Communication is the process that takes place when information is passed between Individuals or organisations to achive a goal by various communication medians which is understood by both the sender and receiver. The ability to communicate is vital to us whether it is at work or at play. Various types of communications take place on a daily basis. However each method of communication has its advantages and disadvantages. It is commonly seen that in large organisations, Information can get distorted If It is not effectively communicated to the concerning Individuals causing loss of revenue, time and custom. When you communicate well with people they are more likely to understand what you want to say and take the actions expected.
DESCRIPTION OF ORGANISATION
Next Retail LTD is a chain of retail stores which caters for men, women, children, home furniture as well as home shopping. It focuses on customer service and is renowned for their clothing quality and sales. Their main competitors are Marks & Spencer's, Debenhams, British Home Store, Allders, River Island, Zara and FCUK. The Next retail chain was opened In February 1982 with just one shop, by the end of June of that year there were over 70 shops. Today Next has over 500 stores In the UK and owns 100 franchise stores In Europe. In 1988 Next Introduced their Next Directory, and In 1999 their online store was opened which Is one of the biggest online shopping sites In Europe since Its displays every page of their catalogue every season a first In home shopping.
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Next currently employs nearly 50,000 employees who work in both UK and Ireland. They have on average 300,000 transactions per day from customers.
MANGEMENT STRUCTURE OF NEXT
When describing the structure of Next, the most appropriate model would be the matrix structure, which is used to organise the work force. Only the people that best fit the job are taken on and put into teams and then are given responsibilities of Individual departments, new lines and stock etc. All the employees work within the same environment who report to the department managers, who then In turn report to line or floor manager followed by senior management.
There are various advantages and disadvantages of such structure and has caused conflict on many levels however with the volume of staff, manager's etc It Is seen to essential to lay down such a structure. Some of the advantages are that the matrix structure allows employees to share Information easily In terms of communication and problems being addressed quicker, however just like with any large organisation this does not always run as smoothly as messages or changes are delayed whilst being authorised by line managers and also a common Issue or disadvantage has been has been that sometimes employees become confused due to conflicting loyalties and the allocation of resources between departmental mangers and line managers.
ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE OF NEXT
The culture of an organisation is essential to understand because it is the values and norms that are shared by their employees, and control the way they interact with each other and with their stakeholders outside the organisation as well. However It Is commonly seen large organisations struggle to understand the culture running through their business and next are no different.
An appropriate culture model to describe the culture at Next would be Harrison's Four Cultures (1972) later popularised by Charles Handy (1985) which labels out four categories of culture, role, power, achievement and support culture.
From experience from an employee level, Next culture is that of role culture venturing into achievement culture in some aspects. This is because clear roles have been defined for the Individual workers and floor managers i.e. what their responsibilities and areas are, what their tasks are as well as their breaks, wage packets etc and these do not change unless there is a crisis. Within the teams that have been created there is a strong task or achievement culture where the daily running of the departments is handled by the department head. With this culture in place tasks are completed to the highest standards and customer service flourishes since all areas are covered.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
However the organisation is oblivious to this and strongly believes that there is a strong support or person culture within Next and advertises this fact internally and externally.
This links Into Stein (1991) culture model whose definition Implicates that they may be a difference between what an organisation says it does and what It actually does which makes it difficult for the organisations In question Implement changes.
DESCRIPTION OF ORGANISATIONAL COMMUNICATION
At Next, within the matrix structure, senior managers and departmental managers are responsible for ensuring clear, correct and appropriate communication are being transmitted throughout the organisation and Individual teams as well as employees understanding the messages.
Communication at Next uses both downward and upward communication. Downward communication flows from manger to employee or from head office to store managers. Communications include such things as written handovers done at the end of each day, handwritten notes, e-mail, computer files, and online replenishment systems as well at training modules which are accessed at till points via next Intranet. These communication medians are not always successful due to their nature. Furthermore any assistance that is required can take time to reach the appropriate Individuals due to restrictions to access to some Information.
