Effective Employee Communication: A consideration of Team success in Retail Businesses.
A research on the effective employee communication in BLOCKBUSTER focussing its retail team
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the MSC Management under BRUNEL BUSINESS SCHOOL, BRUNEL UNIVERSITY (WEST LONDON)
In order to meaningfully approach the question of “How important is the employee communication in an organization?” it is required to understand the meaning of employee communication on its basic level and also setting the boundaries in which the research and its argument will be set.
Defining communication could be a complex issue as there are a lot of different definitions available which define it in different cases, situations and angles applicable in the business management. This statement can be supported by the point of view from Wilkinson (1989), which states that the word “communication” means different things to different people. But this dissertation will try to define communication with various literatures and relate them to the context of the research area.
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In today's business world, an organization has to work really hard to keep up the competitive pace. And one of the major strengths of an organization is the work force which is constantly giving full efforts to the achievement of the common goal. To work efficiently, the employees have to communicate to each other, that is to say superiors giving instructions to the subordinates and in return subordinates letting them know about the results (also known as feedback). This process is not possible without an effective communication system in an organization. That is to say; communication will stay in organization anyways but to make the team move towards the company common goal in a required pace, it requires adequate flow of information to all the team members. If everybody knows what is expected out of them, they will eventually give their best efforts to the organization team.
This research will move from defining and understanding the meaning of effective employee communication, and then will move further to various literatures available in the required area of research. It will then combine the knowledge gained about communication (from literature review) to the context of the company under research and the data collected from the empirical research to reach the aim of the study.
- Profile of the company under study:
This research report is set in the DVD Retail business called Blockbuster. BLOCKBUSTER Company was founded in Dallas, Texas in the year 1985. In 20 years, BLOCKBUSTER has grown from single video rental store in Dallas to near about 9000 company- operated and franchised stores throughout the United Stated of America, its territories and 23 other countries. Outside USA, it has around 2600 stores.
Now let's coming over to UK where this research on employee communication will be based, the first Blockbuster store in the UK opened in March 1989 (Walworth Road, London) and the UK is now the largest Blockbuster business outside the US, with around 700 stores and about 4.2 million member accounts.
1.2 The Research:
This research will investigate the internal/ employee communication from various angles to find out the importance of it in an organization and will also try to understand the inside outs of it and its relevance to the research company. It will also try to find the problems which are faced during the communication processes. These problems are also called the barriers to communication. The research of literature has been done regarding the various barriers to communication so that a better understanding of this problem can be made. Then various methods/solutions have been researched in the literature and investigations have been made that how they are used in BLOCKBUSTER to overcome these barriers. Also this research will try to find out the most preferred mode of communication in the retail team under study.
1.3 Relevance of the study:
BLOCKBUSTER retail chain business dealing with the products like movies and games to buy/rent is a business which interacts with customer a lot and customer service is very important in it. Successful retail businesses are formed on its team of employees and how efficiently they work on the company policies. This research will study the methods of employee communication used in the retail team of BLOCKBUSTER and the research place being one of the stores in London where the writer is an employee.
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Attempting to set boundaries for this research project based on a definition of ‘communication' does not provide many potential limits to the scope, the reason being it as a very wide management issue. Therefore, it had been decided, due to barriers posed by resources or lack thereof, to limit the scope of this dissertation to the discussion of intra-employee communication within organisations by researching on a team of one of the stores.
This research sets out to argue that effective employee communication is very important for successful running of organizations. It will also try to find the best mode of communication suited to the retail business like the one being researched. It will also stand on the fact that improved employee communication enables the employees to deal with one another more successfully. It will also argue that effective employee communication is one of the important issues leading to failure of the business if not understood properly by the management.
Considering the context of the organisation and the climate within which it is currently functioning, the relevance of the study lies in identifying the gaps in the communication process, are the employees happy with the current structure of communication.
1.4 Aims of the study:
- This dissertation will try to find out the importance of effective employee communication and how it improves the performance of a team.
- It will also find out the most preferred methods to communicate in the the team under research, that is the retail team of BLOCKBUSTER. It also aims at finding out the barriers which come in the way of effective employee communication in the team under research, and how the team tackles them.
- And if there are barriers which are not yet tackled, this dissertation will try its best to provide a solution to it.
It is hoped that the results and conclusion will provide valuable information towards establishing even more effective communication and feedback processes.
2.0) Literature Review:
The following review of current literature will try to put a light on communication practices in an organization. It will discuss the challenges which are faced by the communication in an organization and will be focussed towards to the retail business like Blockbuster itself in further sections of this research. The literature studied here is divided into three (3) sections which will try to cover all the possible areas of interest of this research.
These three sections will be:
- Meaning and perspective. This section will try to make clear the meaning of communication and its overall perspective in an organization.
- Structure: This section will cover the different networks within which the communication might occur in an organization and also the different processes in which the communication is managed.
- Process: The last section in this literature review will be the process. This will be mainly dealing with the processes involved in the employee communication, for example through what technologies or methods are used to communicate in the organization by the employees. And also what difficulties are faced using these technologies.
2.1Meaning and perspective
This section will try to make the meaning and overall working of the communication in clear in relation to it usage in an organization, so that the technicalities relating to it shall be easy to understand in further areas of this dissertation.
