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Westwood Publishing’s Internal Communication: A Case Study

For the Class


Seminar on Corporate Communication
Prof. Don Yap M.A., Ph. D.

Business Analysis by:


Bryan Christian “Bryce” Caluag Oliveros
Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary 3

II. Problem Statement 4

III. Data Analysis 5

IV. Criteria for Decision 6

V. Alternative Analysis 6

VI. Recommendation 11

VII. Next Action Plan & Implementation 12


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

As a student of Marketing Management, this is a case study for the


class on Seminar on Corporate Communication whereby after reporting and
discussing the importance of internal communication and the changing
environment, a case analysis is given in application of the concepts learned
and exercise on being an effective decision maker.

The Case is on Westwood Publishing on being able to organize and


implement the most effective way of disseminating sensitive information on
the voluntary severance and early retirement program for its employees as a
means of cutting cost and one of the firm’s strategic plans on consolidating on
the changing demands of the industry to allow the firm to sustain its
competitive advantage.

After analyzing and identifying the problem, the recommendations shall


be addressed on improving the internal communication program in the firm.
The recommendation will also bring about the most effective way of
communicating information about the voluntary severance and early
retirement packages that require a careful strategy as it may cause
demoralization of the firm’s employees.

The goal/s of the case study is to be able to objectively address the


problem and answer the following guide questions:

1. Create a strategy for communicating change at Westwood Publishing


that can be recommended to the CEO.
2. How do changes in the workforce affect how the director for employee
relations ought to think about communicating the new policy?
3. What advice would you give to the director for employee relations
about how communications to employees are structured at Westwood?

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PROBLEM STATEMENT

The general problem of the firm is how to effectively communicate a


Voluntary Severance Package and Early Retirement Package for senior
mangers approaching 60 years old with out having a negative impact on the
employees given that in the same industry competitors have had trimmed
down their workforces repeatedly due to the evolving business environment.

With the general problem stated, one of the challenges for the firm is
that the prime candidate for the packages mentioned involves Eric Ridgway
Vice President of corporate communication. The firm has done its part to
always put employees first but due to the changing business environment the
question of business sustainability and competitive advantage is challenged
where key decisions are required to stir the firm into success in the evolving
business requirements.

Due to a sensitive issue that the management needs to face, the


impact of the changes should be addressed effectively by the Director of
employee relations to avoid negative impact on the firm’s human resources
since the destabilization may affect the productivity of the firm’s employees as
well as increase rate in employee turnover due to issues of management’s
integrity whereby there was a prior statement by the CEO Linda Bosworth that
implies the firm gives much importance to its employees and no lay-offs shall
be implemented.

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DATA ANAYSIS

Nature of the Company

Westwood Publishing is a multi-million dollar trade magazine publisher


with hundreds of titles and a broad subscriber base; the company was
established in 1990 founded by Linda Bosworth the CEO.

People or Persons involved.

1. Linda Bosworth – CEO of Westwood Publishing


2. Catherine Callahan – Vice President of Human Resources
3. Eric Ridgway – Vice President of Corporate Communication, prime candidate
for the packages mentioned
4. Dan Cassidy – Director of employee relations
5. Craig Stevens – Outside Public Relations Consultant

Background of Problem

The company operating for more than ten (10) years has come to the
point where in a need to consolidate with the publishing industry in terms of
changes in the business environment has been seen relevant. The impacts of
dot com companies show evidences of a need to reform business strategies
to allow sustainability. Other competing companies have resorted to trimming
their work forces.

Based on the details provided, as the firm continuously grows, younger


employees whom are holders of a Masters in Business Administration emerge
as more competitive choices in the work force. Another point of consideration
is that, strategically due to the corporate evolution, some business functions
are deemed strategic to integrate with other functions to maximize human
resources and reduce costs on futile business functions.

In this case, one of the criteria to be considered is maximizing the


public relation services of Craig Stevens to handle Corporate Communication
for the company and Eric Ridgway the vice president for corporate
communications is a prime candidate for the Voluntary Severance and Early
Retirement program with the assumptions that Ridgway satisfies the criteria
for the packages such as: less than excellent performance appraisals for two
(2) consecutive years. Based on the information given in terms of the work
experience of Ridgway his strengths is in the publication of news
spreadsheets and not with trade magazine business which is Westwood’s
primary subscriber base.

The fact that Ridgway has been part of the company since start up
becomes a challenge to the CEO, vice president of human resources and
more over to Cassidy, the director of employee relations where
recommendations on the best action plan shall be the conclusion of this case
analysis.

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Present Communication Audit

Based on the information provided in the case study, Westwood


Publishing has minimal public relations professionals handling its
communication efforts however other communication functions such as
internal communication and investor relations were housed in appropriate
functional areas.

