Communication indicators for integrating diverse cultures in junior female residences at the University of the Free State
De Lange, Lucrezea
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In spite of the fact that the University of the Free State (UFS) has been recognised as a leader in the transformation process in South African higher education, an area of great concern at this institution was the integration of the junior residences. A new policy for increasing diversity in residences was implemented, but three years into the process the residences were still not fully integrated. Although several aspects could have contributed to the fact that the residence integration was only partially successful, this study focussed on the important role of communication during this change intervention. Five research questions were addressed. Firstly, the meta-analytical research question explained what the racial integration process in the junior female residences entailed. The contextual research question explored the dimensions of a contemporary organisation impacted by change, and the conceptual research question, explored the fundamental components of change management communication within a contemporary organisational context. The ideal manner in which to communicate change in a contemporary organisational context was addressed by the normative research question, and finally, the theoretical research question addressed the issue of which theoretical communication framework could be suggested to provide indicators for more effective communication during the integration process. The primary objective of this study was to recommend a theoretical communication framework with indicators that can contribute towards more effective communication during the process of communicating change in the junior female residences at the UFS. The role and quality of the communication used during the management of this change intervention was therefore explored. Considering the aim of this study, a qualitative approach and grounded theory strategy was used in the research design and the philosophical foundation underlying this study is constructivism. Data gathering was done by in-depth interviews and focus group sessions. Validity of the study was enhanced through respondent validation. As the grand theory of this study is based on the general systems theory approach; the Mitroff model (Mitroff et al. 1974) of problem solving was applied. The main theoretical domains relevant to the study are the contemporary organisation and change management communication. As a holistic perspective is deemed essential in order for an organisation to change successfully, the four different dimensions of a contemporary organisation impacted by change were explored. The importance of organisational culture and fact that changing the culture of an organisation should be the first step during a change intervention were highlighted. The essential place of the learning organisation in which constant development of employees are encouraged in order for organisations to survive and adapt in an ever changing environment was emphasised. As the learning organisation can constantly repositioning itself and adapt to changing situations, it. was suggested that for the successful implementation of change at different organisational levels, communication activities should be integrated. The central role of the manager, the important role of leadership communication, the engaging of employees and the sensemaking role of managers, as well as the fact that listening to employees should be regarded as an action step critical to successful change implementation, was discussed. Another important factor often overlooked during change interventions, but playing a critical role during the implementation of change, namely the human factor was also discussed at the micro-emotional level. It was evident from the data that serious communication problems and a lack of communication existed between different departments, as well as between management and residence management staff. Subsequently the need for a communication framework with indicators was confirmed. Six main themes surfaced from the data collected. Three of these themes were perceived as being more prominent, namely the role of communication, the management of change, and the consultative intervention. The conclusions to the study led to the identification of five areas of importance that form the pillars of the communication framework. These are the process and procedures to follow, the people to engage and the principles and policies to guide the process. Within each of the above mentioned categories indicators were identified that can contribute towards more effective communication during the process of change in the junior female residences at the UFS.
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