Some of these definitions will make a clearer picture of the meaning of communication:
- Koontz and O'Donnell (1972)-“Communication is a way that one organization member shares meaning and understanding with another”
- The American Management Association-“defines any behaviours that results in exchange of meaning”
- Keith and Gubellini-define communication as, “In its everyday meaning, communication refers to the transmitting in the form of words, or signals or signs from a source to a receiver”
It a very essential part of the organization, and also the number one problem in the management as nothing can happen in the organization without it. It enables the people in the organization to understand each other.
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After these simple to understand definitions, there are few characteristics which should be considered which are presented by Gupta and Joshi (2006). These characteristics help up understand the communication attributes:
- It involves at least two persons (sender and a receiver)
- Message (subject matter of communication) is a must.
- Communication can be written, oral or gestures.
- Communication is two way process.
- Its primary purpose is it to motivate a response.
- It Flows up and down, also side to side. (Upward, downward and horizontal communication).
Sypher (1990) also explains the employee communication in an organization is usually a two way process which requires/ involves flow of information from sender to receiver and then in return a feedback/ reply to that message from receiver to the sender. This process can be elaborated by this example of Blockbuster Retail chains in which the flow of information from the manager to the employees on the operational level and the employees send back a feedback to the manager.
Following this, Gupta and Joshi (2006) brought forward the basic elements of communication:
- Communicator: the person who intends to send the message/ transmit the message.
- Communicatee: the receiver for whom the communication is meant.
- Message: the subject matter of communication that is the content of the letter sent to the receiver by the sender.
- Communication Channel: The media through which the information is sent or passed from sender to receiver. It serves as the link between the sender and the receiver.
- Response/ Feedback: It is the effect, reply or the reaction of the information transmitted to the receiver
Blundel (2008) brings forward a definition of feedback in which “it refers to the receiver's response to a message; it is a further message sent by the receiver, which gives the sender an indication of the way the original message has been received.” So a successful communication is where there is proper understanding of the message followed by a feedback.
However Sypher (1990), presents a different description a successful communication is where employees in an organization communicate openly and early and where employees are encouraged towards participation towards it. He also adds that successful communication can only be achieved if the information being exchanged is timely and accurate and last but not the least, the media being used for exchange of information should also be appropriate.
So having the meaning of communication in mind, there is another literature on this topic regarding the effectiveness of employee communication. Blundel (2008) explains the effectiveness of employee communication by bringing forward a point that it requires an open mind which is willingness to take in new and unfamiliar ideas. The reason for this is unless a person is open to the needs of his audience and to the context in which the communication takes place; even his best efforts are very likely to fail.
So from the above literature, general nature of communication is clear in an organization.
- Need/ Purpose of communication:
The main purpose of communication is to effect a change in someone (receiver) that is to say, to influence action or to secure inaction in the overall interest of the organization. It is a flux that binds people together. Stanton (2004) outlined the following important points which show the need of communication in an organization, these points show why the employees in an organization need to communicate:
- Need to be heard (received)
- Need to be understood
- Need to be accepted
- Need to get action (change of behaviour of receiver)
But things are not that easy for communication in an organization full of human beings
Barriers to communication together make up a considerable challenge for employee communication in an organization.
A simple definition of barriers to communication available easily refers to it as “Aspects of or conditions in a workplace that interfere with effectiveexchange of ideas or thoughts”
Fisher (1993) refers to barriers as the objects that disturb or block the flow of needed information. He argues that the barriers don't shut down the communication as a whole but surely affects the quality of that communication which may further prevent the organization to have optimized performance and development.
Blundel (1998) in this figure presents a simple model of two people holding a conversation on the phone. In this model, the idea of the message is first formulated in the head of the speaker, and then he encodes it before transmitting it on the phone line. The pressure changes in the air which can be also considered as noise interruptions are the barriers to this communication process which does not let the message reach in its original sense. The message is the received and decoded at the other end of the line by receiver. The noise here might literally means the disturbance in the background which holds potential risk to disrupt the original sense of the message reason being the receiver may not properly able to listen to the message being sent. Blundel (1998) also says that physiological, psychological and social problems may also cause the origin of noise further leading to disruption in the conveying of the message.
Fisher (1993) emphasises on the importance of the understanding of the barriers at the organizational level and also the actions which should be taken to avoid the blockage of flow of information. In order to know these barriers better, he identified 13 major barriers to communication:
- Barrier of Perpetual Selectivity: this explains the situation that people can take in and understand only a selected amount of information at one time.
- Evaluating things as good or bad: this is one of the habits in the sender/ receiver to categorize things/ people as good or bad rather than taking out the required information out of them.
- Implicit assumptions: this is the situation where the communicator holds certain beliefs without being fully aware of them or without thinking through them thoroughly.
- Language Barrier: this is the barrier which explains that same words ca mean different meaning to different people speaking different languages.
- Being nice more than required: This explains the habit of the communicator in which he/she avoids expressing negative thoughts for the fear of damaging a relationship.
- Lack of feedback: If the receiver does not let the sender know about the message being successfully received, acknowledged and understood.
- Inadequate receiving: This barrier comes into action when the sender has the tendency to send so many messages at one time but the receiver spends inadequate time and energy in listening and understanding the real sense of the messages.