In some firms, it sees the importance of integrating the communication


functions into one department to provide continuity most often with the
corporate communication function. Taking into reference the details of the
case an assumption is made where there is deficiency in the corporate
communication area which should be the responsibility of Ridgway.

Internal Communication function is handled by the Human Resource


which was delegated to Dan Cassidy the director of employee relation
Cassidy’s report to Catherine Callahan the vice president of human
resources. They are responsible to conduct an internal communication
program during the implementation of the voluntary severance and early
retirement program.

Another point of consideration for the current established


communication framework, there is evidence that the firm has a good
communication line with the employees based from facts where in the firm
has always valued its employees where in, upon its establishment, no lay offs
where made compared to other players in the industry despite the volatile
business environment in 2003.

Based on the facts provided, and open line between the CEO was
stated in a speech made by Bostworth declaring that employees are important
to the firm. Now this has an impact in terms of communicating the proposed
package where in the management would need to gain the employees’ trust
and understanding and not question the integrity of management where it can
not be avoided that some may bring up such statement released by the CEO.
This maybe a supporting factor why the CEO would rather have Cassidy face
the individuals involved as it is understandable how the CEO feels about the
management’s decision which is really a challenge but decisions as such are
crucial to the firm’s sustainability and competitive advantage.

Communication medium however where not stated.

Effect vs. Opportunity of the Program

Assumptive Effects of the Program

1. The employees can easily perceive the voluntary severance and early
retirement program as an indirect way of communicating that the company
is going through layoffs.
2. Employees could question management’s integrity using prior statements
released by Bostworth
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3. As fast as information on corporate layoffs spread through the company
grapevine the initial reaction is instilling fear, affect morale which results to
lower productivity
4. Loss of trust and confidence of employees to the firm’s credibility which
may lead to high turnover rate and result to affect the company’s
reputation to other potential talents.
5. Formation of groups against management.

Assumptive Opportunities of the Program

1. Consolidating the firm with the industry changes builds a stronger


company to remain competitive and lowers the risk.
2. Restructuring the management team allows the firm to effectively cut cost
and improve the efficiency of the operations
3. Restructuring the management also allows growth of some employees
4. It will allow the individuals affected to retire early and start up a completely
new career or encourage career growth in other companies after being
able to impart professional experience to the affected employees.

Mechanics of the Voluntary Severance and Early Retirement Program

With the facts given, evidence show the company values its employees
where the firm has no history of layoffs amidst the volatility of the industry. A
strong corporate culture and unity became one of the strength of the company
that could have even led the firm to success, however in an objective point of
consideration, as the company grows and industry changes, challenges arise
and newer demands become a requisite for sustainability and competitive
advantage. The strength in the employee relations can be used as an
emotional hook in the communication program to be implemented.

Although the program may seem as an indirect way of a layoff, a


choice is given to the people that will fall under the criteria of the program.
The delicate part is although the program is “voluntary,” supervisors are
responsible to identify candidates. Even in moves to restructure the company,
a choice is given to its employees because the firm perceives them as assets
but just as assets may be classified as good and bad assets.

As to Objectives of the Voluntary Severance & Early Retirement Program

As the business is growing, to enable a more corporate competitive


advantage, business analysts prefer young professional managers
considering that the nature of the business is in the trade of publication
magazines. Based on the information given, a bulk of the senior management
is represented by the original group of employees in their mid 50s.

A corporate restructuring is always a good and effective way to follow


up a change in the senior management.

Criteria for Nominees

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1. Vice president approaching 60 years of age.
2. Less than excellent performance appraisals for two (2) consecutive years.

Communication Strategy

1. Callahan and Cassidy need to create action plans on how to effectively


approach the problem where it will lower risks and ensure all possible
negative effects are minimized if not avoided by conducting a communication
audit before the release of information.
2. After a communication audit, the management should engage into an internal
communication effort that will create a win-win situation for all the people
involved.

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KEY DECISION CRITERIA

1. Minimal negative impact of the release of the Voluntary Severance and Early
Retirement Program.
2. Consistency of the company’s mission, vision, and objectives
3. Most effective communication channel
4. Protection of the firm’s identity, image and reputation
5. Involvement of the employees in the final decision
6. Maximizing or integrating other job functions that increase or maintain
productivity.

ALTERNATIVE ANALYSIS

After reviewing the case, and being able to consider the fact that there
is an existing communication effort where Bosworth, the CEO made sure that
the message delivered is that the organization values its employees, Callahan
and Cassidy can work around this strength.

In this case the only option is to be able to run a successful internal


communication effort that will minimize the negative effects therefore timing
plays a vital role

Timing

There are various options for timing of announcing and/or launching


the program. Based on the facts given the implementation seems to be lined
of for the following week where preparation is needed to strategically confront
the problem.

- Cassidy and Callahan should organize an internal communication effort


first
- Determine how long it will take to prepare for an internal
communication program to ensure that the launching of the packages
will not cause much business disturbance.

