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Marks and Spencer is an international retailer headquartered in London. It was formed in the year 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer in partnership. It mainly specializes in cloth lines and high end food products. The major product lines of the organization are women's wear, children wear, sportswear, baby wear, perfumes and cosmetics, food and beverages, home appliances and etc. The brand has over 703 stores in UK and around 361 stores throughout the globe. The company recorded an annual turnover of £9,934.3 billion by the end of year 2011. The firm's profit for the year 2012 was projected to be £489.6 million (Aaker, 2007).
A wide range of information is required by the key stakeholder groups, for instance, customers want to know about the various products that the company is offering them, discount options available, information about the after sales services and etc.
Likewise, the shareholders are interested in getting details regarding their dividends plus company's financial reports (Kisielnicki, 2011).
Similarly, the community wants to know the operational style of the retailer to ensure that it is not violating any law of the land like employee exploitation, any threat to the environment and etc.
Its competitors like Tesco, ASDA wish to know about the sales figure of the company, its position in the market, to analyze their competitive positioning.
Information required by stakeholders in different organizations
Monitoring and evaluation comprises of analysis and collection of data. All the relevant parties at every level need information for their respective subjects. Project managers require information about the consequences of a specific project to plan control the projects in a better way. Almost every organization publishes reports to give information to its stakeholders (Lee-Kelley and Sankey, 2008).
Systems used for communicating with the Marks & Spencer stakeholders
In Marks & Spencer, communication is all about the transmission of information. The company has both internal as well as external communication. Internal communication exists within the business of the retail giant, whereas external communication is present outside the boundaries of business. Both internal and external communications have witnessed great transformation owing to the rapid developments in communication and information technology. The company boasts of:
An interconnected system of internal communication- internal network.
An e-commerce system for B2C connections.
An e-commerce system for B2B connections.
When all these links are integrated with each other, a networked economy is created, which has greatly increased the potential of the company to associate with its workforce, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
The internal communication, i.e. communication with employees, shareholders is carried out in three ways i.e. oral, written and electronic. Information is transmitted verbally via face to face interactions, voice mails and etc. Information is communicated in written form by issuing letters, memos, and annual reports. Electronic communication is quickly overtaking other forms. The company has integrated this system in effectively. For instance, the stock list is now easily transmitted electronically from the supermarket to the main office. Transmission of all documents also takes place via emails only (Report on the Business of Marks and Spencer, n.d).
Marks and Spencer communicates with its external stakeholders like customers, community, government and etc. using external modes of communication. Its public relation function is a tool to effectively communicate its nice image to the concerned people. Websites, advertisements, promotional campaigns, business letters are some other methods through which the company communicates with its outside key stakeholders (Electronic Shareholder Communication, 2012).
Barriers in workplace communication
There are several barriers to effective communication in the organization. Some of them are listed below:
Inefficient listening skills - Poor listening results from:
Passive and not active listening and involvement when a person is speaking.
No involvement with the subject matter or the other person.
Material distractions like excessive noise in the environment, bad network.
Disparity in the opinion with the person who is speaking, which results in mentally shutting off the other person.
Biasness also creeps in, when a person chooses to listen to only some part and ignore the rest of the part (Perry, 2009).
Receiving a message that contains too much information also acts as a barrier to effective communication. The receiver is not able to correctly interpret or decipher the information because of too many facts. For instance, if the company has put up an advertisement regarding its new product or offer\, and too much information has been put into it, then the customer won't be able to digest all of it (4 Barriers to Effective Communication & What to Do About Them, 2011).
At times, it might happen that what a person is speaking is contradicted by his body language and gestures. When this happens, the other person is likely to remember what he saw and not what he heard.
Postulating literally sabotages effective communication. For example, when the marketing head of Marks & Spencer sees that his subordinates are nodding, he assumes that they understand what he is trying to convey, but the case may be totally opposite as well (4 Barriers to Effective Communication & What to Do About Them, 2011).
Influence of culture and values on communication
Every culture and every behavior involves the use of communication. Thus, communication can be said to be a transmitting medium for the ideas and values of different culture. Personalities of people, their respective values and understanding levels also influence communication (Hyde and Williamson, 2000).
Collectivism affects communication through cultural norms and values which are beneath the broad culture. This directly impacts communication by way of the characteristics that an individual learns when he/she socializes. For instance, the Americans display individualism, whereas, Asians display collectivism. As Marks & Spencer offers its products to both these regions, the cultural differences in the two areas are to be thoroughly considered and accordingly plan its communication strategies (Abubaker, n.d).
High as well as low context communication is followed in every culture throughout the globe. People following collectivism culture use high context communication while fostering group cohesion and communicate in a straightforward manner. People belonging to individualistic culture use low context messages and communicate in an indirect manner.
Cultures which are of high uncertainty avoidance nature follow unambiguous customs and norms to direct behavior for all kinds of situations. On the other hand, cultures with low uncertainty avoidance tendency are quite ambiguous and lack formal strictness. Face negotiation theory is a theory concerning the behavior and discussion in conflicting situations of people following collectivism and individualism. This theory is very popular for cross culture communication (Stubbs, n.d).
