Business Communication and Research Methodologies

Abstract

Effective communication in a business environment plays an important role in enhancing flow of knowledge within a firm. Knowledge management in the current competitive environment defines the ability of a firm to gain a competitive edge over market rivals. Firms have realized that the best way of achieving market success is to have a system that allows an integrated approach of knowledge management. Using the modern communication technologies in mid-sized and large corporations is one of the ways used in enhancing communication systems. It is important to note that knowledge in the current society is very critical, and failing to manage it effectively within an organization may be the beginning of a downfall of a firm. Firms are gaining competitive advantages over their market rivals through having effective knowledge management systems that make it easy to share knowledge between the management and junior employees.

Background of the study

Communication is one of the most critical elements of an organization. According to Chaffey and Chadwick (2012, p. 76), a business unit requires an effective communication system that will enable all the stakeholders to coordinate when addressing various activities. In the current competitive business environment, the relevance of effective communication system is even more pronounced. Firms have realized that the best way of managing competition is through maintaining relevant knowledge at the right time and among the right stakeholders. This means that having an effective communication system that allows stakeholders to coordinate closely is vital in achieving success.

Some organizations prefer using bureaucratic business communication systems where information is passed from one office to the other base on the ranks. Other organizations prefer an open communication system where message is passed through the most effective channel possible irrespective of the hierarchies that exist within the organization. The approach that an organization takes in structuring its communication system may not matter much as long as the chosen system allows information to flow without any distortion at any of the stages. In this study, the researcher will conduct an investigation on the relevance of effective communication system in the context of large business corporations within the United Kingdom such as Virgin Atlantic.

Justification of the research

According to Wernerfelt (2006, p. 93), conducting research is a complex and costly process irrespective of its magnitude. A researcher will be forced to go to the field, gather relevant information, and then compile a report based on the findings. For this reason, it is important to justify the need to conduct a research before commencing the process. In this study, the focus is to determine the relevance of effective communication system within a multinational corporation. Many organizations have ignored the relevance of having a clearly structured communication system within their organizations. They consider communication as a process that would automatically fit within an organizational system. However, this fallacy is very costly because some of the most successful firms in the world today owe their success to an effective communication system.

As Wernerfelt (2006, p. 48) notes, junior employees are always in close contacts with the clients and various other environmental forces. They handle the practical aspects of policies developed by the top managements. In many cases, these top managers spend most of their time in offices developing policies and negotiating deals on behalf of the company. They get very little time to go to the field to understand the reality in these areas. For this reason, they need the input of the junior officers with field experiences when making policies to ensure that they are practical. This requires an effective communication system. This makes the study justifiable and relevant to mid-sized and large business corporations.

Research questions and research objectives

When planning to conduct research, it is important to define research questions and objectives. The research questions help the researcher to understand the kind of data that should be collected from the field. They help in identifying the data that may not be of any use based on the topic of the study. On the other hand, research objectives define the specific goals that should be achieved by the end of the study. According to Chaffey and Chadwick (2012, p. 59), conducting a study without knowing the specific goals that are to be achieved is very dangerous. The researcher will not have a parameter to check whether the intended goals have been achieved because these goals were never defined in the first place. The following are the specific questions that will be used in this study.

  1. What is the relevance of effective communication system within a business setting?
  2. How can a mid-sized or large corporation develop an effective business communication system?
  3. What are some of the critical components of an effective business communication system?
  4. What is the role of the management in the development of an effective business communication system?

Based on the above critical questions, the researcher seeks to achieve the following objectives.

  1. To determine the relevance of an effective communication system within a business setting
  2. To establish how a mid-sized or large corporation can develop an effective business communication system.
  3. To identify critical components of an effective business communication system
  4. To determine the role of management in the development of an effective communication system

Literature Review

Scholars have conducted researches in the field of communication for the past several years, and it is apparent that their narrative has been changing over the years due to changes taking place in the society. According to Fill (2013, p. 62), communication in a business setting has undergone through a series of transitions over the years. Before the First World War, the West dominated the global market in the manufacturing sector. Western Europe was in control of many countries, especially in Asia and Africa. Their companies had a ready market and cheap reliable sources of raw materials. During this time, bureaucratic form of communication was very effective. Firms did not need to get the opinion of the customers because they had no option but to buy the products presented to the market. The producers also had limited options when it came to selling their produce to the companies. In this context, interactive communication system was irrelevant.

Instructions came from the top office and junior officers were expected to follow them strictly without asking questions. During this period, hierarchy played an important role in the communication process (Ozuem 2004, p. 66). A junior officer was not expected to communicate directly with the mid-managers or senior officers without the permission of their supervisors. Simple communication systems were efficient. The management would use memos or direct communication using supervisors in order to pass their message to the employees. Unfortunately, employees never had an effective way of communicating with their superiors. Their views were never considered important to these organizations.