Communication Channels in Consideration

Important key factors in internal communication program is to make


sure to motivate the employees and create a two-way communication line to
avoid alienating the employees while measures are implemented to decrease
the work force and restructure the management team to a more effective core
group.

Cassidy’s recommendation is for the Bosworth to personally tell Eric


Ridgway about the firm’s consideration to make him one of the nominees for
the Early Retirement Program. The solution/s is upon the internal press
release on the launching of the program, a video of Bostworth with an address
about the slight changes the organization would have to take shall also be
released.

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Along with the use of visuals, another communication channel to be
used is to launch an intranet campaign with the information about the package
integrated with an email blast to the employees on the criteria for the selection
process.

Once the information is disseminated, teams shall be called for in the


conference room or any assembly hall to have a face-to-face meeting and
open-forum discussion to be lead by the director for Employee Relation where
a video of the CEO address about the issue stating that as much as she
would want to personally announce that the company will be going through
some changes however an assurance that it will be towards a stronger and
sustainable company keeping the focus that the company values its
employees.

Once this is all done the hard part is the call from HR for the
candidates or nominees for the packages wherein in complete transparency, it
will still be the option of the person involved whether they will accept the
package or not.

After all the program as been implemented, a possible scare of any


company layoff might still be in threat, the newly restructured senior
management should run another communication program this time to
motivate and reassure its remaining employees also through internal branding
campaigns as well as a printing of a corporate publication highlighting the
corporate milestones which are to be sent to the home addresses of the
employee which again are integrated into the intranet.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendation for the case is that being able to effectively


communicate first with the employees upon launching of the program to keep
them informed and open lines of communication. This will avoid company
grapevine communication that can instill worry, fear or demoralization.
Second, the firm should build on the fact that for years, they have never
resorted to laying off its employees and even at the point of launching the
program they are not resorting to a mass layoff but a diligent performance
appraisals to review its human resources and give them an option whether
they would want to commit to improve performance, otherwise be offered a
good financial package and an opportunity for career growth else were.
Although, to be nominated can be deemed demoralizing, if the firm envisions
an excellent and sustainable business entity, employees should be aligned
with the firm that the inability to meet the standards is a ground to be
nominated for the packages.

On the other hand for the senior managers, the early retirement
packages for them are to be able to live a full life. The company should
promote that they value their employees where at that point in the senior
manager approaching 60, they are given an opportunity to either do
something else such as investments and pass on the leadership to younger
men and women.

For both employees who fall in both criteria for nomination, should be
informed in a proper way. Regarding the decline of their performance and the
possibilities that it could be due to the changing environment and that simply
means that the senior executives would take into consideration that the
company is a magazine publisher that cater to younger subscription base so
they need to research and understand the market.

During the whole process an open line of communication should be


present and at the same time the company should make uphold its integrity to
make sure that they will be true to its word that the severance and early
retirement package is a voluntary choice.

Bryan Christian “Bryce” Caluag-Oliveros // Case Analysis for


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ACTION AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

Next Action Plans:

1. Callahan and Cassidy should prepare the internal communication


materials prior to the launch of the package. Materials are as follows:
 Online Press Release in the intranet that is interactive where
anonymous comments maybe posted
 An Email blast of the program being launched and schedule of
meetings
 A scheduled assembly to be facilitated by Cassidy

2. On the launch date, time line of activities are as follows


 Publishing of the online press release on the intranet before start of
the business day
 An email blast to all the employees before start of business day.
 Around 10am a general assembly will be called to be facilitated by
the director of employee relation where the presentation of the
program and the extensive explanation of the program shall be
done.
 Followed by an open-forum
3. After the dissemination of the information, nominees will one by one
receive a call from Human Resource’s Callahan for a meeting and
presentation of materials and offering of package and negotiations.
4. After the implementation of the Voluntary Severance and Early Retirement
Program. Another internal communication program with the following
programs:
 Release of Corporate Strategies from the restructured senior
management to be published in the intranet and printed on the
company publication
 Internal branding campaigns through corporate give away (key
chains, pens, bookmarks, mouse pads, etc.)
 Acknowledgement of employees with consistent excellent
appraisals and/or review to be published in the intranet and email
blasted.
 Acknowledgement of employees showed significant improvement in
appraisals and/or reviews to be published in the intranet and email
blasted.
 Another scheduled general assembly this time with the CEO.

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Implementation Notes

Cassidy and Callahan should make sure to build on the strength


of the company where they continuously value its employees that they
have never resorted to layoff employees. The final choice is given to
the nominees.

In the continuous pursuit of excellence, the would really have to


implement a review and select process to identify weaknesses in the
company and either encourage them to improve or review their skill
where they maybe a more productive human resource in another firm.
It is in fact an unavoidable human resource cycle but management is
continuously putting the general welfare of its employees and business
goals and objectives.

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