Page 1: Introduction
Internal communications occur between various members and parts of an organisation and, usually, there are several different ways of delivery. Communication is a two-way process through which ideas, opinions and information are passed. When we first think of internal communications we might identify simple information tools such as memos, notices or e-mail, which transmit facts, figures and instructions, usually down the management structure. For communications to be effective, there are many different channels, each of which should have a clear purpose and should always seek to engage individual employees in the life of the organisation. Good communication does not simply pass information from one place to another - it involves people in the life of the business.
The following is a riddle common to Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish religions: ‘Is there a sound in the forest if a tree crashes down and no one is around to hear it?’ The correct answer is probably ‘no’, on the grounds that there is no sound unless someone perceives the sound waves. This simple riddle helps to make the point that in communication, emphasis should be on the needs of the recipient rather than the sender.
Management theory shows that organisations have simply communicated ‘downwards’ for too long, without taking the needs of the listener into account. Modern theorists argue that communication should focus on what individuals can contribute to the organisation in a way which engages them in key issues. “Communication in an organisation is not a means of organisation. It is a mode of organisation.”
The merger and conversion of the Halifax
This case study focuses on the Halifax’s decision to invest in a business television (BTV) system. Although a familiar name on the high street, the Halifax’s size and complexity is not so well known. In fact, it is a complex organisation with many different parts. As well as its branch network, it has hundreds of estate agency offices, several head office complexes, a life assurance arm and numerous other parts. When the decision to ‘buy’ business television was taken, this complex organisation was about to embark upon a period of unprecedented change. The management team realised that its internal communication, which at the time was heavily reliant on paper, needed a significant boost.
Interestingly, the BTV decision was made before the decision to merge with Leeds Permanent Building Society and to convert to a public limited company, but the system was not yet operational when the plans were leaked to the press in November 1994. Most employees heard about this major step from the morning papers and news bulletins rather than directly from their own managers. How different it would have been if the organisation had had its own television network working that day!