Informed Employee Voice: The Synthesis of Internal Corporate Communication and Employee Voice and the Associations with Organisational Engagement

Ruck, Kevin (2016) Informed Employee Voice: The Synthesis of Internal Corporate Communication and Employee Voice and the Associations with Organisational Engagement. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aims to advance knowledge about internal communication and organisational engagement. It incorporates the application of a new research instrument, the Internal Communication and Organisational Engagement Questionnaire (ICOEQ) developed by Welch (2011a). The ICOEQ investigates employee interest in different topics, helpfulness of communication methods used, ratings for senior manager and line manager communication, satisfaction with employee voice and the associations with organisational engagement.
Despite the importance of internal communication, existing research methods are limited as they do not adequately distinguish between different dimensions of internal communication as established by Welch and Jackson (2007, p.184) and they fail to make an association with organisational engagement. The ICOEQ therefore provides a new research perspective for academic researchers and communication managers. The conceptual analysis builds on Welch and Jackson’s (2007, p.185) internal communication matrix. It synthesises corporate communication and employee voice into a new concept, informed employee voice, to reflect the importance of keeping employees informed and giving them a voice that is treated seriously.
The empirical work adopts a critical realism approach. A cross-sectional research design was used. The ICOEQ was administered at five organisations followed by interviews and focus groups. Quantitative data analysis suggests that internal communication is more strongly correlated with emotional organisational engagement than with cognitive or behavioural organisational engagement. Ratings of senior manager communication and line manager communication and satisfaction with employee voice are positively associated with organisational engagement. Standard multiple regression analysis indicates that informed employee voice is a significant predictor of organisational engagement. Template analysis of qualitative data indicates that many senior managers are not visible or approachable and they do not listen to what employees have to say. New themes that emerge include more informal and small group communication with senior managers, a greater focus on the local context of internal corporate communication from line managers and more emphasis on listening and responding to employee voice. Possible explanations for the findings include a focus on shareholder value and the consequential neglect of employee value and the marginalisation of internal communication in academia and practice. Theoretical implications include the adoption of employee voice more fully into internal corporate communication theory, the addition of familiarity as an attribute of internal communication media and the identification of three explanatory factors for the exercise of internal ‘power over – dominance’. Above all, the thesis establishes informed employee voice as an antecedent to organisational engagement. The implications for practice include the establishment of the ICOEQ as a useful measurement tool and the requirement for communicative leadership that includes giving employees a voice that is treated seriously.

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