INTERNAL ORGANISATIONAL COMMUNICATION

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THEORETICAL STATEMENTS FOR INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION

As discussed in Section 6.3.1.1 of the previous chapter, the construction of the model for internal safety communication was largely based on the theoretical statements derived from internal organisational communication literature. This literature, and therefore these theoretical statements, offered a general understanding of internal organisational communication, and not internal safety communication within the mining and construction industries specifically. For this reason, interviews and focus group discussions were used for the contextualisation and situation of these theoretical statements as per the focus of this study.Addendum A lists all theoretical statements of the literature review per respective theory discussed. In this section, these theoretical statements are subsequently discussed from the vantage point of internal safety communication within the mining and construction industries of South Africa, as based on the foregoing literature review chapters.The theoretical statements derived from the systems theory include the concept of wholeness, or holism, pointing to the fact that internal safety communication (as a subsystem) in any organisation in the mining and construction industries should never be viewed or considered in isolation. This kind of communication functions within a greater communication and organisational system alongside other systems with competing as well as complementary objectives. The other systems have an influence on the internal safety communication in the organisation and vice versa, due to the fact that all systems are interrelated and interdependent. In order to see all systems synchronise to the benefit of the organisation, these systems should work together towards mutually defined and observed goals. This process is reached through the integrative tendencies of systems, while their self-assertive tendencies sometimes complicate it. These kinds of complications that spur on turbulent environments should, however, not necessarily be seen as negative, as these could drive the overarching system beyond the previously experienced equilibrium; given that these systems are open and responsive to one another.The theoretical statements of the stakeholder theory, which further the notion of interrelativeness as from the systems theory, revolve around the fact that organisations need to be considerate or heedful of the needs of all stakeholder groups. The theory also distinguishes between primary and secondary stakeholders. Primary stakeholders are most important to the organisation, because the value they add or withhold from the organisation is directly proportional to the success that the organisation experiences. Employees are regarded as one of these primary stakeholder groups, and one of their principal needs in organisations within the mining and construction industries is that of their safety. The theoretical statements of the stakeholder theory, therefore, cumulatively express that considering the safety needs of employees within these industries reflects positively on the reaching of organisational goals, and eventually the bottom line of the organisation.The theoretical statements of the relationship management theory propose that the cornerstone of any stakeholder relationship is communication. The good relationship instigated by this communication will see employees being more likely to align themselves to the organisational safety objectives, and less likely to interfere with their realisation, for example through aspects such as safety strikes, which continually occur in these industries. For the organisation to enjoy this kind of relationship, it is important that employees have relatively full disclosure of safety information from the organisation and access to the organisation, through management, as the other party to the relationship. The power balance in the organisation–employee relationship should hence be relatively fair or reasonable and trust, commitment and satisfaction should be present therein. Furthermore, the organisation–employee relationship should be reinforced by the organisation‟s genuine participation in the relationship due to their concern for employees‟ safety.The communication that underlines the organisation–employee relationship should be practised in a strategic manner, as proposed by the first theoretical statement of the excellence theory. Inherently, the internal safety communication of any organisation in the mining and construction industries of South Africa should not only be driven by technical communicational aspects, but should also make use of symmetrical, two-way flow of communication. Moreover, a representative for internal safety communication should be part of the dominant coalition of the organisation. The symmetrical two-way nature of internal safety communication should similarly entice a participative culture, equal opportunity for diversity and an organic organisational structure as far as possible.The first theoretical statement derived from communication satisfaction proposes that the communication climate in an organisation reflect the goals and objectives of the organisation, with the practice of safety at the proverbial „factory floor‟ not contradicting the strategic intent of the organisation. The integration of all departments in the organisation is hence needed, with those divisions traditionally opposing safety goals and objectives (for example production) integrated, to see the reaching of these objectives. Furthermore, personal integration of employees as individuals into this greater objective of the organisation is also needed, where employees are continually kept up to date with all safety aspects in the organisation, in the general sense, as well as in terms of their personal impact on these aspects. External events that impact on the safety in the organisation should also be communicated, where it is understood that employees will be more integrated if they are simultaneously aware of both their individual places in the practice of safety in the organisation and the overall functioning thereof. In communicating this to employees, the quality of communication media should be considered, with the understanding that these media have both a data- and symbol-carrying capacity.These theoretical statements from the literature, now reformulated as theoretical statements of internal safety communication, were grouped into five general themes, namely holistic, turbulent, strategic, relational and symmetrical communication. In Addendum A, a table is given wherein the grouping of these theoretical statements is given, along with their origin (i.e. the theory that the original theoretical statements were derived from). These five general themes acted as the foundation for the formulation of the model for internal safety communication.