Marks & Spencer gives a lot of emphasis to cultural disparities and tries to comprehend plus eliminate all such gaps. Some of the initiatives started by the company are-
Cross Cultural exposure - The Company sends its employees to other countries for a definite period of time to acquaint them with other cultures. The employees stay there, work in other retail outlets of Marks & Spencer and learn about the cultures and values of that place (Alon, 2000).
Training and Workshops - The company provides training and conducts workshops to train its executives in handling of various cultural issues and problems.
Hiring multinational and multi cultural employees - The organizations aims at hiring people from different cultures and nationality to create a synthesis of various cultures.
Cognitive Dissonance -
This theory states that people are highly motivated to avoid differences in opinions arising out cultural disparities. People generally ignore listening to perspectives that contradict their own, in order to avoid conflicts and disharmony (Morton, 2005).
The use of technology- how it fosters and hinders communication
It is an obvious fact that communication is the foundation of our society. The commencement of communication technology and its several benefits has made the conducting of business easier internationally.
Cost Savings- Cost savings is the biggest advantage of the improvement of technology in business communication. Activities that once involved huge capital can now be finished off easily and in less time. For instance, prior to the commencement of Voice of Internet Protocol technology, making a long distance call was very costly. But, owing to VoIP and cellular telephone technology making calls has become very cheap. Similarly, earlier the only way to send letters from one place to another was to take the services of a messenger or postal service. The email, however, has eliminated the need to transport hard copies (Esmailzadeh, 2006).
Speed- The new technology has also increased the speed at which business operations take place. This is especially beneficial to retail companies that have interaction with suppliers in far-away locations. For instance, previously they had to plan meetings for individuals who are in different locations. Now, they can contact one another, sitting at their respective places owing to the video conferencing techniques (Derr, 2002).
Hiring of Qualified employees- Several jobs that never existed before have now been created. Skilled professionals are required to maintain, install and operate new information and communication technology tools.
On the other hand, the same technology can also act as an impediment to the business communication:
Impersonal Attitude - Employees might view electronic communication as impersonal if they only receive messages from managers through email. It also creates confusion as this requires more feedback in comparison to personal communication methods.
Security Issues - The new technology also raises several security concerns. Emails, text messages and other website communication are often vulnerable to be hacked by hackers or other individuals who should not have any rightful access to information (Hoof and et.al., 2005).
High tech Equipment Expense - The Company has to acquire new equipments to implement business communication technology in its operations. It also requires hiring a person who is capable of handling maintenance issues. This is an additional cost to the company (Wood, 2010).
Difficulty Training Employees - Retail companies face difficulty training employees about how to make use of the latest technology. They may have a difficult time making them understand the technology and how it work. The company might require shelling out a large sum of money on employee training (Miller, 2011).
The procedure of communication from sender to receiver:
Encoder: There should be a sender who wants s to communicate the idea.
Message: A message can be in various forms verbal, non verbal, written, and electronic.
Channel:MessagesÂ areÂ conveyedÂ throughÂ channels,Â withÂ nonÂverbalÂ &Â verbalÂ socialÂ interactions like televisions, telephone, meetings, conferences etc.
Decoder: A decoder is the person who receives the message from the sender and decodes it to get the real meaning.
Feedback: The receiver will give feedback as per his understanding of the message.
Context: TheÂ situationÂ inÂ whichÂ yourÂ messageÂ isÂ deliveredÂ isÂ theÂ context (Guffe and Loewy, 2010).
Recommendations for the improvement of the Marks & Spencer communication
Â To improve cultural communication between superiors & subordinates, the following are the actions that can be taken:
Implementation of more Intensive Information System: Technology plays an essential role in the activities of business, Therefore it is essential to improve the Information system of the organization by making sure that all of the employees will be connected to the latest updated communication system. It is also significant to focus on the various coaching and training procedures, where the recruits can apply for and get online class and seminars about different knowledge and skills, which will be supportive in order to fully motivate them to develop and improve, also leaders will have their thoughts about the demands and needs of the staff, which will be helpful in the process of implementing and planning programs and measures that will help to improve the motivation and spirit of the staff (Datamonitor Report, 2011).
Focus more on the Culture influence on Communication: It is important for the company to stress on the variety of cultures, and how it can influence their communication. Therefore the below mentioned things can be done to enhance communication in cultural differences:
Cross cultural training
Intercultural management training
Translation services (Miller, 2011)
Measures that should be taken to have an effective Communication Plan
Minimizing barriers to effective communication.
Rendering proper communication an integral part of the overall plan.
To bring out the untapped opportunities for improved communication, have effective systems in place.
Conduct an assessment to evaluate the communication skills the retailer and find out areas which require polishing.
Regular provision for training employees in improving their interpersonal skills communication skills and.
Employ team in charge of the overall Communication of the company.
Positive indicators that communication is more likely to be handled daily:
Visible actions & indicators
A culture that endorses direct yet non-threatening dialogue in interpersonal relations.
A culture that comprehends non-verbal communications (Aaker, 2007).
Thus it can be concluded that information is required by all stakeholder groups of an organization, though their information requirement varies. In Marks & Spencer both internal as well as external communication exists. Internal communication exists within the business of the retail giant, whereas external communication is present outside the boundaries of business. The company has an interconnected system of internal communication- internal network, an e-commerce system for B2C connections and an e-commerce system for B2B connections. Marks & Spencer also gives a lot of emphasis to cultural disparities and tries to comprehend plus eliminate all such gaps (Alon, 2000).