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Communication Within Unilever Plc

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 4143 words Published: 18th May 2017

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1.1 Introduction and background of research

This research is based on the topic “How the channels of communication with employees might be improved in a multinational organization”.

Unilever PLC is a leading multinational in Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector and it operates over hundred of countries worldwide. Unilever maintains its leading edge by establishing superior standards, latest managerial systems and state of art technology. Most importantly the main focus of Unilever business is to run in profitable manner while complying with statutory and legal requirements in to the maximum extent, in each and every place it operates. Unilever is therefore highly concerns about implementation of latest and successful managerial systems in its production plants in very first time it is possible. Moreover Unilever contributes for developing these systems to match with company requirements and hence most of managerial systems that Unilever implemented are quite superior to others and can easily be differentiated from managerial systems of its competitors.

Product Range of Unilever PLC is Home and personnel care, Margarines, fat spreads, Tea and supplementary food products.

There are 400 brands and 14 categories of home, personal care and foods products, no other company touches so many people’s lives in so many different ways. Unilever’s brand portfolio has made them leaders in every field in which they work. Knorr, Lipton, Dove Omo are some examples for trusted brands.

In the Sri Lankan context Unilever could pass by all its competitors and to make its all brands to be the flag ships. At the moment Unilever Sri Lanka Limited owns twenty two global brands which are very much familiar to Sri Lankans as things touching their hearts. Lux, Sunsilk, Signal, Astra and Lifebuoy are some of those popular brands.

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Brand communication can be a powerful force for behavior change. They have the opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles among our millions of consumers. At the same time they have a duty to market their products responsibly and provide their consumers with clear and simple information about the products they make and how they can fit into a healthy and balanced diet. This depends on effective communication.

As a multinational company that has been created a very good brand loyalty in consumers’ mind they will have to satisfy their customer requirements to the maximum level. In order to do this Unilever will have to adopt according to the changes in customer requirements. As the market grows rapidly new products from competitors are coming to the market frequently. For their survival they will have to produce new ranges of products and to do modifications for their existing products as customer requirements are changing rapidly. To do these kinds of Modifications Company’s communication process and communication channels should be of high quality. Quick decisions will have to be made; for that employees will have to send their messages and information faster and get feedback very quickly. For this purpose the company uses many methods (channels). Since this is a global company their companies are scattered all over the world. Therefore there should be a strong communication network within each and every company.

Unilever PLC uses strategies and guidelines to give directions for employees. As a result the employees would have a clear idea of what the company is expected from them; they would know what their duties and responsibilities are. Then they will be motivated as their duties are being simplified and specified. This will create efficient employees and would be resulted in productivity increase. Through strategies and guidelines more detailed information can be provided to employees. More and specific information gives subordinates a feeling of confidence and security; lack of information promotes insecurity and a feeling of not being trusted. By doing this they are able to get maximum out of employees. This organization gets ideas and views of employees about the policies and procedures being applied by the company. It would help the top management to identify their weaknesses and take necessary actions to revise their policies and procedures.

Unilever has put a great effort to engage wit employees to find out whether they understand the company’s vision and role that is being expected from them. The company gets ideas from employees to know what their perception on the changes the company has to do to achieve their ambitions. In 2009 Unilever began an employee engagement programme that will ensure employees are involved in Unilever’s vision and plans for the future. Uniliver gather feedback from employees through regular employee engagement surveys. A Global People Survey (GPS) of all Unilever employees is conducted every two to three years. Unilever’s management population is also invited to participate in a refined version of the survey – ‘GPS-Pulse’, which is conducted at six-monthly intervals in the years when GPS is not taking place. The GPS-Pulse conducted in September 200 highlighted that people are proud to work for Unilever and feel good about the culture and business. Results also showed increased confidence in leadership and the direction that the company is taking. Feedback also has pointed to areas where the company needed to do better and these were actioned by the Unilever Executive and their senior leaders. Through these kinds of strategies employees will feel that they’re being valued and recognized by the company and they will be motivated to work hard to achieve objectives of the company.

