In my Public Relations Capstone course, we recently read a case study titled “Employee Communications and Community: An Exploratory Study” by Andi Stein. As a PR student, I know the effectiveness of the way messages are disseminated to key publics, but I never thought about it with employees. In our PR classes, our projects are mostly geared towards campaigns, press releases, research papers and journalistic writing pieces. Very seldom do we focus on communicating internally in an organization. The first thing I learned in Public Relations Ethics was how to properly write memos and why we write them and that was extremely helpful.
This case study opened my eyes to the importance of how messages are delivered. Stein developed this case study by sending out a survey to PeaceHealth employees and their “perceptions of the effectiveness of various communication tools in helping to establish a sense of community at three levels of the organization—departmental, regional, and organizational—to assess the relationship between employee communications and community building.”
I really like this study because he didn’t simply look at communication tools and determined if they work. He wanted these communication tools to be used to reach a particular goal: to create community between the employees. About 87% of the participants agreed that establishing a strong sense of community in the workplace is important. I assumed the numbers were going to be high in that category. You can’t have a healthy and happy workplace if there is no sense of community. The most preferred communication tool however, was the use of the company intranet.
Although it is difficult to apply this study to every company, I think that it is a great learning tool for understanding which tools are appropriate at which times. For example, if I want to send out a message informing a department of a picnic outing, I’m not going to tell each individual person face-to-face or over the phone. Email or the company intranet would suffice. Large or small companies, I think Stein’s findings should be taken into consideration when choosing communication tools.