How to Communicate Efficiently During Times of Change: Lessons from Civil Service Organizations
Gile Experts and Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania initiated the education/ research project on Internal and External Communication Efficiency in Lithuanian Civil Service Organizations during Times of Change.
The first step of the project took place in Malta where GILE Experts focused on scientific literature review and case studies, related to positive communication experience in Civil Service Organizations worldwide. Laužikas (2017) overviewed civil service systems of countries at different economic development stages: the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada belonged to Innovation-driven category; Lithuania, Croatia, Georgia and Malta represented efficiency-driven countries, while Nigeria and India were part of factors-driven economies. In addition to scientific literature review, GILE Experts interviewed Cospicua Mayer Alison Zerafa Civelli (Malta) who provided to representatives of various Lithuanian ministry departments (including heads of departments) concrete and non-trivial recommendation how to communicate during times of political change.
The second step of the education/ research project took place in Vilnius on the 1st and 5th December 2017 and was organized as interactive learning program “Efektyvios komunikacijos sėkmės veiksniai organizacinės plėtros ir strateginių pokyčių kontekste” (Communication Efficiency Factors within the Development and Strategic Change of Civil Service Organizations”) among 40 specialists of Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania. During the first day of the learning program Prof. Laužikas and 20 civil service leaders prepared the questionnaire for semi-structured expert interviews. The program was driven by its dynamism, creativity and motivation to improve the present communication system in Civil Service Organizations in Lithuania. During the second day of the learning program, the rest of participants (14 ministry representatives from various departments) completed the questionnaire, while identifying the main organizational challenges and future opportunities.
The third step of the education/ research project will be held during the period 12th December 2017 – 12th January 2018, and will be oriented to analysis of research results and preparation of two scientific publications as well as recommendations (communication improvement matrix), which should be applied in Lithuanian ministries during times of change. Moreover, the participants of the learning program underlined a list of recommendations for Malta how to improve the sanitation conditions (in particular, rubbish collection system) and apply the positive experience of Nordic countries.
The Literature on Communication is well established. Communication experts Hahn, Lippert and Paynton (2016) overview the scientific literature throughout various periods: backing to the Forties (Hovland, 1948; Morris, 1946; Nilsen, 1957; Sapir, 1933; Schramm, 1948; Smith, 1946; Stevens, 1950). There are thousands of definitions, types and channels of communication, but the core fundamentals are the same. According to Hahn, Lippert and Paynton (2016), communication is the use of symbols to reveal the meaning/ essence.
Based on the first steps of the research, GILE Experts draw 10 conclusions:
- Modern technologies and digital marketing are not efficiently applied in both internal and external communication of Civil Service Organizations.
- Internal communication is oriented to efficiency, creativity, motivation, flexibility, human relations, listening, quality, and etc. (Macnamara, 2015). External communication is centred on image, society engagement, social trust, sustainability, strategic targets and priorities, economic and social impacts, key strategic partnerships, and etc. (Hovland, 2005).
- If social trust between Civil Service Organizations and Citizens is broken, it is still possible to regain trust via a strong community.
- Civil Service Organizations in many efficiency-driven economies do not have communication plans during times of change, which aggravates effects of uncertainty avoidance and fear of failure.
- Ethical codes, communication and behaviour guidelines, organization philosophy, creativity system and innovation culture are not sufficiently emphasized in Civil Service Organizations; however, without all these dimensions organizations do not have strong pillars to survive.
- Based on the study “Comparing Leadership Challenges: Civil Service vs. Private Sector 2016, the USA” (Ferguson, Ronayne and Rybacki, 2016), communication challenges in Civil Service Organizations do not differ that much from private companies; moreover, Civil Crevice Organizations should improve their communication technologies because of the growing pressure from other stakeholders (private companies, universities, research centres, technology parks, and etc.).
- Civil servants face the challenge of motivation and creativity, as they need to generate bigger result in shorter time with constant financial reward.