Being a multinational organization Unilever PLC uses telephones to communicate with their peers. They have the ability to exchange their ideas over the phone and to get the feedback of the other party. Exchanging messages over the phone would fasten the decision making process and it will affect their smooth operation positively.

Letters, memos and e-mails are anther methods of communication used by Unilever PLC. Since these are written communication channels they will help employees to get clear idea by reading them. If there is a long list of directions to be given to employees these channels would be more effective as they are in writing. Since everything is in writing it will be easy for them to comply with these requirements.

Research Objectives and Hypothesis

The completion of this research intends to achieve the following objectives in relation to Unilever PLC.

To identify the channels of communication used by the Organization

To study how to improve the channels of communication with employees of the organization.

To find possible strengths and weaknesses in communication channels currently being used by the company.

To suggest methods to avoid current weaknesses in communication channels.


Finding how the channels of communication with employees might be improved in a multinational organization is the objective of this research. Accordingly, hypothesis of the research is defined as below,

H0: The channels of communication with employees in existence within the organization are adequate.

H1: The channels of communication with employees in existence within the organization are not adequate.

Research Scope

For this research qualitative research techniques have to be used. Since this is a qualitative one it is difficult to set standard guidelines to identify whether the organization’s current communication channels are suitable or not. This should be done compared to another organization. It would be difficult to select a suitable benchmark.

When carrying out a research feedback should be taken from employees at different levels such as managers and lower level employees in a way that covers the entire organization. Since their ideas are different the results cannot be generalized.


Introduction to Literature Review

The research literature review is based the theories and researches previously done by scholars. These should be applied in the research. Clearly defined research problem and research methods have to be included.

Review of Relevant Theories and Literature

A typical day for a manager includes doing desk work attending scheduled meetings , placing and receiving telephone calls, reading and answering correspondence , attending unscheduled meetings and tours. Most of these activities involves communication. In fact, managers usually spend more than half of their time communicating in some way. Communication always involves two or more persons , so other behavioral process such as motivation, leadership and group and team processes all come into play. Top executives must handle communication effectively if they are to be true leader.

Communication is concerned with the making of meaning and the exchange of understanding. One model of communication considers it from the perspective of transmitting information from one person to another.

Communication is very important for all kinds of business organization. According to researches carried out by many authors, communication and communication channels play a very important role in any business organization. Different people have carried out researches relating to communication and efficiency of communication channels. Few examples are as follows;

A web article defines a communication channel as, “Medium through which a message is transmitted to its intended audience, such as print media or broadcast (electronic) media”.

As per Quincy Wright, “Communication channels can be understood simply as the modes or pathways through which two parties might communicate. As population grows and technology evolves accordingly, these channels of communication change as well. (A Study of War, 1967)

According to a web article, “In the basic communication process, a sender puts a message in words and transmits it to a receiver who interprets the message. The medium the sender chooses to transmit the message is called the communication channel.”

There are many communication channels being used by different organizations. Some of these are universally familiar methods where as some of them are specific to certain organizations. Listed below are few methods among them.

Letters/ memos/ reports

Although there is an increase in the usage of electronic communication, most people seem to receive their messages on paper. This may be because there is no e-mail link between the parties, because a hard copy is required to meet audit or legal requirements or because the recipient feels more comfortable to read from paper than from a screen.


This is also a paper document and the main purpose of this is reference.


This method uses public telephones to deliver documents from one place to another. In this method original hard copy is not sent to the receiver.


This is a very efficient method of communicating where whole documents can be sent through internet. This provides many cost advantages when compared to telephones and other paper based communication methods.


This method is also same as the internet method, but this used to deliver documents, images and so on within an organization. In this method also information is much less expensive to distribute and maintain when compared to paper based communication methods.


Two or more people get together and carryout discussions related to different areas to take decisions or to solve problems. This is a verbal communication method where the feedback will be received at the same time.


This is a two way communication method. It is now possible to reach people practically anytime, anywhere over the phone.