- Loss or distortion of information: This is a situation if there is loss of information on its way from sender to receiver. This usually happens when the transmission happens through one or more intermediate persons. Example of it may be upwards or downwards communication in the management.
- Geographic factors: The geographic distance between the head office and the regional office can be the reason of a barrier to the communication sometimes.
- Failure to consult: This is the barrier which is developed when there is a tendency to avoid the people who will be affected or who can improve a decision. For example if a decision is made related to the operations at the lowest level of the management, the employees may not understand what is expected out of them as they were not at all consulted before a decision taken regarding their work.
- Task Specialization: Differences in the training, work method etc makes it difficult for the members of the organization to understand each other.
- Pressure: Example of a communication barrier here is the misunderstanding and conflict resulting from elements such as adaptation to technological changes, demands for better productivity and even the rewards for better performance within the organization. The pressure on the employees sometimes changes the sense of the message they are conveying from its real meaning.
- Status, Power and Authority differences: Such social factors lead to misunderstandings in the members of an organization.
Another barrier which comes in the way of effective communication most of the times is Challenge of diversity:-
Now moving forward to very important issues in the context of employee communication these days is decoding the message received in the same sense in which it was sent by the sender in the first place. The challenge here is that different people decode or understand the message received in different ways. This challenge/ situation call for diversity in workplace for the understanding of the message being received.
Church, 1995 explains diversity at workplace, according to his explanation it is collective individuals who differ from one another on the dimensions of culture, education, values, gender, martial status and even age. This issue of diversity can be a big challenge in the way of the team work. These issues needs to addressed otherwise there will be differences in the individuality of the team members leading to friction and conflicts. Ryan, 1981 (cited in Church,1995) comments on this situation as “For most people in our individualistic and capitalistic society, the definition of self and ego is related directly to the way in which in we differentiate ourselves from others”. This comment makes it clear that there exists the thinking in human beings in organization which brings up the challenge of diversity therefore creating hurdles in the way establishing understanding in the team members. These differences make pre-set point of view regarding their other team members which brings up the barrier of pre-evaluation of the message received and many more. These challenges are so strong that kernberg, 1985 (cited in Church, 1995); referred that these issues at the organizational level have the potential to affect other aspects of the business as well. So to conclude, the issues of diversity should be identified and addressed with an open mind and intention to over come them.
However Roger (1982) argues that the major barrier to mutual interpersonal communication is the human tendency to judge and evaluate statements made by other people or groups. Rogers argues that people are not really ‘listening' to the message, but rather formulating their own opinion on what they think might be being said. He brought forward a solution to this situation that is the listener should only response to the initial speaker once they have fully understood the idea and feeling of the speaker, and same applies when listener becomes a speaker while giving a feedback
Bottom line here is that if the process of overcoming the barriers of communication requires an investment, there is also a requirement of bringing a positive change in the senders and receivers. For example if an investment is made in the message transmission technology, there is also requirement of training the staff to overcome the social hurdles which are felt as one of the barriers in communication.
If the communication barriers are overcome, there are several benefits which an organization can avail. The benefits are actually opposite the negative effects of the barriers to communication. The organization can attain the benefit of reduced cost from more effective communication which will lead to better results as there will less time wastage of and mistakes arising from the messages which were earlier misinterpreted communications. There will be more understanding in the employees of the organization and they can go along better which is sometimes difficult for them due to the social factors in them. So overcoming of the communication barriers is equally important for the organization as identifying them. Wilkinson (1989) brought forward five main reasons why the employees will benefit from the improved communication system:
- The need for employees to get the information relevant to the job will be met.
- Employees wish to have the information which helps them understand the business they working for; they will only get this if there is an effective and clear employee communication in an organization.
- Effective communication increases the pride of the employees leading to better productivity and loyalty towards the organization.
- Employees may be able to share the financial success of the business derived from further successes.
- Caring for effective employee communication will make them more integrated at the individual level.
Where as Jo and Shim (2005) came up with an explanation that positive oral communication between the employees leads towards a more of a trusting relationship and therefore making an environment of motivation for the employees to work better.
All this leads to a conclusion that a positive and clear employee communication is very much important for an organization to ensure smooth profitable working and less of wastages.
2.2 (b) Structure:
This section here of the literature review will try to put a light on the structure/ methods of communicating in the organization. The major section of structure portion of this literature review has been taken from Gupta and Joshi (2006) and efforts have been made to put in literature by other authors as well to support or critically analyse the former. The structure is also called the types/channels of communicating. Communication here is classified into several categories on the following basis:
- Formal Communication: Gupta and Joshi (2006) explains it as a type of communication which takes place through the formal channels of the organizations structure which are deliberately and consciously established by the management. It implies the flow of information along the lines of authority formally established in the organization. Adler and Elmhorst (1999) explain it as designed by management to dictate who should talk to whom to get the job done. These are generally in writing and few examples of modes of formal communication: Policy manuals, procedural and rules book, memoranda papers and orders etc.