- It is possible to improve team-building capabilities and creativity enhancement system within tall hierarchies: horizontal communication technologies and project management techniques might be a good solution (the UK Government Communication Plan 2017/2018).
- Given limited cultural diversity, Civil Service Organizations should apply informal learning methodologies (consulting in the areas of digital marketing, mobile application, video advertising, econometrics, and etc.), employ foreign Erasmus students, identify and support creative leaders, engage society in innovation processes (OECD, 2007).
- Ministries become closer to society; their philosophy should be in line with community values and principles, while transparency, accountability and sustainability should be improved via technologies, such as hubs, applications, social media or video advertising.
Ministries become like huge “aquariums” where “fish” are visible to all stakeholders and, therefore, these pubic organizations should integrate society in continuous innovation process.
GILE Experts acknowledge the lack of sustainability in performance of Lithuanian Civil Service Organizations due to a fragmental dialogue between politicians, different ministry departments and society. Incapability to apply modern communication technologies in order to mitigate risk and information asymmetry as well as insufficient engagement of society and employees in decision-making (French, 2017) might lead to aggravated social trust issues, ruined reputation and weak image. Civil servants should learn to communicate during times of continuous change and volatility. As it was stated by Alison Zerafa Civelli (2017), ‘You either change or have faith!’ It is recommended to continuously monitor internal and external communication efficiency, prepare communication plans during times of change, apply non-financial motivation means within human resource strategies, to become more open and technologically sophisticated.
Anticipate and plan communication during times of change!
- Civelli Zerafa, A. (2017) Communication Efficiency in Civil Service Organizations, semi-structured interview, working paper, will be available upon request.
- Ferguson, J.; Ronayne, P. and Rybacki, M. (2016) Comparing Leadership Challenges: Civil Service vs. Private Sector, Centre for Creative Leadership, available online: https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ComparingLeadershipChallenges.pdf
- French, S. (2017) Negotiating changes to Civil Service Performance Management schemes: An analysis of the proposed Civil Service Performance Management Framework, Keele University, Available online: https://www.pcs.org.uk/sites/default/files/site_assets/resources/performance_management/Performance%20Management%20-%20Renegotiating%20PM%20Report%202017.pdf
- Government Communication Service (2017) the UK Government Communication Plan: Our Priorities in 2017/2018, Crown Copyright, Access Online: https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/6.3149_CO_GCS-Comms-Plan_FINAL_WEB.pdf
- Hahn, L. K.; Lippert, L.; Paynton, S. T. (2016) Survey of Communication Study; Available online: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Survey_of_Communication_Study
- Hovland, C. (1948) Social communication, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.
- Hovland, I. (2005) Successful Communication: A Toolkit for Researchers and Civil Society Organisations Research and Policy in Development Programme, Overseas Development Institute, ISBN 0 85003 776 X.
- Laužikas, M. (2017) Internal and External Communication Efficiency of Lithuanian Civil Service Organizations during Times of Change, working paper, will be available upon request.
- Macnamara, J. (2016) Organizational Listening: The missing corollary of speaking in public communication. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
- Morris, C. (1946) Signs, language, and behavior. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
- Nilsen, T. R. (1957) On defining communication. Speech Teacher, 6(1), 10-17.
- OECD, by Curristine, T.; Lonti, Z.; Joumard, I. (2007) Improving Public Sector Efficiency: Challenges and Opportunities, OECD Journal on Budgeting, Volume 7 – No. 1ISSN 1608-7143 .
- Sapir, E. (1933) Communication, encyclopedia of the social sciences. New York: The Macmillan Company.
- Schramm, W. (Ed.). (1948) Communication in modern society: fifteen studies of the mass media prepared for the University of Illinois Institution of Communication Research. Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press.
- Smith, M. (1946) Communicative behavior. Psychological Review.
- Stevens, S. S. (1950) Introduction: A definition of communication. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, VCR.