A simple model that is used to illustrate organisational communications is the Shannon and Weaver model (1949). This model deals with how communication travels from the transmitter to the receiver considering the concept of noise interrupting the message. The model was originally created for the telecommunications but has associated with organisational communication and has been the foundation for communication theory.
The Shannon-Weaver model measures the efficiency and flexibility of a communication system. It is sometimes referred to as the S-M-C-R model, (Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver).
Sender (or Encoder):An Information source; a person or device that originates a message.
Receiver (or Decoder): The audience for a message. Also known as the addressee.
Message: The actual Information or signal sent from a sender to a receiver the "content"
Medium(or Channel): The method used to transmit a message (e.g., print, speech, telephone, smoke signals, etc.).
Noise: Technical or semantic obstacles; that Is, anything that Interferes with the clear transmission of a message (e.g., low visibility, poor Ink quality, static electricity).
Interpretation: All operations that a receiver performs In order to decode and understand a message.
Feedback: Information about a message that a receiver sends back to the sender; the receiver's reaction or response.
An example of the above communication is when next receiving a recall of a product notice (Message). This notice is generated by head office when there have been a high number of returns of a product or complaints by customers (Information Source). This email is sent from the retail support team (Sender) at Next head office by email (Channel or Median) to ensure that there is a record of this message as well as the convenience of such communication and the speed of recall. These emails are sent to departmental leaders and managers (Receiver) who should access these via computer (Decoder). If those Individuals are absent the notice is delayed reaching the team dealing with the recalled stock (Destination).
NEXT COMMUNICATION CHANNELS
The following communication tools are used to communicate news to the staff:
- Face-to-Face Team Meeting: This is carried out each morning with all members of staff working the morning shift and all the mangers within the store. The manager also sets financial and directory targets as well as home delivery services for the day and informs the employees of any new bulletin and previous day achievements.
- Notice board: This method of communication is used within Next to inform employees about the store, for example; monitoring of staff performance and being graded as well as achievements. Financial targets are also placed on the board so it is clear to the employees what they are aiming to achieve. This board is also used for advertising in store vacancies.
- Training Cards & Videos: This method is used to save time on training and being able to train a large number of employees. At the end there is an answer, question session.
- Cell phone: Used to communicate shift hours and important urgent messages.
DESCRIPTION OF ROLE/S PREFORMED
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Throughout my time at Next I have preformed several different roles within the organisation. This was Important to adapt successfully to the changing environment of retail. As a retail salesperson my main role has been selling a vast variety of Items from shoes, to clothes, to home furniture and electrical Items. In addition my role has also required me to provide assistance and communicate with customers, interesting them in various products and helping them find what they are looking for. As part of my job I have also been asked to demonstrate products use by wearing best selling clothing and distinctive accessory to draw in the customers and to give advice on the trends.
During my employment at Next the original job description given in the first Instance has changed. The goal post is no longer the same. For example training new staff and running and controlling departments as a sale assistant and stock takes etc were not part of the job but have been embedded through unwritten rules and practices overtime, however the foundation of my role still exists.
During my time at Next communication with Internal and external stakeholders has been essential on all levels whether it's with customers, colleagues or senior management. As mentioned above Next uses various methods to communicate with staff and my experience shows the most important element is stakeholder communication. The main forms of communication I have been Involved with have been:
- Hallway and Staff Room Conversation
- After work socialisations
- Company run events
- Social Networking Sites
- Paycheck Inserts
- Telephone Conversations
Each one of the above communication medians have their advantages and disadvantages and can be improved further. Most of the meetings that I have been Involved with have been very formal and Intended for large groups of people and have been a monologue where Information Is passed down. For example this year was the first year we traded on Boxing Day and a meeting was arranged for staff members. Since this meeting had been a monologue communicated to us, many of the staff using public transport misinterpreted the content and Information given, which caused massive disruptions and resulted In Individual consultation with almost 100 staff members refusing to work unless arrangements were made. This could have been avoided by management notifying staff earlier and engaging in dialogue with the staff to reach a positive outcome.
