Friday, July 4, 2008

21st Century Communication Trends

Gone are those days when people used to wait for the postman to deliver letters from our nearest and dearest one. Now we just do is dial up the number and call. What could be simpler than that? If we do not feel generous then just write an email or IM. That’s the generic picture of 21st century communication trends. The magic touch of technology is everywhere.

21st century communication trends can also be seen in workplaces. The various Trends of the 21st Century that the organizations today follow are discussed below


The world has become a global economy where national borders do not mean borders for business relationships. This has led to increased sales for corporations since they are not only serving their home country market anymore. But not only have the sales become global. Today, corporations are operating globally. Production is located in the most cost attractive country, companies have offices all around the world, and the labor market is nearly completely global. These trends result from reduced cost and improved quality of transportation and communication, the search for unsaturated markets, and the exploitation of regional cost and expertise differences. Modern communication technologies also play an important role in the globalization trend. The Internet provides the opportunity to easily communicate across country borders and thus operate successfully in other countries. Furthermore, there is an equalization in the tastes and preferences of customers in different countries, which makes it easier for companies to sell standardized products worldwide.


As a result from globalization the diversity in organizations and in the business world in general has increased. The workforce of a company is getting more heterogeneous sexually, racially, culturally, and individually. Though, this is a desired development, organizations also face challenges through this increased diversity. It can be both a source of innovation and a source of conflict and communication problems. Organizations need to deal with different styles of interaction, dress, presentation, and physical appearance. This results from a change in the demographics of the countries and the globalization of the labor market.


The way organizations manage business has changed in the last decades. Organizational systems, processes, and employees can respond differently to different challenges. There is less formalization and employees are more free to develop own approaches to situations. Thus, employees within organizations have greater autonomy and flexibility nowadays. This flexibility is especially important because of differentiated customer needs. Furthermore, the increasing diversity mentioned in the last paragraph is also a source of the need to design the workplace in a flexible way. Employees from different countries and cultures have different ways of thinking and different ideas on how to approach a problem. Also, the increased pace of change in technology and markets makes a standardization of processes and approaches nearly impossible. Organizations must stay flexible in order to survive in a rapidly changing business environment.


Organizations have become more flat in the recent decades. This means fewer levels of middle management and a broader span of control. The decrease of middle and lower level managers also means higher empowerment of lower level employees. Responsibilities are more distributed equally across the levels of hierarchy. Thus, employees have to deal with higher responsibilities in the organization without necessarily higher payment. The higher empowerment of employees results from the increased speed decisions need to be made in today’s business world. Furthermore, advanced communication technologies mean less need of middle managers as intermediaries. Finally, the trend of globalization discussed earlier increased the competition and makes cost cuts necessary.


We are living in a networked world. Organizations communicate across unit and firm boundaries and ignore the chain of command. Many companies are organizing themselves in cross-unit teams, exploiting the strengths of different units working together. Furthermore, opportunities arose in the areas of outsourcing, off-shoring, and the resulting downsizing. This new trends help organizations to decrease their costs. Organizations also recognized the need to work closely with each other and create strategic alliances. Those alliances give the organizations involved more power in the market arena. This also includes forms of cooperation like Just-in-Time (JIT) inventories, Vendor Managed Inventories (VMI), and others. Furthermore, companies have to deal with customization. Even the world’s tastes and preferences are becoming equal; organizations still have to consider differences in countries. Furthermore, there is an increasing trend towards mass-customized products (e.g. Dell). Organizations also need to take advantage of decentralization in order to response to different needs in different countries.


McDonald’s had to adjust its product line when it entered the Indian market. India, with its one billion plus habitants being an attractive market for McDonald’s had a totally different culture than western markets. The cow is a holy animal in India. Therefore, McDonald’s had to change its meat to chicken in order to be successful in India.

Nike faced the negative side of globalization some years ago. It was strongly criticized in the public for being involved in child labor in Asian countries and paying starvation wages. Thus, Nike had to manage this crisis and change its activities in those countries.

Personal Experience:

First time I got the punch of 21st century tends was when I learnt that the Sony play-station that I have at home is actually manufactured in Japan. That was around 7 years ago. I was amazed at the fact that the game that was manufactured miles and miles far away is right now at my house. When I asked my mom how exactly this happened, she explained to me the trend of globalization. Now when I come across this concept, I tend to remember those words of my mom.


Corporate communication, 4th edition, Paul A. Argenti, The Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College.

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