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The effectiveness of the process efficiencies of the San Francisco Department of Human Resources (SF DHR) relies heavily on its ability to facilitate job-related communication. Such communication occurs in various internal organizational structures as well as in different interactive processes and can take on various forms of empowerment. According to Griffin and Moorhead, “communication is essential to decision-making process”, which implies “informational sharing” within the interpersonal relations of organization, but should not be regarded “as a collection of facts and figures”. In this respect, Conrad and Poole justified that communication happens within a particular context and is generally defined as a process, which occurs when “people, acting together, create, sustain, and manage meanings”. Conrad and Poole’s definition explains the importance of the two-way communicative process, which implies the conveyance of the specific message, its assessment and feedback. Therefore, communication skills should be regarded as an important element of the participation in the communication.

Accordingly, the SF DHR acknowledged the importance of communication skills for the effectiveness of the communicative interactive process and agreed to take part in the communication audit. As Goldhaber (1990) stated, the effectiveness of communication audit is determined by the possibility of “deriving valid information about the communication systems” so that the organization “becomes aware of current practices and behavior” and can take “initiative in planning for future”. In this respect, the main objective of the study is to investigate how the informational exchange depends on the organizational structure, and which strategies of organizing can facilitate interpersonal relationships within the divisions and with clients. Therefore, the specific goals of the research were defined as follows:

-  To explore how information is shared within the organizational divisions and involved City’s workforce;

- To analyze what communication channels is used to enhance the exchange of information through the different levels of supervisors and subordinates with and without the delegated organizational power;

-  To explore organizational communication interactive process;

-  To identify how communication affects objectives, values and performance of the organization;

- To diagnose what strengths and opportunities the SF DHR has for improvement, considering the abovementioned factors;

and, finally,

-To provide the organization with the obstructive recommendations that will improve its internal and external communication and ameliorate its performance.

In this respect, the purpose of the organizational study is to determine how various forms of the organizational communication can best conform to the SF DHR’s mission and values. Furthermore, the research is aimed to explore how those forms provide the established Equal Employment Opportunity within honest and frictionless communication of collaboration and cooperation and create a positive name for the organization in the City County of San Francisco.

Description of the SF DHR

In order to provide the organization with the outcome-based solutions, it is essential to acquire information about the core work, process efficiencies, and effective strategies within the different levels of the organizational structure.

Foundations of the Organization

The core work of the SF DHR is to recruit and manage the City’s workforce through the provision of training and development services, based on the WD objective that implies the creation of the extraordinary and challenging learning experiences for the highest quality of public service. In this respect, the organization’s mission is supported with the vision process, which is based on the provision of assistance and guidance for recruits and responds to “an increased number of workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation complaints” (SF DHR, 2012, p. 4). The elements of the organization’s visions are based on the characteristics of the situational leadership model and embrace the components of the effective strategies of organizing. These elements are defined as follows:

a) Caring implies to be communicative with those, who depend on the organizational performance;

b) Values, which are exemplified through recognition of the dedicated performance;

c) Fairness, which corresponds to the provision of the equal employment opportunity in the organizational environment;

d) Teamwork, when honest communication and the safe learning environment are supported by collaboration and cooperation.

Considering that the establishment of the organization’s performance is based on the effectiveness of the communication skills, the research must view the results in the light of their correspondence with the values and mission of the SF DHR.

The Structure of the SF DHR

The organization consists of six divisions, whose process efficiencies are based on the obligatory written policies and procedures. Each of these divisions functions under the specific regulations and programs and are bound by the common terms of the training, recruiting and assessing units.

The power of the organizational chain is located in the authorization of a commission-appointed mayor, who supervises the DiSC model of the conflict-assessed communication, based on the Memorandum of Understanding’s (MOU) bias of employees’ relations through the electronically-based eMerge interactive process. Therefore, the administering personnel instructions of the City Service Rules of the written policies and procedures are organized in the following broad functional areas:

a) The Employment Services Division (ESD), which provides recruitment and assessment services, client assistance, classification, compensation and information for the employees;

b) The Employee Relations Division (ERD), which negotiates and administers conditions of the collective bargaining agreements between the City and the labor employees’ organizations;

c) The Worker’s Compensations Division (WC), which administers lawfully regulated benefits related to industrial injuries and illnesses;

d) The Workforce Development Division (WD), which develops and implements training programs and provides assistance to employees’ subject of layoff;

e) The Equal Employee Opportunity Division (EEO), which provides professional, expert and consultative assistance to the applicants, employees, and departments with respect to the fair job-related conditions;

f) The Administration Division (ADM), which implements crisis communication management through the Disaster Service Worker Program and initiates policy changes through the Civil Service Reform Program.

