Friday, April 20, 2012

Research Project Update

Progress -- At Last!

Our research project to examine and profile employee communication characteristics in Poland has experienced significant and unexpected delays.  I like to say, though, that "no data" is data.  In this case, we're learning about employee communication here through the sometimes frustrating efforts we've experienced so far.  Our original hope was to conduct focus groups and a comprehensive employee survey at three companies in Poland -- one each in March, April and May.  It appears that March and April will end with none of those activities having occurred.  However, we have a firm schedule to gather data at our first location during the week of May 7, with two more data collection efforts to follow closely thereafter.  It appears, then, that we will complete data collection by the end of May as hoped, but in a more compressed fashion than originally planned.

When I say "no data" is data, I mean that we can learn something even from missing data.  In this case, we've encountered an unexpected reluctance on the part of companies we've approached.  The idea of examining their employee communication structures and procedures and gauging the effect of those factors on employee job satisfaction gives managers pause.  In my review of literature on the Polish culture and character, I learned that there is a tendency here of wariness toward outsiders, though there's also a counterbalancing openness to the values of Western Europe and the U.S.  Additionally, there is less of a leaning toward individualism here (individualism is the hallmark of U.S. culture), so decisions are made in a much more deliberative manner; when we approach a single company manager to propose our project, we should not have expected an immediate, positive response.  Instead, decisions are often elevated to the next higher level and deliberated at length.  Poles, the literature says, are also somewhat risk-averse, so the idea of dissecting employee communication, perhaps uncovering problem areas, is not something always actively sought. 

Another phenomenon we've discovered is that many firms, even those of considerable size, lack a formal public relations department.  When PR is required in those cases, it is contracted through a PR firm, and the function is often viewed as limited to marketing, publicity and media relations.  Companies that have been willing to discuss this project with us further invariably refer us to the director of human resources; HR, it would seem, is viewed as responsible for employee communication. 

In this respect, these first two months have been illuminating even in their disappointment.  Now, though, I'm pleased to say we have secured partners willing, even eager to move forward with the project.  Last Tuesday, graduate assistant Martyna Dziubek and I met with the HR director for the firm where we will soon collect our first data set.  The HR director was refreshingly and impressively familiar with the nature of employee communication research and fully understood even the subtleties behind our research design.  She clearly recognizes the valuable insights this project will provide, and we're confident she will take seriously our resulting report and recommendations.  Ultimately, I expect the research will contribute to increased employee morale, commitment, trust and productivity.  These qualities then positivley affect profitability, organizational reputation and long-term success.

Upcoming Events

Today in Charlotte, Dr. Jaehee Cho and graduate assistant Nick Woods of our research team are presenting a "work in progress" paper on our research project for the Center for Global Public Relations "Global Research Conference."  For PR practitioners and scholars reading this post, I hope you will consider adding this annual conference to your agenda in the coming years.  It has quickly become one of the premiere events in the field of global public relations.  April is a great time to visit Charlotte as well!  Here's a link for more information on the conference and the Center for Global Public Relations:

I've established relationships with a number of the great undergraduate and graduate students here and will be meeting with several of them in the coming days to discuss their theses and other projects.  I've been doing this for some time now, and it really has been one of the joys of this experience.

On Monday, I will address the Erasmus Student Network Conference here at the Poznań University of Economics.  This is a group of students who have or are participating in the Erasmus education abroad program.  I will be talking on the fundamentals of contemporary PR practice and differences between practice in the U.S. and Poland. 

On Tuesday, Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak here has arranged for me to meet formally with the two rectors of the university -- the top two officers of the institution.  This is a great honor for me.  I will have the opportunity to describe our research project and especially to express my gratitude to them for hosting me here in Poznań at this great university. 

The week of Apr. 30 - May 4 is marked by two national holidays, so I'm told not to expect to accomplish anything on our research project that week.  That's OK, because I have three writing projects I've been working on, and that will give me a chance to wrap those up before data collection begins the following week.  Believe it or not, I also need to complete the syllabi for the classes I'll be teaching back at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the fall.

Also looking ahead, I hope to present a brief talk on public relations' role in public art for an art-themed Fulbright Day in Wrocław, Poland, on May 10.  Then on Saturday, May 12, I'll be lecturing to students of Poznań's University of Communication and Management.  My topic then will be a profile of contemporary PR practice and its value in achieving organizational goals, as well as emerging trends and areas of responsibility for public relations. 

Parting Photos

Readers tell me they very much enjoy the photos I include in these posts, so I don't want to disappoint!  Here are a few new photos.

This is the Opera House, just a block from my university.
The flowers in the foregroud are panzies in their last days.
The pool and fountain are not yet operative, but I expect
that to occur shortly.  Weather has continued on the chilly
side, but temperatures are on the rise.  Switched from my
winter coat to a light jacket over a sweater since my last
post -- that's progress!

These are the buildings in Poznań that house the Museum of
Musical Instruments.  I spent an enjoyable hour there recently.

The museum houses a fascinating collection of mostly string,
keyboard and percussion instruments.  It has violins dating
to the 14th century.

Some items in the collection are highly unusual, like these
from India and Africa.

My Polish is still quite limited, and all the signs were only
in Polish, but I'm fairly sure this is a piano played on several
occasions in Poznań by Polish composer and pianist
Frederich Chopin.

I'm pleased to say I have officially "arrived!"  A few weeks
 ago, this sign was added to my office door.  Prof. Ryszard
Ławniczak, whose kind invitation led to my Fulbright fellowship,
is not teaching this semester, so I'm occupying his office.
 Thanks for reading, and do widzenia!

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