In Castells’ (2001) definition of the information society, the term information refers to a specific form of social organization in which the generation, processing, and transmission of information become the basic source of productivity and power, due to the new technological conditions of a particular period of time. In this information- based society, people are amongst the most valuable and scarce assets of an organization (Murgolo- Poore, Pitt, & Ewing, 2002). It is recognized that members of an organization are of capital importance to its success, and employees are viewed as a key strategic group in obtaining organizational competitiveness (Grunig, 1992; Murgolo-Poore & Pitt, 2001). Employee communication plays an important role in improving organizational efficacy, performance, and competitiveness (Clampitt & Downs, 1993; Morley, Shockley-Zalabak, & Cesaria, 2002). It plays a role in the coordination of tasks, the circulation of information, and in helping employees to identify with organizational objectives and values (Hargie & Tourish, 2004). It even has potential benefits for external customer satisfaction (Piercy & Morgan, 1991; Fisk, Brown, & Bitner, 1993). This confirms the vital role that employee communication plays in organizational success (Murgolo-Poore & Pitt, 2001). Communication with and between employees is a central aspect of organizational life, and it has become even more important as organizations have entered the age of the knowledge economy (Murgolo-Poore et al., 2002). The information society, or knowledgebased era, brings challenges and opportunities to the employee communication process. New technologies are creating new channels of communication within organizations, and they are also modifying the old means of communication. Just as importantly, they are changing the way that organizational communication is now understood. This article presents the main impacts that new technologies (and, principally, the Internet) are having on employee communication, which can help us to understand the magnitude—and the implications—of the changes that have been produced in organizations by the evolution from traditional employee communication to e communication.
Employee communication has been mainly studied within the field of organizational communication. The literature about organizational communication has been concerned with “the systematic manners by which communication practices can be used to help coordinate and control the activities of organizational members and relations with external constituencies” (Deetz, 2001). Organizational communication as a subject of research can be found in a number of academic disciplines, including organizational psychology, organizational sociology, business and management, industrial relations, applied anthropology, journalism, public relations, and speech communication (Grunig, 1992; Redding, 1985). It has been primarily centered in the structure (communication networks, superior-subordinate communication, formal organizational structure, etc.) and in the process (message flow process, efficiency of communication, power, motivation, etc.) of communication within organizations (Jablin, Putnam, Roberts, & Porter, 1987; Tompkins & Wanca-Thibault, 2001).
Organizational communication in the past was influenced by speech communication theories and was mainly from the transmission-orientated perspective, which is orientated towards the analysis of the efficiency of communication (Grunig, 1992; Redding, 1985; Tompkins & Wanca-Thibault, 2001). This perspective views communication as a product of the organizations in which it is situated and developed (Deetz, 2001; Tompkins, 1984). That is, communication is a result of a particular manner of organizing.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information Society: A specific form of social organization in which the generation, processing, and transmission of information becomes the basic source of productivity and power, due to the new technological conditions of a particular period of time.
E-Communication: Actions and techniques of communication that are characterized by the utilization of new technologies and, in particular, the Internet tools of communication (World Wide Web, electronic mail, Weblogs, chats, forums, wikies, etc.).
Interactive Communication: Type of communication in which the subjects of the process of communication (senders and receivers) are interchangeable during the communication process. It is generally assumed that interactivity occurs in interpersonal, “face-to-face” communication, but it can also occur in mediated communication (for example, by sending and receiving messages). Interactivity is stimulated by the use of new technologies.