- Informal Communication or Grapevine: It is the type of communication which falls out of the formal modes of communication grapevine. It is built around the social relationship of the employees in organization, and it does not follow the lines of authority as in the case of formal modes of communication. It arises out of personal needs of the employees to communicate and it exists in every organization. Such a communication is usually oral and may be conveyed by simple glance, gestures, smile or even silence. Adler and Elmhorst (1999) says, it is observed 90% of the communication in an organization having teams is basically informal communication which actually suits the needs of the teams to communicate. Further they brought forward very interesting functions of informal communication which actually makes the formal message easy to understand:
- Confirming: confirms the sense of the formal message as it is accompanied by the expression of the sender.
- Expanding: it fills the gaps in the message left in formal message
- Supplementing: it provides supplement information with formal message making it easy to understand
It a type of communication which is very much noticeable in the retail team of BLOCKBUSTER retail under retail, as being working together.
- On the basis of Flow or Direction:
The following figure shows the classification of communication on the basis on the flow or direction which was found after the study of literature related to the flow of communication:
- Downward Communication: Adler and Elmhorst (1999) explain it as the flow of information which flows from superior to subordinate. It is used to get things done, to prepare for changes, to let the members get the feeling of belongingness to the organization. Important examples of downward communication are notices, circulars, instructions, annual reports etc. There is a similar explanation by a definition by O'Hair et al., (2001) which explains it as the flow of information from the manager to the employees in an organization. It can also be considered as the flow of information from upper level management to the lower.
- Upward Communication: According to Gupta and Joshi (2006), Upward Communication means the flow of information from lower levels of organization the higher levels of authority. It passes from subordinate to superior as that from worker to foreman, from foreman to manager, from manager to general manager and from general manager to chief executive or the board of directors. It includes opinions, ideas, suggestions, complaints and reports etc. It is a very important part of the communication system as it works as a feedback on the effectiveness of it
- Horizontal, Lateral or Sideward Communication: Again a good piece of literature by Gupta and Joshi (2006) is taken to explain this type of communication, they say it is the transmission of information between same level of the organization is called horizontal communication and also known as lateral or sideward communication. This can be both oral and written. Adler and Elmhorst (1999) five purpose which are fulfilled by type of communication:
- Task Coordination
- problem solving
- sharing information
- conflict resolution
- building trust
- Diagonal communication: It is the transfer of the information between employees who are neither in the same department, nor on the same level of the organizational hierarchy. For example if the Assistant manager calls the clerk of accounts department, it's the case of diagonal communication.
2.2 (C) Process: Communication as process will cover different range of processes through which communication occurs in an organization. This section of literature review will not try to cover the whole range of the processes but only those which will be matching our requirements for this research. Some of them are:
- Meetings: Also known as staff meeting sometimes, is most commonly used communication processes in an organization. Blundel (2008) describes the meetings to have potential to be one of the richest and most creative communications. These are the occasions when the team members meet up together to discuss the issues going and try to find solutions. But if not properly handled, they can lead to more of heat rather than light. Reason being these meetings involve a complex pattern of information flows. Messages criss-cross around the meeting room and are highly vulnerable to noise of indirect decoding as each attendee comes with his/her own information, pre-conceived ideas, feelings and prejudice. But Blundel (2008) also argues that with proper management and preparation, the downsides of them can be minimised.
- E-mail: The introduction of internet and e-mail to the workplace has facilitated communication in a number of ways. These means of communication are very low cost and instant, providing rapid means of exchanging information. They reduce the amount of paper needed within the office environment which lowers stationary costs and reduces waste within the organization. E-mail and instant messaging tools are used for communication both up and down organizational hierarchies and as a means of communicating laterally within a team. Tietze et al. (2005) states that: ‘new technologies such as email have become a central medium of communicating within organizations, impacting on key organizational processes'. But they consider ‘online' interaction as a means of communication that ‘strips away many of the signs that we rely on to make sense of who we are and who we're interacting with'. Written communication makes it more difficult to gauge the meaning behind a message, with aspects of communication such as sarcasm or jokes, often being difficult to decode.
This section will represent the information regarding the BLOCKBUSTER UK retail stores, the products and services offered and also the talk about the employee communication which relates to the retail teams. An effort is made that this context section becomes a connecting bridge between the literature review and the section dealing with research methodology by providing the information of the team and the company under research. This section will re-introduce the company profile and its retail outlets in context to the employee communication.
3.1 BLOCKBUSTER- the stores in UK:
As discussed in the introduction, BLOCKBUSTER has the biggest market in UK outside USA. The core strength is rental but it does not stop there only, it has got so much into retail as well of the same products giving the customer a choice to just rent or to buy the product.
3.2 Product and Services:
Whatever in the entertainment industry comes on DVD is available at Blockbuster. The products offered here are DVD's of movies and the TV series and whatever which is on DVD for public entertainment. These DVD's are available on rental basis and also brand new ones are available to buy. Customers can also come in for trade in their old DVDs for some extra cash.
Same is the case with the Game DVDs. All the latest gaming consoles and their DVD games are available in Blockbuster to rent or to buy.
This all comes to a perfect customer service spot when this fusion of movies and gaming comes under one roof. Staff working has to know all about the products being displayed so that they could help the customer make a choice. This is one of the situations where customer service really matter, that is to say interaction of employees and customers at the sales end regarding the choice of DVD selection. Employees are given a certain number of free rentals for this very purpose so that they have the information about the products they have on display. This is one of the strategies followed by BLOCKBUSTER to have an excellent customer service which is a major point of competitive advantage or for just being the best in the trade.