Considering responsibilities and functions of these divisions, the chart of organizational structure is designed as follows:

As one can see from the chart’s design, the mayor as a head of the organizational decision-making process performs downward communication with the organization’s subordinates and entrusts specific written responsibilities to the HR director, who controls tasks’ implementation by the ESD and ADM sections. Considering the organization’s mission, vision casting, and functional structure, SF DHR’s formal communication is based on the traditional three-level strategies of organizing, when two-way interactive process follows an established chain of the command method. From Conrad and Poole’s (2012) perspective, “different levels of power and status” complicate the informational flow when “centralization of power in decision-making” places limited demands on communication (pp. 79-82).

Furthermore, considering the WD objective of the organization, which is focused on the provision of the challenged learning experience, the interpersonal relationships require specialized skills of employees, in order to eliminate the conflict that occurs from the differences of interpretation of the written messages. On the other hand, facilitation of the electronic exchange of information with the usage of eMerge and MOU applications can be considered as an attempt to revitalize the communication process. In this respect, “ICTs support the relationships of supervisor and subordinates” and are based on the initiatives of the quality improvement programs. Although the established chain-in-command communication is based on the written policies and procedures, technological improvements abolish significant time-consuming and redundant tasks. 

Additionally, transformational leadership techniques of the organizational management that are based on the construction of understanding behavior of each subordinate help evaluate competence and commitment of the employees toward the completion of the set goals. Therefore, the research process should focus on the organizational set-up, strategies of organizing, and process efficiencies.

Research Process

The research process had an explorative in-depth qualitative nature, which investigated formal and informal bias of the SF DHR’s communication process that has internal and external sources. Furthermore, the aim of the research was based on the analysis of the existing strategies of organizing and how they are implemented, considering the hierarchy of the organizational design.

Limitations

It is important to note that this audit depends on the end-user requirements and is constrained by the data collection tool, which is elaborated by the organization in question. Since the audit analysis was performed from the external auditor perspective, the research had the following limitations:

Time restrains. This study assignment was performed within the period of several weeks, according to the finalized criteria of data evaluation, which was scheduled by the SF DHR. Thus, the research could not cover all forms of communication within the organization, which included process efficiencies, budgeting administration, and performance evaluation management.

Confidential information. Considering the sensitivity of the specific personnel files and safety instructions manuals, the research was limited with the observation opportunity, which did not include the in-depth document reviews and e-mail questionnaires.

Restrictions of the sections of the internal operations.  Thedata evaluation process, based on the benchmark analysis of the specific DHR’ activities, was reviewed in the light of compliance with the regulatory specifications. In this respect, the audit report could not be drafted on the grounds of the well-informed assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the organizing strategies of DHR because ADM and WCD’s staff was not available by means of the established data collection criteria.

Limited cognitive experience of the applicants. While evaluating the external interactive process of the organization with the perspective employees, the research could not provide deep insight and credible assessment of the various aspects of the organization’s management, considering the lack of training and cognitive experience of the focus group participants.

Accordingly, the scope of work and methodology were shaped on the grounds of these limitations.

Scope of the Study

The abovementioned limitations narrowed the scope of the research, which had to be focused on the organizational communication within the internal and external operations and activities. Furthermore, inaccessibility of the data from the Administration and the Worker’s Compensation Divisions compelled the research to be focused on the following internal and external communication channels and sources of the informational exchange:

a) eMerge-based interactive and decision-making processes that occur between the Human Resource Director and divisions in her/his subjection;

 b) Written and telephone-based persuasive communication that occurs between these divisions’ staff members and the involved clients.

The following arguments constrained the research to be focused on the abovementioned externalities of the organizational communication:

1) Internal organizational communication has restrains in the informational flow, although it is based on the in-depth construction for understanding behavior of subordinates;

2) The internal communication process was observed as an area that needed enhancement with the manageable recommendations, considering reliance of the latter on the written policies and procedures, and predominance of the electronic informational exchange between the source and the receiver of the interpreted message;

3) The Human Resource Director noted conflict-escalating conditions within and outside the organizational communication and required an engagement of the survey questionnaires to acquire the subordinates’ opinions on the process efficiencies in order to provide a deep insight and credible perspectives of the principle-based expectations.