This kind of environment has changed over the years following the emergence of the United States, and China, as the leading economies in the world. Competition has gotten into the next level and firms are struggling to remain operational in the global market.

According to Koekemoer and Bird (2004, p. 23), firms are operating in an environment where information is very critical. These scholars note that organizations are spending a lot of money to conduct researches. They have realized that the only way of having a competitive edge over market rivals is to have the right information about various operational issues and pass this knowledge in order to operate efficiently. For instance, marketing is currently one of the most critical management functions to many multinational corporations. A firm may have superior products to that of its market competitors. However, its marketing strategies will determine how consumers will view the product in the market. This has forced many organizations to spend on market research in order to identify the right market segment to target, its tastes and preferences, and the purchasing power. When this sensitive information has been collected, it can only be relevant if it used as a source of knowledge by the relevant stakeholders. The management will need this information in order to develop effective marketing policies (Smith & Chaffey 2013, p. 86). The marketing officers at the field will need the information in order to determine how to approach customers in the market based on their tastes, preferences, and cultural practices. The board of directors will need the information in order to define their expectations towards a given investment. These very sensitive stakeholders within an organization play important roles in ensuring that the organization is successful, but at different levels of management.

According to Egan (2013, p. 45), it is not possible to find top executives mingling freely with junior officers on a regular basis. In fact, most of the board members in many organizations have their own businesses, and they can only afford minimal time to attend board meetings. When they make decisions, they need to get feedback from the relevant authorities on its relevance in addressing a specific problem. In such a highly integrated business setting, Chaffey and Chadwick (2012, p. 61) say an effective communication setting is of critical importance. These stakeholders cannot meet in a common forum frequently to share their views and important knowledge because of the limitation of time. However, they have to communicate regularly and share knowledge in order to make informed choices. This can be done by using some of the emerging technologies.

According to Ozuem (2004, p. 70), multinational corporations are under great pressure to develop effective business communication systems. In this global market, it is easy to find a firm headquartered in London having its production plant in China and its customer care unit in India, and the target market in North America, Europe, and Africa. In such a complex business environment, the top management unit will need to develop effective means of communication in order to monitor the firm’s operations in these different regions. Sharing relevant data in such global operations is critical because when making strategic decisions, environmental issues at all the facilities of the plant in the global market should be taken into account. It may be necessary to use the modern means of communication such as videoconferencing to facilitate communication between the top management unit and regional managers in various continents across the world (Wernerfelt 2006, p. 33).

Defining critical components of an effective communication system is the first step in establishing one (Ozuem 2004, p. 90). Before a firm can come up with right communication system that meets all its needs, it should first define the components that are involved. According to Egan (2013, p. 88), the first critical component of a communication system are the people involved in the process. Various stakeholders play different roles in the creation of an effective communication system. The top management unit is the policy making body. It is responsible for development of strategic goals and objectives that guides the path to be taken by a firm as it seeks to achieve its vision. The mid managers are the ‘drivers’ of knowledge from the top management unit to the junior officers and back. They act as the link between the executives and employees in non-managerial or junior managerial positions. The second component is the communication technologies, while the component is the message itself.

According to Smith and Chaffey (2013, p. 53), the leadership of any organization has a major role to play in the development of an effective communication system. Many firms are currently investing a lot in the communication infrastructure. According to Fill (2013, p. 87), infrastructural development within an organization depends on the decision made by the policy makers. They are responsible for resource allocation. The resources they allocate also determine the quality of workforce they can employ to manage their communication system. When they allocate enough resource, then it is likely that the firm will have an improved communication system. Besides financing, Egan (2013, p. 41) says that the management is responsible for the approval of communication systems that are to be implemented within the organization. This means that these leaders play a central role in defining the nature of communication system within their companies.

Research Methodology

When conducting research, Brewer and Hunter (2006, p. 67) say that it is important to come up with an appropriate research method that will define the entire process of collecting and analyzing data. The methodology should enable the researcher to investigate the issue critically in order to come up with a comprehensive report that can be relied upon by the policy makers. In this study, the researcher will be investigating the relevance of effective communication system within a business environment and the role played by various stakeholders to enhance effective communication.

Research design

Currently, communication is seen as the best tool that a firm can use to manage challenges in the dynamic environment. In order to gather data on the relevance of effective communication system to mid-sized and large corporations, it is important to come up with an effective research design. In this study, the researcher will use both the primary and secondary sources of knowledge. According to Wamia (2005, p. 56), secondary sources of data play an important role in defining the path that a researcher should take in the new study. The scholar notes that every piece of research is always an extension of a specific body of knowledge that already exists. It is prudent to consult these bodies of knowledge to understand what other scholars are saying about the issue under investigation. Not only does this help in reducing duplications of knowledge that is already existing, but also in defining the best approach that a researcher can use in a given study (Guest 2013, p. 135). With this knowledge, the researcher will be keen on reviewing literatures relevant to this topic.