3.3 Employee Communication at Blockbuster retail stores, an overview.
Being an employee at Blockbuster made this research work very interesting as the self experience can be used and be put down into words to describe the work style there. This section of the dissertation will discuss about the team structure, employee communication, experience about working in a team at the retail outlets of BLOCKBUSTER and will try to focus on the point that employee communication is an essential part of the day to day working in its retail outlets.
Starting with the introduction to the employee designations present in the retail Stores of BLOCKBUSTER. Usually there are three kinds of job positions which are filled by number of employees to make up a retail team. Following is the diagram explaining these designations and also tells that how many employees are there under these designations that together make up the BLOCKBUSTER retail team:
- Store Manager: Store manager is the person in charge of all the operations going on in the retail store under him/ her.
- Manager on Duty (M.O.D) also known as Assistant Manager: is the person who is in charge when store manager is not working at that moment. Usually in the store used for the research, the M.O.D is working in the evening shifts when the store manager gets over with her shift. The M.O.D is responsible for cashing up the tills at the closing time and even closing the shop and making sure it has been done according to the security provisions of the company.
- Customer Sales Representative (C.S.R): CSR is the employee who interacts most of the times with the customers on the shop floor. They have the last designation in the employee hierarchy, in other words it is the first employee designation in customer service. They are also responsible for making the sales by handling the till during their shift. They are responsible and accountable for the decisions (under their designation) they make. They have to take assistance of MOD or the Store Manager if some decision is out of their job description.
3.4 Starting as an Employee in Blockbuster:
There is a quote in the job application section of company's website which says “If you're mad about movies and games then a career at Blockbuster could be right up your street.”
And it surely is true, the researcher being an employee at one of retail outlet of blockbuster, agrees totally to this statement. As he started his job in this store as a CSR and now is promoted to MOD, he has the experience of being interviewed for the job application and learning quickly while enjoying the environment which is all about movies and games.
3.5 The Interview: Consideration of communication skills
If applying for a job in retail stores of BLOCKBUSTER, the communication skills is something which is considered one of the most important factors for the selection of the candidate not only for customer service but also to see if he will be a good communicator in the team. As the research is narrowed down to the retail chain outlets, here is an example of an interview which was personally experienced by the researcher himself when he applied for a job for the position for CSR. On the interview day, the shop manager gives a task which will eventually test the communication skills of the candidate, and also his knowledge about the games and movies. The task given to the candidate is to select two DVDs' (any DVDs from the shop floor) out of which one he thinks he can sell it to the customer, and the other he thinks he thinks can rent it to the customer. Face to face interview is conducted after this task which goes through the researchers' application form which had all the specifications of his qualifications, past jobs and experiences. A few questions were asked about past jobs and why the researcher left the past job. So in the interview, it was all about the communication skills again that how a person being interviewed presents his answer in a satisfactory manner. And luckily the researcher was selected; reason being told that they liked his profile and his presentation in the interview. So the reason of this lengthy explanation of the application and interview process is to describe the need of effective communication in the retail business as in a way these interview processes tests the eligibility of the candidate for the job and also his/ her communication skills which will effect the team communication and the most important, communicating with the customers.
3.6Employee communication in daily operations in BLOCKBUSTER retail store:
A very simple fact remains here, which says employee communication plays a very important role in the effectiveness of the operations of an organization. Same is the case with retail team of BLOCKBUSTER, which requires a number of operations which needs constant employee communication to make sure common goals of the organization are being followed in the right direction.
The retail team in BLOCKBUSTER needs to be efficient to reach the organization goals. And to be efficient enough, it requires effective employee communication as a person can't work in a team without communicating at all. It is the first requirement of team work to inform everybody in the team about everything relating to the job they do. These are the few points which illustrate the use of employee communication in a team, (although the nature of these points is general and transferable to teams in other organization as well):
- Daily operations/Procedures: In the retail stores of BLOCKBUSTER, there are many operations performed by team members who need proper communication and informing each other in the team. For example if there are changes of any kind of procedures, they have to informed to all the team members to ensure they work on them in the required manner. To be more precise, team work requires proper communication so that common goals can be attained.
- Helping each other: The team members help each other around in any situation when they need help. They explain each other the solution to any problem if there occurs any. One of the unique help they provide is to each other is telling them about the games and movies. This can be explained by the following example: the employees of the BLOCKBUSTER retail are given a certain number of free rentals (DVDs' and games) so that they can enjoy them and also come to know about the product. By knowing the product, it means they know what is the movie/game all about and they can tell the customer about it if they enquire about it before renting/ buying them. But a single employee cant watch all the movies or play all the games as it the matter of their choice, so in this situation if other employee knows about the product, they can tell others about it in a brief way. Therefore the information about a game/movie is distributed in the team leading to better promotion of the product by letting the customers about it.
- Training the new employees: This is the situation where effective employee communication is very much required. It the stage when the new comer is trained about the procedures about the new job, its workings, procedures, policies etc. This is a delicate situation as well as the trainer (old employee) has to make sure that the new employee learns what he is told and also at the same time is not burdened by extra load of loads of information at the same time. In this information flow between old and new employee, feedback is very important which actually confirms how much the new employee understands about what is being taught to him.