Video conferencing

Under video conferencing system phone lines are used to transmit video and sound between two or more parties. Real time video conferences can be conducted when parties participated to the meeting are in remote locations.

Communication is the process of transmitting information from one person to another. Effective communication is the process of sending a message in such a way that the message received is as close in meaning as possible to the message intended. Effective communication is based on the ideas of meaning and consistency of meaning. Meaning is the idea that the individual who initiates the communication exchange wishes to convey. Communication also relates directly to the basic management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Environmental scanning, integrating planning-time horizons, and decision making for example, all necessitate communication. Delegation, coordination, and organization change and development also entail communication. Communication is essential to establishing standards, monitoring performance and taking corrective actions as a part of control. Clearly, then, communication is a pervasive part of virtually all managerial activities.

The Communication Process

As figure shows, noise can disrupt the communication process at any step. Managers must therefore understand that a conversation in the next office, a fax machine out of paper and the receivers worries may all thwart the managers best attempts to communicate.

Sender – Firm that sends the message.

Message – What is being transmitted from sender to receiver.

Encoding – Message translated into appropriate meaning. This is the process through which the message is symbolized.

Channel – The medium through which the message is being sent.

Decoding – Process that translate the message and generating the meaning out of it.

Receiver – Firm that receives the message.

Feedback – Process by which the receiver sends his responds to the sender.

Interpersonal communication focuses on communication among people at work. Two important forms of interpersonal communication, oral and written, both offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Thus the manager should weigh the pros and cons of each when choosing a medium for communication.

Communication channels play a vital role in communication. Messages are conveyed through channels. Telephone, videoconferencing, face-to-face meetings are some examples for verbal communication, where as letters, memos, e-mails, reports are some examples for written communication. Channel should be selected based on the nature of the message or the information that is being transmitted or exchanged. Different channels have their respective strengths and weaknesses. For example, it would be ineffective to give a long list of directions verbally.

There are a variety of forms of organizational communication. Vertical communication between superiors and subordinates may flow upwards or downwards. Horizontal communication involves peers and colleagues at the same level in the organization. Organizations also use information systems to manage communication. Electronic communication is likely to have a profound effect on managerial and organizational communicational in the years to come.

A great deal of informal communication also occurs in organizations. Communication networks are recurring patterns of communication among members of a group. The grapevine is the informal communication network among people in an organization. Management by wandering around is also a popular informal method of communication. Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, body movements, physical contact, gestures and inflection and tone.

Managing the communication process necessitates recognizing the barriers to effective communication and understanding how to overcome them. Barriers can be identified at both the individual and organizational levels. Likewise, both individual and organizational skills can be developed to overcome these barriers.

Barriers to effective Communication,

Individual barriers

Conflicting or inconsistent cues

Credibility about the subject

Reluctance to communicate

Poor listening skills

Predispositions about the subject

Organizational Barriers


Status or power differences

Different perceptions



Overcoming barriers to communication

Individual skills

Develop good listening skill

Encourage two way communication

Be aware of language and meaning

Maintain creditability

Be sensitive to receivers perspective

Be sensitive to senders perspective

Organizational skills

Follow up

Regulate information flows

Understand the richness of media

(R.W.Griffin, 1997)


Research Methods

Servey reserch methods to collectting data as investigate the employees and organization need.

Research Approach

There are few steps to be followed. They are as follows;

Problem Identification /Hypothesis

Identify the existing channels and channels to be introduced.

Research Design and planning

This is a Prepare Queries, Prepare the project plan, Prepare the research team work plan, Prepare the Physical resource and conduct with the service providers in communication channel providers wise.

Data collection and Data Review and analysis theory

After having identified the variables to be studied and operationally defined them a researcher is expected to adopt a suitable method of data collection to measure the variables and their relationships.

Following are the methodologies that are used to this research,

Questionnaire survey



Case study

In the case of a questionnaire based survey or interviews, the unit of analysis is the individual as the individuals included in a sample are expected to provide information by responding to the survey questionnaire or the questions posed to them at the interview. In the observation method there is no single unit of analysis as the researcher is expected to observe real life situations , a process , an event or a series of event over a period of time.