The literatures were gathered from books, scholarly articles, reliable online sources, and company websites. The primary data will be collected from a group of participants from the participating companies. In this study, the researcher intends to interview mid managers and employees of Virgin Atlantic and Barclays Bank. These two companies were selected because of their impressive performance over the past decade, and the fact that they are operating in the global market. The researcher intends to interview 50 participants from each of the two companies, making the total number of expected participants to be 100. This is a good number because high level of reliability is needed in the study.

Data collection and analysis techniques

As mentioned above, the researcher will collect data from mid managers and junior employees at the two firms. To identify the participants, stratified sampling techniques will be used in order to have people from all the four strata carefully selected. In each stratum, simple random sampling will be applied. The researcher will use interview to gather relevant data from the participants. In order to guide the process of interview, a questionnaire will be developed based on the questions set for this research. Given the limited time, the researcher intends to use online interview. The research will use quantitative methods in the data analysis process. Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) will be used in the analysis of data. The results from this spreadsheet will be presented in tables, graphs, and charts for clarity purposes.

Ethical issues

When conducting a study, it is necessary to be ethical at various stages of research development. The researcher will inform the participants chosen in this study about the significance of the research because it is an ethical requirement. They will be informed that this study is specifically meant for academic purposes. The identity of the participants will not be revealed to anyone in order to eliminate any form of bias. To protect the identity of the participants further, the researcher will use numerical identities other than their real names. The participants will pick these new identities randomly to eliminate chances of their real identity being revealed. The researcher will ensure that the participants selected have the right knowledge over this issue under investigation. According to Chaffey and Chadwick (2012, p. 58), one of the main ways of maintaining ethics in a piece of research is to use a fair approach in the selection of the participants. In most of the cases, researchers would select participants who may have a similar pattern of reasoning as their own in order to influence the results of the research in a given skewed manner. Chaffey and Chadwick (2012, p. 67) say that this is an unethical act that a reputable researcher should avoid at all costs. In this study, the researcher will avoid such structured pattern of selecting the participants. Those who will take part in the study will be selected in a fair manner that is not influenced by the researcher. They will be picked randomly without first investigating their views over the issue. This will help in ensuring that the data collected is the true representation of the views of the entire population.

Validity and reliability of the study

When conducting a research, Vogt (2007, p. 113) says that validity and reliability are two factors that should not be ignored because the report may be of importance to individuals or institutions. Validity and reliability of a study is critical because it defines the level to which a given report can be applied. Validity refers to how well the study has used tools of research in collecting and analyzing data (Greene 2007, p. 81). Reliability refers to how well the report can be applied in a practical context in order to solve real life problems. The researcher will avoid all forms of bias when selecting the participants for the study. Triangulation was used to enhance validity of the research further. The reliability of the study will be enhanced by conducting the study on two successful British firms. This means that data was taken from a practical context.

List of References

Brewer, J & Hunter, A 2006, Foundations of multi-method research: Synthesizing styles, Sage, Thousand Oaks.

Chaffey, D & Chadwick, F 2012, Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation & Practice, Pearson Education, Harlow.

Egan, J 2013, Marketing communications, Sage Publications Ltd, New York.

Fill, C 2013, Marketing Communications: brands, experiences and participation, Pearson Education, Harlow.

Greene, JC 2007, Mixed methods in social inquiry, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Guest, G 2013, Describing mixed methods research: An alternative to typologies, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, vol. 7. no. 1, pp 141-151.

Koekemoer, L & Bird, S 2004, Marketing communications, Juta Academic, Lansdowne.

Ozuem, W 2004, Conceptualising Marketing Communication in the New Marketing Paradigm: A Postmodern Perspective, Pearson, Boca Raton.

Smith, P & Chaffey, D 2013, E-Marketing Excellence: Planning and Optimising your Digital Marketing, Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevier.

Vogt, P 2007, Quantitative Research Methods for Professionals Author, Pearson, New York.

Wamia, G 2005, Quantitative methods in research, University Press of America, Lanham.

Wernerfelt, B 2006, Efficient Marketing Communication: Helping the Customer Learn, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 239-246.

Appendix

Appendix 1: Timeline for Activities in the Plan

Time/
Activity
1st-15thDec. 2014 16th-30thDec. 2014 1st-15thJan. 2015 16th-30thJan. 2015 1st-15thFeb. 2015
Proposal Development
Review of Literatures
Collecting Primary Data
Primary Data Analysis
Report Development

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