- Contacting other stores in area, Head offices, or Technical support offices: There are certain operations which require contacting other BLOCKBUSTER retail stores, for example if there is a certain DVD/Game which a customer demands and it is not in the stock at the moment; other retail stores in the area are contacted to check the availability of the product. If it is found, the customer is offered the product to be delivered in the shop in one day so that he doesn't have to go to other store. Head offices are contacted to for man administrative information exchange and technical support offices are contacted by the team if there is some fault in some devices in the shop. So to conclude this, employee communication expands outwards to other related offices as well to fulfil the requirements of the organization of being informed.
- Team Meetings: These are one of the most important communications which are done in the team. This is the time when all the team members have to meet, that is to say they can't miss until it is some kind of emergency which won't let them come attend the meeting. These meetings are held by the team/store manager and can be for many purposes like introduction of new policies and procedures, review of team members, review of the retail targets etc. this is something which actually tells the team members in exact words that what is expected out of them. These meetings let the team members discuss about their issues on job, the difficulties they are facing in a certain areas etc. By this every team member no matter junior or senior can have a say in the management as they all play their role towards the team work. Issues can be resolved if there are any, solutions to management problems can be extracted out of these meetings. There are periodical meetings which are called by the store manager.
4.0 Research Methodology:
The process of selecting an appropriate and applicable methodology for this research resulted in the use qualitative methodology techniques. In this section, the design of research will be discussed which is adopted for this research along with the sampled organization and the methods of analysis.
4.1 Selection of the right methodology- Qualitative
A qualitative approach was considered the appropriate methodology as it contains in depth interviews as the means of data collection. For the requirement of selection of an appropriate method of research; pros and cons of both the methods were studied, that is: Qualitative and Quantitative methods of research. The selection of an appropriate research methodology lead to a following definition of Qualitative research by Yin (1994), according to whom a qualitative research often forms as a case study. Further he says, “A case study is simply an in-depth study of a particular instance, or a small number of instances, of a phenomenon”. And this was what required out of this dissertation research, which is to make it a form of a case study of the retail team of BLOCKBUSTER which will try to explain the effective employee communication in it.
The key difference between these two methods of research can be illustrated by the argument of Hyde (2000), who in his article explains Quantitative research provides general characteristics in its results which basically is its modus operandi. It ignores the details of individual character or behaviour of the members of the population under research while providing overall results in general way by providing pre-determined answers for each question out of which one is to be selected. So to conclude, the role of quantitative research is to describe the general and to ignore the particular. However he argues that qualitative methodology seeks to explain the particular characters of the individuals in research. The data collection in this is not pre determined categories as in quantitative methods.
Seeing to the complexities of the research work containing so much details of the employee communication in an organization, it was necessary to make sure that the true sense of the questions (in interview) being asked was clear to the volunteers who were interviewed for the purpose of this research. The reason being that qualitative methods play an important part in developing, maintaining and improving survey quality by assessing vital issues that sometimes is not possible with Quantitative research.
Another reason for the selection of qualitative research was that they are better able to identify the problems experienced by the respondents while they are answering the questions in interview as they can give examples of past experiences, can explain how they tried to overcome such problems in detail, the detail which cannot be gained if quantitative methodology is used. Moreover the interviewer can explain them the question in a thorough manner if the respondents are unable to understand what exactly is being asked from them.
The key aim here was that the interview/ survey questions are being answered in the way intended to meet the research question. The preference of qualitative methodology over quantitative for this research process can be further supported by the saying of Neuman (1997), according to which quantitative research is a data condenser whereas qualitative research is data enhancer. He also adds that qualitative research involves an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern human behavior, which is exactly what is required out of this research paper to understand the various factors which are involved in the employee communication of Blockbuster retail stores.
Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant's experiences and further interviewer can ask some follow up questions around the same topic to have an idea of the related areas which were affected due to those experiences of the respondents. For example, in this research there could be many problems which were faced by the respondents communicating as a member of the retail team in Blockbuster, various small questions can be asked along with the pre designed questions to get an in-depth answer and treating it as a quality enhancer while writing in the findings of the interviews.
So the conclusion of this research paper will be based on qualitative nature of the study done on the context and the perceptions of the respondents which are important to describe the context of the study.
4,2 Gaining Access/ Seeking Permission
According to Neuman (1997), it is very important to seek permission or to gain content from the participants who are intended to be interviewed in order to get willing participation rather than forced participation which could lead to results affected by negative responses.
The researcher/ writer being an employee at one of the Blockbuster retail stores had no such problem in gaining content of the fellow team members and the store manager. They agreed to take part in the interview process and were happy to answer the questions relating to the research work. The purpose of this study was explained to them as it being a partial fulfilment of MSC Management Degree Program which the researcher/writer was pursuing. It was also explained to them while requesting for permission for interviews that this dissertation will hopefully come up with useful and interesting results for the organization. All the participants being interested to know the results of such a research and happy helping the writer, the permission was granted. Moreover the management was not worried that it would cause any disturbance to their privacy and policies as this was purely for academic purposes.
4.3 Sampling and Data Collection:
There were 14 employees (excluding the write) in the Retail Store of Blockbuster under study. Fortunately, they were all happy to help and therefore participated/volunteered in the interview process. Store manager was also included in this count of 14 participants.