In this respect, the study will be substantially focused on the SF DHR’s strategies of organizing, their effect on the internal and external communication process, and how the organization’s core work models revitalize and influence the effectiveness of the DHR’s process efficiencies.

Methodology

Considering the end-user requirements and the finalized criteria by the organization’s management, the methods applied in order to study communication in the SF DHR were set up as follows: data evaluation of sketches, interview questions, survey questionnaires, and observation.

In order to get credible perspective and well-informed assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the SF DHR’s systems, there was a pressing need to ask the following questions:

  • What are the main characteristics of SF DHR’s job sharing, process efficiencies, and outcome-expectations?
  • What are the organization’s values and perspectives?
  • How does effective communication within the organization reflect the department’s general health?

In order to obtain credible and confirmable assessment of the abovementioned issues, the data evaluation of sketches was used. For that purpose, the data collection tool was focused on the examination of the accessible document reviews of the job service programs, which are highlighted in the formal publications and manuals. The following internal and external sources provided an opportunity for the organization’s exploration:

External 1. Organization Website. The SF DHR’s official website provides the basic information on the main department highlights, as well as the interactive processes, projects and service programs. Furthermore, the website provides basic specifications of the policies that determine the direction and outcome of the communication process.

External 2. Brown Bags Brochures. The online applications that give essential information about pre-employment, separations, and job-rotation procedures that imply the position approval and hiring process submitted though eMerge software. Furthermore, this software links communication between the department and the DHR (see Appendix A).

External 3. Annual Reports. The purpose of the annual report is to outline the DHR’s accomplishments from the perspectives of the technological, financial and reformist improvements. Furthermore, these reports highlight the aspects of the divisions’ process efficiencies, as well as the external communication’s specifications with the clients.

Internal 1. Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The purpose of the document is to inform the staff members about the collective bargaining conditions that are established with the contracting employee organizations. Furthermore, the document outlines the essential Civil Service Rules and working conditions that must be complied with by the subordinates during job sharing processes.

Internal 2. Employee Handbook. The messaging of this manual is similar to the specification of the abovementioned document, with the exception of the detailed description of the DHR’s internal process efficiencies. In addition, the manual gives a well-informed assessment of the Equal Employee Opportunity Program, which is initiated for the encouragement of the employees’ retention.

Internal 3. Employee Newsletter “Workforce Connections”. The articles of each issue outline training and personnel topics, based on the brief cognitive description and contingency comments of the specialists from the respective divisions of the department.

Each of these sources was explored regarding the description of the organizational communication issues, and the department’s effectiveness in communicating of the organization’s values and process efficiencies. For that purpose, the data retrieved from these sources was sketched and evaluated in accordance with the theoretical perspectives of the organizing strategies for the effective interactive processes.

Furthermore, the interview questions method played an important part in the crucial stage of the informational confirmation. It is worth noting that the first interview was held with the Human Resource Director for informational seeking purposes. The general objectives of this data collection interview were regarded to the following perspectives:

a) To gain permission to conduct research and the interview surveys, considering the set instrument of the data collection of the organization;

b) To determine which research methods will be available and sufficient, considering the principle-based expectations of the organization;

c) To acquire specific external and internal communication sources that closely relate to the communication process;

d) To quickly review the general health of the organization by isolating key factors that relate to the interactive process of the two-way interpersonal relations;

 e) To communicate with the end-user requirements and outcomes of the research to the participants of the study.

Considering the current hierarchical design of the organization, the next interviews were held according to the demographic approach of the structure of the department. For that purpose, the managers who are subordinated to the Human Resource Director were interviewed. These managers are the Heads of the following divisions: the ESD, the ERD, the WDD, Classification & Compensation, Recruit & Assessment, Client and Employment Information Services. Considering the limitations of the research scope, the heads of the ADM and the WCD were not accessible for the data collection analysis, restraining the research findings with solely available financial data from the annual reports. The rationale behind choosing these management-related interviewees was based on the need to cover informational flaws, which were created on the grounds of the chain-in-command communication and centralized decision-making.  