MODEL FOR INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION

Once the broader themes of internal safety communication were ascertained, the theoretical statements could be clustered further into smaller groupings. The broader themes of the model were labelled as internal safety communication factors, while each consequential lesser theme or grouping was labelled an element of the factor. In essence, therefore, the model for internal safety communication depicts the five main factors with between two and five elements, respectively. The factors should be considered holistically, where each one influences and works in concert with the others. It is for this reason that the model is represented circularly, as no one of these factors can be separated from the other, just as no one is more important than the other, or should be done in any order or hierarchy. In applying this model in practice, it should thus be understood that no one element or factor is weighted more than any other, but that its functioning should be seen in line with the wholeness principle of the systems theory that dictates that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The model represents all aspects that are necessary for successful internal safety communication in the mining and construction industries of South Africa and the absence of one element influences all others and the whole they create. As can be seen in Figure 7.1 below, the theoretical statements for internal safety communication in the mining and construction industries of South Africa were ultimately grouped in terms of 16 elements that constitute five factors of internal safety communication.

Holistic

Holism, depicted in the lower right-hand side of the model, highlights the fact that internal safety communication within the mining and construction industries of South Africa should be holistic in nature. The holistic factor addresses the functioning of internal safety communication in terms of its own consideration along with its relation to other organisational functions. This function, due to its encompassing nature, harbours five elements – pointing to the fact that internal safety communication, in terms of its holistic nature, should be comprehensive, influential, heedful, reinforced as well as integrative.

Comprehensive

The element of comprehensive internal safety communication posits that this communication does not exist in isolation, but alongside many other organisational aspects. If internal safety communication is viewed in isolation from other aspects or facets of the organisation, only a partial picture of it is seen. It is only when internal safety communication is viewed and comprehended in relation to all other functions and facets of the organisation that its true nature is revealed.It should be understood that internal safety communication is received by employees alongside various other communication messages (in particular) relating to different functions in the organisation. In the same way that the safety department in the organisation should be understood in terms of its placing in the organisation as well as its dynamics with other departments, so too should internal safety communication be seen in terms of its placing and resultant manifestations within the organisation. When all manifestations of internal safety communication, resulting from its interactions with other organisational facets, are taken into consideration, a comprehensive view of it is obtained.The task of safety personnel is thus to view internal safety communication in context, as it relates, competes and complements other forms of communication in the organisation. Understanding internal safety communication in this comprehensive manner allows an understanding of how internal safety communication is perceived holistically alongside, for example, production communication.

Influential  

Viewing internal safety communication holistically offers an understanding of the fact that it is influential with respect to other organisational aspects. Internal safety communication influences other functions in the organisation and is influenced by these other functions or facets in turn. If internal safety communication is not open to these influences, it will not be in a position to alter or prepare its functioning accordingly.The influential nature of internal safety communication is a matter of integrative and self-assertive tendencies. Regarding its integrative tendencies, internal safety communication will be prone to adapt to other factors. In its self-assertive tendencies it will, in its turn, influence or impact on these other facets. Which one of these tendencies takes credence in any given situation is a matter of hierarchy and previously defined goals. If the internal safety communication is higher in the organisational hierarchy than an opposing aspect, it will influence that aspect, or if lower, be influenced by that aspect. If, however, previously mutually defined goals exist in the organisation, both systems yield to those, rather than to each other. For example, if production takes credence within an organisation, either by decree or de facto, over safety, production communication will be seen as higher on the hierarchy than internal safety communication. In this instance, internal safety communication will be influenced by production communication rather than vice versa. If conflicting messages are sent out regarding production and safety, the production message will be paid more attention than the safety message, due to the fact that the production communication is on a higher hierarchical level, or is so perceived. This hierarchical influenced can, however, be countered by previously mutually defined goals – for example, if an organisation has set goals for a quantity of injury-free shifts, this goal could hold up to the production message that would counter it.Safety personnel need to be aware of this influential nature if they are to be successful in internal safety communication. Making sure that the goals and objectives of safety are reached is thus dependent on the influences that internal safety communication encounters. Once the influential nature is understood, safety personnel can exercise either the self-assertive or integrative tendencies of internal safety communication for the realisation of the goals and objectives set.

Heedful

Heedfulness, as for the purpose of this model, is defined as awareness of and attentiveness to stakeholders with regard to their safety and safety needs. Heedful internal safety communication notices and regards all stakeholders in the organisation as well as their specific safety needs. If internal safety communication is not in touch with employees, as internal stakeholders‟ safety needs, the internal safety communication could be misinformed, not responding to the specific needs of those it is supposed to serve – in other words, not being heedful.Furthermore, heedful internal safety communication evaluates decisions in terms of the value that is created or destroyed by it. Heedful of employees‟ safety needs and aligned to the internal safety communication objectives, decisions that counteract the objective of heeding stakeholders‟ safety needs should be rejected or altered.The task of safety personnel in this instance is therefore to discover and understand the safety needs of employees in the organisation in order to allow them to adapt internal safety communication to these needs. This will also allow the reporting of these needs to the dominant coalition of the organisation, an aspect that is discussed as part of the element of imperative internal safety communication.