In order to approach the question “how important is the employee communication today?” and “what is the best form of communication for Blockbuster?” Various questions for interview were designed to bring up the responses showing the perceived importance of employee communication in an organization like Blockbuster (Please see appendix no 1 for the questions). Perceived importance of employee communication was tried to bring up by asking the questions relating the opinions and feelings of the respondents communication they do in their daily working. These questions required answers in detail and examples to support the answer was also preferred. For example, for a question like this, “Do you feel regular and effective communication is important for employees working in retail shops of Blockbuster?” the respondents were required to justify their answer. These kinds of questions and their answers being justified with examples made the data collected qualitative in nature. The implicit importance of employee communication was extracted out of the general question relating to actions or activities undertaken by employee during their working hours at the Blockbuster. There was no such justification of the answers to these questions required.
Barriers to communication were also considered very important issues of this interview process questions were asked to get an inside out view of the communication barriers and how they intend to overcome them. So that an overall view of barriers is made and also suggestions and comments could be made on them through this research work. And if required, the results of this research may be used to correct the communication practices, obviously not going against the company policies while doing so.
All the 14 respondents were interviewed with prior appointments seeing to their working shifts, and this was made sure that this data collection task did not hindered the smooth operations of Blockbuster as the customer service is the first priority in organization dealing with retail businesses. Some of the participants were interviewed when researcher himself was working with them in his job shift; he interviewed them in their free time with their permission. Interviewing the very own colleagues the writer was working with was a good experience and even respondents felt confident about speaking freely about what they feel on the questions being asked, the reason being having confidence in the researcher as he was also a fellow colleague who worked in the same environment. They felt comfortable due to presence of informal communication lubricating the conversation and making it smooth and understanding. Moreover they were really happy helping in this process of interviews as when they were told about the research and its outcomes, they really wanted to see how efficient their communication was in organization and how they can together overcome the barriers if there are some present. So it was them being a great help in the research process and eventually helping the team as a whole to overcome the barriers and be a great team which they call a “Dream Team”.
The interview usually took 20-25 minutes time to complete and took a few minutes more if the respondents needed explanation of the question being asked if they don't understand sense of the question. Out of 14 interviews, 2 interviews were conducted on telephone as their shifts were really busy and they barely had any fee time on them while they were working. So telephonic interviews were appropriate for the situation like this, as it was necessary that they respond to the questions being asked in relaxed and understanding environment which could not have been possible if they would have been interviewed on their job shift.
Interviews were undertaken in semi- structured manner. Notes were taken down while the interview was going on as the respondents replied to the question. The questions were explained to them if somehow they did not get their real sense. There was also flexibility in the interview which gave a chance to the respondents to discuss further on respondent's opinions and to react on the comments they made which led to a good gathering of facts, experiences, point of views and many other factors involved in day to day employee communication in Blockbuster retail stores.
(Appendix 1 provides an example of the questions asked during the interview)
The results which were the outcome of these interviews will be presented in the next section of this dissertation. The results are of qualitative nature having appropriate details which are required to meet the aims and objectives of this study. Due to qualitative methodology adopted, the data collected allows this research for more of an open and creative analysis and helping to get into the details of the problem question.
There is one important thing to remember here, that is this research will only bring forward the experiences of the employees who were interviewed for this research. And also the results may not be exact enough to apply on other retail outlets of Blockbuster as there can difference in the thinking of the employees, team as whole, working environments, pressures etc. and certainly do not present the point of view of Corporate Level at the Blockbuster which is the higher most level management and this research is based on the lower levels of the management or called operational management level where all the decisions and policies made by the people at higher level management are followed. However best efforts have been done that this research paper provides specific results (in the store being researched) and general guidelines for other Blockbuster retail stores to identify the communication systems and also provide basis for further research.
This section will bring forward the outcomes of the data collection done from the volunteers.
5.1 Methods of communication at Blockbuster:
- Communicating in person: Face to face communication was the most preferred communication in BLOCKBUSTER retail where the research was done. It is considered one of the most important factors in the effectiveness of employee communication. The retail team working together communicates with the end customers in the retail stores. So to reach excellent customer (which is the 1st priority of every retail company), the retail team has to give its best efforts towards the work place which is possible with effective face to face communication. The reasons for which it is preferred over some other communication methods are:
- Considered best as it is fast and better to understand.
- Quick decisions can be made to resolve the problems occurring during work.
- The sense of the message is clear as it is usually coupled with the gestures and expressions.
- More of an Informal mode of communication leading to good relation between team members and making a friendly environment at work.
- Staff Meetings: These are the official ways to communicate. Staff meetings were arranged by retail store manager on various time intervals. These meetings could be for discussing many things relating to the retail operations, new company policies, introduction of new methods and promotional offers to the employees/ team members so that they could be acquainted with them and work on them in the required manner. These meetings are mandatory to attend by all the team members to make sure even distribution of information to all the team members and also to get their reviews. Meetings are also held for the induction of the new team members. Informal communication in these meetings makes it easy for the team members to bring forward the issues they wanted to discuss.