The questions from the interview list were based on the general basics of the data evaluated by the initial observations. They  were used as an aid for the examination of other research methods that explored internal communication process of the department. Therefore, the following questions were used to solicit dialogue from the involved interviewees, considering their cognitive experience in the theoretical perspectives and obligatory written regulations:

  1. What are the primary forms of internal and external communication within your department and your subordinated division specifically? Do they work? Considering the hierarchical design of your organization and centralized power of decision-making, is there a necessity to develop the informal networks that could shape initial opportunities for interaction?
  2. If a problem exists, is a DiSC style model considered effective in recognition and addressing of that conflicting situation? Considering the in-depth view assessment of the understanding behavior, which is constructed with this model, would you consider a decision-making process which is based on the management by an objective example, as an effective tool of finding a solution?
  3. Do you feel that the “chain of command” method is effective at getting accurate feedback and assistance to issues? Is the informational flow successful? Is the message interpreted correctly? Please, explain?
  4. Does your workload closely resemble the specifications of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program? Are the merit systems fairly applied? Did the training schedules effectively impact the organization’ process efficiencies?
  5. If you were given the full reign of the department, what would you change in the communication process and decision-making? What strategic characteristics you would reshape for the achievement of the task-oriented goals?

The abovementioned questions were disposed in the casual-investigatory pattern. Considering that the initial observation clarified particular flaws in the organization’s communicative process efficiencies, the researcher decided to set up the questions, in order to provoke the manager’s re-evaluation of the efficiency of the established strategies of organizing and to define the efficiency of the decision-making framing. For that purpose, the interview questions were previously sent via the e-mail messages to the managers in question in order to allow them carrying out of additional research if needed and get ready for the individual interview. The list of their responses is drafted in the Appendix B.

The findings from the abovementioned interview questions helped to create the question list for the survey questionnaires. Since the research perspective was based on the end-user requirements and implied to remain separate from the creation of the e-mail questionnaires, the researcher’s survey questionnaires were based on the raw data provided by the organization’s management. Therefore, these questionnaires were filled in anonymously by 30 employees of the various divisions. Such a design pattern provided essential guarantees of fairness and credibility of the given responses.

Regardless the limitations of the research, the survey questionnaires allowed reflecting assessment of confirmation of the principle-based expectations since they included the following broad questions:

  1. Do you respect the organization you work for?
  2. Are you satisfied with the working conditions?
  3. Are your job description and specifications defined effectively?
  4. Does the organization stress out the importance of communication with the training and orientation processes?
  5. Do these processes sufficiently develop equal opportunities for employees?
  6. How often communication training takes place? How useful are the manual, instruction notes, and software packages in the training programs?
  7. Do you interact with your co-workers often enough? Do you receive sufficient feedback from that interaction? Does your work group tightly interconnected?
  8. Do you have open interpersonal relationships with your supervisor? Does he/she respond appropriately to your concerns? Do you have fear of being penalized for the delegated decision-making?
  9. Do you clearly understand your role and expectations in the division and department as a whole? Is the working vision clearly communicated and framed to you?
  10. Does your management recognize your commitment and competence? Are you empowered in the participatory decision making process?
  11. Do you see your position as a career more than just a job? Do you feel that your contingent reinforcement and positive rewards are fair enough?

Considering the raw data examination was performed from the external researcher’s perspective, it was obstructive for the study to be conducted in the question-answer integrated pattern, based on the meaning similarities of the responses. The integrated list of those responses is given in Appendix C.

Furthermore, the researcher was provided with the additional survey questionnaires that were drafted by the organization’s management in preceding years. The advantages of the surveys’ availability was based on the specificity of the job-related questions content, which gave deeper insight into the employees’ opinions concerning the effectiveness of the training programs, sufficiency of the written communication processes, and accessibility of the electronically-based interactive processes.

Integrally, the research covered 150 survey questionnaires with different contents. These explorations gave an effective supplement to the final research method – observation. The researcher attended recruitment and retention negotiations, studied available documents of the Joint Labor-Management Committee, and looked through the Preliminary Position Classification Approvals, in order to gain the credible information about the predominant strategies of organizing, formal channels of communication, and effectiveness of the informational flows within the department and with the City’s workforce in question.

In addition, specific limited areas of the study were substituted by the drafts of the written agendas and schedules, provided by the Human Resource Director. Therefore, the data evaluation sketches, interview questions and survey questionnaires’ methods integrated with status-related organizational focus groups and observation methods helped cover the scope of the study with respect to the limitations and, thus, complete the analysis of the external and internal sources of the SF DHR’s communication.

Code: Sample20

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