The most successful forms of communication I have experienced are hallway and staff room conversations and after work socialising events because they are more casual environments and you get to get to speak to our seniors on a one to one basis and clear the air as well as get feedback. However some of these conversations don't materialise into physical actions, they are not recorded and some can misinterpret the actions.
Most of the telephone conversations I have been Involved with are mainly with customers dealing with enquires and chasing complaints, orders etc as well as speaking to colleagues in other branches. I believe this is often underutilised at Next since email is so common but this communication median is more effective and is more likely to help you engage with the stakeholders rather than an email which might not be read. By using voice Intonation for excitement, urgency, etc it can be more compelling.
REFLECTIVE REVIEW OF EXPERIENCE
Interpersonal skills are of the upmost Importance In any line of work especially within retail. From my personal work experience at Next and my academic education I feel that I have gained and build upon my existing skills set. I have gained effective presentation skills In which I am able to deliver and create various presentations and being a critical thinker has helped me develop strong analytical skills and accuracy.
In addition throughout my work experience and academic education I have also developed good verbal and written skills as well as organisational skills such as listening, team working, leadership and organising people. Within communication skills In particular I have also learnt to use appropriate words and context when communicating with stakeholders at all levels for maximum affect. As my experience and responsibilities have increased I have also noticed Improvements with both downwards and upwards communication and can approach senior management with confidence without fear of retribution. Examples of such communication are as follows:
Downwards Communication: Over the Christmas period I spent a proportion of my time at work training up new Christmas assistants. I was able to communicate the organisations missions, rules and regulations as well as training the Individuals to carry out daily task effectively and quickly. An Improvement that I would suggest to help new recruits and present staff to communicate better downwards Is to provide members of staff with a set job description to which they can refer and regular team meetings with fellow staff to allow direct, face-to-face Interaction which will the downwards communication flow smoothly.
Upward Communication: During the sale period I had to take charge of the shoe department which meant I had more Interaction with the managers towards the run-up, during and after the sale. This was the first time I was working closely with the managers and felt apprehensive. After a briefing with the managers I took charge and my skill set and communication techniques helped me achieve success. However an Improvement that I would suggest would be that managers meet their employees at least once a month to listen to their concerns. It should not be necessarily a formal Interaction but a casual chit-chat about how things are going on their departments. These management and staff meetings would be the best way to gather feedback. This allows the staff members to reflect on the feedback and Improve In order to be better at their better in their roles.
The following documents have been requested as evidence.
(Trading Statements, Team Roles & Responsibility Breakdown, some form of appraisal or feedback on my performance)
CAREER MANAGEMENT REVIEW
Reflecting on my work experience I believe I have progressed in my learning by developing on my skills and knowledge and have learnt new skills from the retail sector. Within this job I have worked closely with all stakeholders, whether that is managers, colleagues or customers and have provided support. This reason for placement was mainly about getting vital retail work experience, which I could list on my curriculum vita (CV) and which would thus help me show that I had diverse experiences of work. But once I joined Next I realised they also did graduate schemes to help their employees to gain access into the fashion profession especially their part time student staff. Upon discovering this I decided to stay at Next for a better chance to get onto the graduate scheme. In addition to boosting my CV, I also believe that this placement has helped me to decide whether I would be good enough and whether I would enjoy the role of a buyer, merchandiser or seller in this type of environment. This reflection has made me rethink about the graduate scheme and whether It Is the best I can achieve however I believe know that I understand the communication flaws and problems that have arisen from this and believe I can be different and educate those responsible for these problems and Implement a better communication systems.
Also having done this reflection I have realised that the real learning does not come from the placement or from your academic knowledge but from reflecting on positive and negative feedback you have received to help Improve and become a more professional and a more aware Individuals In sync with the changing environment.
This reflection has shown me the flaws with strategic communication within large organisation how small communication problems can lead to major problems. It has also made me question whether there is a perfect communication if there is one at all.