- Communication technology: some of the communication technologies which are used to communicate by the employees of BLOCKBUSTER was telephones, email etc. Telephones being one of the most frequently used communication technology as they are used to contact other BLOCKBUSTER retail stores (horizontal communication), head offices (upward communication), technical support offices (diagonal communication) and also the team members of the very own store if something needs to be informed to them regarding their job shifts etc. Email is used to send and receive formal information to administration offices regarding various issues, email was usually used by the Store manager and rest of the team members are informed (if required) about various issues.
- Employee Handbook: New employees are provided with a booklet called Employee Handbook on the day of their induction day which contains all the following contents which needs to be acquainted to the new employees:
- Introduction to BLOCKBUSTER
- Procedures related to working at BLOCKBUSTER
- Pays and Benefits
- Leaves of absence
- Leaving BLOCKBUSTER
- Company Policies and Procedures.
Another booklet which is provided to the new employee is called CSR (customer Sales Representative) Notebook as he starts on the designation of CSR. It contains all the duties and responsibilities entitled to this designation.
5.2 Flow of communication:
Some employees found that they used different methods of communication depending on whether they were communicating up or down hierarchies or with people in different departments. Here are some examples of Hierarchical Communication which were extracted out of the research done in BLOCKBUSTER retail:
- Upward communication: manager sending emails or calling the administration office regarding performance reviews; queries etc. Same was with the team members giving feedback to Store Manager.
- Downward Communication: The Store Manager or the Assistant manager at the store directing the team members according to the policy requirements.
- Horizontal Communication: when the team members of the same designation communication to each other by face to face communicating techniques. Or the store manager of retail store calling the other store manager for some queries.
- Diagonal Communication: It was a case when someone from the retail store called the accounts department or technical support department who had no direct contact with store in a hierarchy. That is to say, communication between two people who are neither from same level of organization nor from the same department.
5.3 Importance of effective employee communication in BLOCKBUSTER:
This section brings forward the various factors which prove effective employee communication as very important for the team in BLOCKBUSTER and also as a mode of reaching the common goal with positive results. Some of the points of importance which were identified in this research are as follows:
- Importance is directly proportional to seniority: It is an obvious point that employee communication is very important for reaching the common goals of the company. But there are differences in level of importance of the information sent and received according to the seniority of the employees being the part of communication process. For example: The communication process in which the Store Manager takes place is very important for the whole team, as it may be regarding a whole lot of things which effects all of the working of the team. Moreover there are a lot of people with whom the Store Manager communicates with, that is to say Assistant Manager, CSRs (Customer Sales Representative), Area Head Manager, Accounts Office and the list goes on. So the information flow in which she takes part is very important as they are affecting the whole of the working of the team in a way. Now taking an example of the designation of CSR, he/she is mostly responsible for the operations on the retail floor and is usually interacting with the customers. They usually communicate to the Assistant manager or the Store Manager regarding their job roles and feedback and vice versa. So to conclude, the importance of employee communication stays at all the levels but comes with the difference according to the seniority in the team.
- A team created through Communication: There are various factors which create a feel of belongingness in the team members towards their team. For example Employee newsletter and Periodical Audits telling the performance of the teams and the retail store as a whole. But these are the just the procedures which the company have to follow. A better team is created thorough informal communication in the team members which leads to a friendly and fun environment to work in and pushing back the work pressures involved. A feeling of belongingness towards the feel is generated which leads to better results of the team work.
After this, the focus was directed towards the barriers to employee communication. This section below will try to consider the possible barriers which felt in the communication, and also at the same time will these findings will tell how strong these barriers really are in BLOCKBUSTER retail chains.
5.4 Identification of Barriers to Communication in BLOCKBUSTER retail store operations:
- Multi-cultural staff: Presence of staff from various international backgrounds brings up a little issue of understanding the true sense of the message sometimes. The reason being the accent of English is different from different countries, it was a very minor barrier in the way of employee communication which gradually goes away as proper training of employees makes them entirely work oriented and positive and moreover friendly atmosphere bringing an ease. Therefore fusing everybody in the team together and understanding the true sense of message being communicated while at work no matter what the accent of English is present. The researcher himself coming from India felt that that barrier but experienced it gradually going away.
- Gender: there was no such barrier felt in the BLOCKBUSTER retail team under research. All the team members including the manager were more like friends who were working together. The team also goes out occasionally in free time to a bar or for fun filled bowling games which brings them closer and informal communication plays its positive role here. So to conclude this, there is no such barrier connected to the gender of the employees.
- Hierarchies: There were some barriers created by technical difficulties in the communication which were followed by specific hierarchies. For instance, if there was a disturbance in the phone line while contacting the other retail branches or the head office of the area, the disturbance could lead to misinterpretation of the message received further causing deviation in performance. But some of the psychological factors also existed which sometimes led to barriers in communication in hierarchies, these were not so major problems but definitely need consultation to avoid any kind of deviations. Examples of these barriers observed in few of the responses in interviews were pre-evaluation of things as bad or good, failure to consult etc.
- Work pressures: There are often busy times in the BLOCKBUSTER retail stores when there are a lot of customers. For example on the weekends when many customers tend to visit the shop and get the rentals. At that time work pressure sometimes exist in the team atmosphere which may lead to a barrier in communication by changing the expressions and gestures while face to face communication leading to a message co