Reinforced

Reinforced internal safety communication is substantiated by actuality, where the climate of the organisation experienced by employees should reflect the strategic goals and objectives of the organisation, with the perceived importance of safety not contradicting the strategic intent. This emphasises the importance of the cliché that the organisation should not only „talk the talk‟ of internal safety communication, but should „walk the walk‟ as well.In order to do this, aspects such as acting on parameters set by means of internal safety communication should be realised – for example by enforcing regulations, rules, policies and the like that are communicated via internal safety communication. The climate of the organisation should therefore be that internal safety communication is not only an aspect that the organisation ideally strives towards, but also something that should take hold in the everyday activities of the organisation.Often temptations exist for internal safety communication to be ignored in organisations within the mining and construction industries, in order for production, for example, to be excelled. Internal safety communication is never discontinued or altered because it is enshrined in legal requirements, but in reality, at the proverbial „coal face‟ or on the „factory floor‟, the principals or messages of this communication give in to the demands of production. This is detrimental to internal safety communication, as employees do not give it the attention and respect it deserves, as they are conditioned or habituated to believe that this is how safety is responded to in the organisation. Hence, reinforced internal safety communication is geared towards behavioural change, not to pay „lip service‟ for the benefit of regulatory bodies.

Integrative

In terms of the larger functioning of the organisation, internal safety communication should be integrative on two levels: a functional and an individual level.Functional level integration involves cross-functional and cross-sectional integration between facets, sections and functions of the organisation. Due to the fact that safety in the mining and construction industries is a matter of regulation through the country‟s laws, cross-functional and cross-sectional integration of safety and internal safety communication objectives are needed. Certainly, it should not only be the responsibility of safety personnel to enforce and further the realisation of safety objectives, but of all functions and sections within the organisation. Once this integration is realised, internal safety communication will be more influential in the organisation. Still, this cross-functional and cross-sectional integration require a single coordinating mechanism to oversee it in order for true integration and synchronisation to take place.Secondly, integration should function on an individual level, where individuals should, by means of internal safety communication, be made aware of their place and contribution towards the organisation‟s overarching safety objectives and successes. If individuals are integrated in this way, for example by means of personalised feedback, they will arguably accept more responsibility and accountability for their own safety involvement or input in the organisation.

Turbulent

The second main factor in the model for internal safety communication, moving counter-clockwise on the schematic representation in Figure 7.1, is the turbulence factor. The factor of turbulent internal safety communication builds on the arguments of the holistic factor, wherein the reactions of internal safety communication to the ever-changing organisational communication environment in which it functions are regarded. It was seen in the first factor above that internal safety communication should adapt to its environment. This next factor describes this adaption in terms of its transformational and assimilative prospects.

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION, PROBLEM DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS
1.3 PURPOSE AND CONTEXTUALISATION
1.5 THE RESEARCH APPROACH
1.6 CONTRIBUTION OF STUDY
1.7 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1.8 CONCLUSION AND CHAPTER DEMARCATION
2. CONTEXTUALISATION OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN MINING AND CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRIES
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 OVERVIEW OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN MINING AND
2.3 THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN
2.4 CONCLUSION                                   
3. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION THEORY DEVELOPMENT: THE SYSTEMS THEORY AS META THEORY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 INTERNAL ORGANISATIONAL COMMUNICATION
3.3 THE SYSTEMS THEORY
3.4 CONCLUSION
4. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION THEORY DEVELOPMENT: THE STAKEHOLDER AND RELATIONSHIP THEORIES
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 THE STAKEHOLDER THEORY
4.3 THE RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT THEORY
4.4  CONCLUSION
5. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION THEORY DEVELOPMENT: THE EXCELLENCE THEORY AND COMMUNICATION SATISFACTION
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE EXCELLENCE THEORY
5.3 COMMUNICATION SATISFACTION
5.4 CONCLUSION
6. RESEARCH ONTOLOGY, EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGIES
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 ONTOLOGY, EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY
6.3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
6.4 CONCLUSION                                             
7. MODEL FOR INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 THEORETICAL STATEMENTS FOR INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION
7.3 MODEL FOR INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION
7.4 CONCLUSION
8. QUANTITATIVE QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE EVALUATION OF INTERNAL SAFETY COMMUNICATION
8.1 INTRODUCTION
8.2 FINDINGS
8.3 FINDINGS
8.4 FINAL QUESTIONNAIRE
8.5 CONCLUSION
9. DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH AIMS AND CONCLUSION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
A proposed model and measuring instrument for internal safety communication: A longitudinal study in the South African mining and construction industries

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