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The unit of analysis in the case study method could cover a community, an organization, a group or a selected individuals . For instance, one can study the performance of one or more organizations and arrive at meaningful conclusions about the practice of the management. Similarly can study in depth the leadership style of several CEOs and arrive at meaningful conclusions about organizational leaderships.

The Questionnaire Survey

In this research questionnaire based survey ahs become one of the most widely used techniques of data collection for reasons such as economy , ability to reach a larger sample of the population, saving of time , feasibility to collect data within a predetermined framework and feasibility to process the data using a coding system that could be easily used on computers. Although the questionnaire method has its inherent limitations this method has been adopted to study qualitative aspects such as attitudes and values as well as quantitative aspects of behaviour.

The forms of questions included in a questionnaire depends on the kind of information required . Although the forms of the questions may differ in a variety of ways,questions are presented in two basic types;

Open ended


Open ended questions

There are several advantages of open ended questions if the researcher is interested in probing deep into a particular issue such as motivation, job satisfaction, etc.

There are some limitations inherent in open ended questions. These include,

Difficulty in recording lengthy answers, particularly when the respondents interest is aroused by the researcher through probing, difficulty in asking more than two questions as the answer may take both time as well as space in the questionnaire , and relatively high degree of reliance on the researchers own judgment as to what he thinks is the meaning of the answers given to open ended questions. Despite these limitations open ended questions are used by researcher when the questionnaire based interview method is adopted because an experienced researcher can always exploit the advantages associated with open ended questions.

Structured questions

This presents the respondent with fixed response alternatives. That is question is worded in such a manner as to induce the respondent to answer by making a choice between two or more alternatives. Advantage-easy to administer in the field because they are pre-coded.


Is a method of collecting data by speaking to someone who is often not known to the researcher previously. Thus it would involve a considerable amount of interpersonal skills on the part of the researcher to establish a relationship with the person being interviewed and elicit the required information within a limited period of time.

There are two basic types of interviews, Structured and unstructured.

Observation Method

Is a technique adopted highly in qualitative research to study natural behaviour. Thus observation involves making judgments about the occurrence of behaviour , its frequency, its duration or its latency. These measures are the basic data used to describe the naturally occurring behaviour or to assess the effects of such behaviour. Therefore the collection of the data through observation has to be done carefully in order to ensure accuracy ,reliability and objectively. There are two broad methods of observing behaviour: participant and non participant.

Case study Method

This involves studding individual cases in their natural environment over a period of time. One who uses a case study method may adopt different methods of data collection and analysis. These methods may be either qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both.

Research Strategy

Selecting the most suitable channels to the company. For this purpose number of channels should be investigated.

Sampling Techniques

Select a sample size based on the company size that covers all areas and all levels of employees.

Data Collection Tools

High quality data should be collected..

Data Analysis Methods

Methods such as pie charts, tables, decision trees, scatter diagrams and so on can be used to analyze data.

Presentation of Data

Data should be presented using a report and a multimedia presentation.

Research Limitations

This research is focusing only on the communication channels. Communication process and their reliability is being ignored.

Ethical implications of this research

If the employees provide wrong information the whole research is misleading.

Research Schedule

Depending on the nature and activities of the research a time schedule should to be prepared.


This research is based on the topic “How the channels of communication with employees might be improved in a multinational organization”. Existing channels and new channels to be introduced should be addressed. For this purpose research topic should be defined and background to the research has to be explained. Theories relevant to the research should be applied under literature review. Finally ethical issues that can be raised during the research should be addressed and the decision is taken based on employees’ perceptions.

The study covers a wide area on the communication channels and based on the evaluation of how to improve the communication of the employees, new communication channels to be introduced must be taken into consideration, the necessary channels that should be improved according to improve the methods of communication in the organization.

Under this research based on the multi national company we can learn and can get more knowledge as managers, how to manage effective communication in a multi national company, can feel the employees communication and how to control the whole communication process in a successful and effective manner in the organization.


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