialogue. Only one company refers to boundaries
without mentioning any intangible resources.
It appears that respondents are aware that competitive advantage stems from
intangible resources (Rumelt, 1984; Barney, 1991) and that communication plays a key
role in developing such resources (Coleman, 1988, 1990; Tucker et al., 1996; Kalla,
2005b). This finding supports the theoretical framework of the RM of internal
communication.
The aims of internal communication in most cases contain features of both models.
Many companies expressed an aim of creating a climate for active communication
behaviours such as knowledge sharing, collaboration and creativity. This finding is
consistent with previous research that suggests encouraging communication contacts
among all members of the organization (Brønn et al., 2004) and asserts that
communication is central for all organizational processes (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2002).
This supports the RM hypothesis that, because knowledge and allegiance are generated
through social interactions, the aim of internal communication is promoting active
communication and allegiance.
Most interviewed companies categorize their employees according to
socio-demographic and organizational variables in order to capture different
information needs, as the SM requires. Only a limited number of companies
categorize their employees based on the psychological contract as suggested by the RM,
possibly because segmentation techniques based on behavioural and professional
criteria are lacking. Previous studies in the public relations field suggest categorizing
publics using their level of involvement and their knowledge about a topic (Grunig and
Hunt, 1984; Hallahan, 2001), providing a basis for categorizing employees.
All interviewed companies use communication channels and instruments that give
employees the opportunity to express themselves. This is consistent with the RM
because interactive communication tools encourage employees’ active communication
behaviours. Technology is rapidly changing communication habits inside and outside
organizations because so many people, especially the younger ones, are proficient
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in using technology to communicate (Prensky, 2001). Further, new technologies could
disseminate a myriad of communication signals (de Michelis, 2001) as required by
knowledge communication (Lurati and Eppler, 2006).
According to the findings reported in this paper, there is a connection between
internal communication and human resource management systems, consistent with the
RM. This link contributes to organizational well-being, a collaborative environment and
organizational change and in turn promotes further allegiance between the company
and its employees. Human resource management systems would benefit from the
support of communication programs (Freitag and Pitcherit-Duthler, 2004; Jo and
Shim, 2005).
A few companies focus their internal communication plans on instruments and
publics to be reached, reflecting an SM approach. According to the RM, most internal
communication plans have explicit aims and processes and are inspired by quality
factors and company values. This demonstrates that the interviewed companies based
some managerial practices on intangible resources and communication behaviours,
according to the RM.
One of the major managerial implications of the present study is that internal
communication is no longer merely a message-targeting function (examples would
include publishing a house organ or managing the annual meeting). On the contrary, the
internal communication department has a key role in encouraging active employee
behaviours in addition to delivering messages. For internal communication managers,
this new role of internal communication department implies they must clarify which
communication behaviours to activate, which groups of employees are supposed to be
active or passive, and what managerial actions are more likely to promote active
communication behaviours. Developing techniques for employee categorization based
on the psychological contract is important in order to identify the communication
attitudes of employees.
Another key managerial issue is to identify the most important active
communication behaviours in a specific organization. This issue might entail a
work-flow analysis involving employees and encouraging them to initiate
communication behaviours that improve organizational processes.
Scholars of internal communication and managers have to create activation
strategies to transform inactive publics to active publics (Hallahan, 2001). Inactivity
derives from the lack of awareness, sensitivity and ability and also from a sense of
constraint. Therefore, internal communication departments have to manage these issues
by enhancing motivation, and implementing training and coaching programs to
improve the communication competencies of all employees and increase organizational
trust. In planning activation strategies, it is necessary to forge a link between internal
communication and human resource management systems. This could mean
“co-locating” the internal communication unit in the human resource department
or building a common task force.
Given the qualitative nature of the research, the companies studied do not represent
the universe of companies and other organizations in Italy. Further, this study did not
explore the actual diffusion of the RM among Italian companies.
A quantitative survey of statistically consistent data would measure the diffusion of
the theoretical RM in Italy and in other countries. Other research would be useful to
verify whether companies adhering to the RM are really able to develop employees’
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allegiance and promote active communication behaviours. Such research should involve
employees and could be qualitative or quantitative. And finally, it would be interesting
to conduct case studies to investigate the internal communication and human resource
management practices most suitable for allegiance development, knowledge creation
and active communication.
To conclude, the picture that emerges from the interviews reflects a model of internal
communication that differs from SM, which is widespread in the literature. Most
companies show features of both the SM as well as the RM. This means that the SM does
not entirely capture the concept of internal communication prevailing in companies.
The RM depicts many characteristics of the way managers currently perceive internal
communication. Therefore, the RM could provide a way to fill the gap between theory
and practice that was at the origin of this research.
A renewal of the language could be very useful to allow progress in internal
communication theory. The expression “internal communication” could be revisited. The
term “internal”, which refers to the organizational boundaries, could be replaced with
“creative”, “collaborative” or “organizational”. The term “communication”, which implies
targeting messages, could be changed in “relationships”, “behaviour” or “interaction”.
This exploratory research hopes to contribute to the advancement of internal
communication concept and to provide the groundwork for future empirical research.
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About the author
Alessandra Mazzei is an Associate Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Relations
at IULM University of Milan. She is currently a part of the Faculty of the Doctoral School in
Corporate Communication and the Faculty of the Master degree in Political, Social and
Institutional Communication at IULM University. She is the Coordinator of the Internal
Communication Laboratory at IULM University. Her research interests and publications focus
on internal communication, communication audit, relationship management, corporate
reputation management, marketing and communication of credence goods. Alessandra Mazzei
can be contacted at: alessandra.mazzei@iulm.it
To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.com
Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints
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... Another theory is known as the "Constructive Theory of Communication" which portrays that, communication is a social process of interaction that give the information of the meaning in the society to describe the reality of social interacting group or organization and organization roles. The theory further view that, members of the organization or company can make meaningful interaction and negotiations to each other and enable the organization to operate and met its intended objective, [26]. So far this theory suggest that, with the potential of communicating values, information, behavior, job responsibility and skills from an employees in the organization, the manager need to understand and recognize that, each employees, top and even lower management level have the same significant and need to be evenly considered in the organization in which they work on. ...
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... Moreover, social network theorists suggest that innovators show a higher centrality in advice networks (P. A. Gloor et al., 2020): The structure of their social relationships determines the quantity and quality of their knowledge, as well as how rapidly people can acquire and elaborate the information necessary to discover new opportunities (Garud & Prabhu, 2020). Finally, recent research has recognized the strategic importance of the voluntary communicative behavior of innovators: collecting relevant information and generating knowledge are two catalytic resources for increasing an organization's effectiveness and innovative performance (Kim & Rhee, 2011;Mazzei, 2010;Slotnick, 2007;Sofiyabadi et al., 2020;Ye et al., 2016). However, all these studies tend to focus on the behavioral traits that enable innovators to discover novel ideas. ...
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