Employee Communication

In our post-industrial knowledge society, employees are a central stakeholder group in organizations. They contribute to the achievement of goals and the creation of value. In the information age, the knowledge, skills and experience of all employees are valuable intangible assets. Employee communication comprises the internal communication of the organization’s top management – or of their mandated communication representatives – with all employees, as well as communication of leaders and managers with their co-workers and the informal internal communication among peers. It also includes the organization's communication with potential employees and the communication by employees outside of communications with external stakeholders and recipients on organization-related topics (Einwiller et al., 2021).

In our research, we are interested in the effects of internal communication on employees, especially on critical variables like appreciation, commitment and job engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as an interesting context to study our research questions. Firstly, it caused uncertainty and oftentimes stress, and secondly it boosted the role and amount of mobile working, causing challenges to maintain variables like organizational identification and engagement. We furthermore are interested in the role of internal communication on employees’ (non-)ethical behavior as well as employees’ role as external communicators, particularly as activists protesting for causes they are dissatisfied with in their organization.

For an introduction to employee communication see:

  • Einwiller, S., Sackmann, S. A., & Zerfass, A. (2021). Mitarbeiterkommunikation: Gegenstand, Bedeutung und Entwicklung (Employee communication: Theme, significance and development). In S. Einwiller, S. Sackmann & A. Zerfass (Hrsg.), Handbuch Mitarbeiterkommunikation. Interne Kommunikation in Unternehmen (Handbook employee communication. Internal communication in companies) (S. 3-26). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.

 

Communicating Appreciation in Organizational Environments

In view of the crisis-related changes in the working world (virtualization of the working environment, cutbacks, increased demands, job-related insecurity), the media and practitioners have in recent months been increasingly addressing the growing stress and pressure for employees in their everyday working lives. Previous scientific studies show that professional commitment can be stimulated by the active communication of support and appreciation on the part of the employer.

Internal communicators, together with HR, must take responsibility for finding appropriate ways to communicate appreciation. Previous studies have shown that appreciation is often not communicated appropriately. The research project therefore focuses on the perspective of employees asking the following research questions: (1) Which forms of appreciation are conveyed to employees (by whom) in the work context? (2) What forms of appreciation do employees need in order to increase their professional commitment and to be protected from negative effects of workloads (stress, frustration)? (3) How do employees evaluate different appreciation practices of their company?

The project on Forms of Appreciation in Internal Communication is funded by the Academic Society for Management & Communication in 2022.

Contact: Christopher Ruppel, Julia Stranzl

 

Virtual Collaboration and Communication

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global crisis that is having a profound impact on almost all areas of society, the economy, and the way we live and work together. The pandemic boosted mobile working and changed work dynamics, which in turn generated new challenges for internal communication. While task- and work-related information services can be provided relatively quickly and easily with digital tools, broader employee communication is much more difficult in a highly virtual work context. In our research, we address the question of how employees, who do not work in the office every day, can be encouraged to work responsibly and with strong commitment to their organization. In particular, internal communication experts are challenged to develop new concepts when planning and implementing community and identity-building measures. Overall, it can be assumed that in virtual collaboration and communication environments, central goals of employee communication such as relationship building, identity formation and motivation require adapted and possibly novel strategies and practices.

The project on Employee Engagement in Times of Virtual Collaboration was funded by the Academic Society for Management & Communication in 2021.

Contact: Sabine Einwiller, Julia Stranzl, Ingrid Wahl

Publications:

 

Communicating with Employees in Times of Crises

An organizational crisis can trigger various negative feelings such as uncertainty, anger, anxiety and stress among employees, which highlights the importance to address this stakeholder group communicatively during a crisis. In our research, we analyze the effects of different forms of crisis communication on employees’ cognitive and affective reactions during organizational crisis situations. In particular, we are interested in the role of communication to maintain job engagement and protect against job disengagement, which is a self-protective response associated with low work productivity, dissatisfaction, and turnover. Our research argues for a socio-emotional crisis communication approach that puts employees and their uncertainty at the center of analysis.

Contact: Julia Stranzl, Christopher Ruppel

Publications:

 

Role of Internal Communication for Ethical Employee Behavior

Why do employees (and managers) behave unethically at the workplace, and what role does communication play in that context? In this regard, we investigate the role of internal communication and its potential influence on employees’ (non-)ethical behavior. Authentic internal communication about moral norms and values is of vital importance for creating and maintaining an organizational culture that facilitates ethical decisions and behavior of employees and executive personnel. But how should internal communication strategies and measures look like to foster greater sensitivity towards ethical issues, and which other factors are relevant when it comes to deciding which actions to take?

Contact: Daniel Wolfgruber

Publications:

  • Mazzei A., Ravazzani S., & Wolfgruber D. (2021). Whistleblowing in Organisationen: Wenn Mitarbeitende auf Missstände aufmerksam machen. In S. Einwiller, S. Sackmann S., & A. Zerfaß (Hrsg.), Handbuch Mitarbeiterkommunikation (S. 487-500). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.
  • Wolfgruber D. (2021). Mitarbeiterkommunikation zur Stärkung moralischen Mitarbeiterverhaltens. In S. Einwiller, S. Sackmann, & A. Zerfaß (Hrsg.), Handbuch Mitarbeiterkommunikation (S. 601-619). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.

 

Employees as Ambassadors and Activists

Employees without a communication or representation function are particularly credible communicators for their organizations, as they are seen as insiders and as rather independent in their commentaries. Thus, their communication towards external audiences can have a considerable influence on how the organization is perceived. The main focus of our research is on employee activism, which is a form of proactive, direct employee participation, where employees personally initiate or participate in protest actions. Cases of employee activism at Google, Amazon or Salesforce have demonstrated that employee activists engage in socially relevant causes like climate change, discrimination or human rights. It shows that employees are increasingly taking a stand against their companies with regard to business decisions and company policies. Employees take this stand collectively and in public, while also—to a considerable extent—organizing and communicating through social media. Hence, through employee activism the discussion about employees’ strategic role as communicators and their active participation in corporate affairs is taking on a new dimension.

Contact: Neda Ninova-Solovykh

Publications:

  • Ninova-Solovykh, N., & Einwiller, S. (2021). Employee activism – When employees speak out publicly against their employer. Paper presented at the 22nd EUPRERA Congress, Oct. 7-9, Pamplona, Spain.
  • Ninova-Solovykh, N., & Einwiller, S. (2021). Mitarbeitende als Botschafter von Unternehmen. In S. Einwiller, S. Sackmann & A. Zerfass (Hrsg.), Handbuch Mitarbeiterkommunikation (S. 463-486). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.