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Non-electronic communication techniques used by Toyota Motor Corporation

Discuss about the Communication and ECommunication strategies of Toyota Motors.

Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japan based automobile manufacturing corporation. Headquartered in Toyota, Aichi in Japan, it was ranked ninth in the list of the world’s largest companies by the revenue earned. It is the second largest automobile manufacturing organization of the world falling only behind the German organization Volkswagen Group. It is Japan’s largest listed organization both according to the revenue and by market capitalization. At present, the number of employees working all over the world for Toyota Motor Corporation is more than 339,000. In the year 2012 (Feng, 2010). It became the first automobile manufacturing organization in the world to manufacture more than 10 million vehicles in one year. Founded in the year 1937, it is one of the largest organizations in the world. Toyota values communication a lot and the organization has a very transparent and open culture when it comes to communicating within the organization (Felton, 2011). They value the people, their knowledge and opinions. Any suggestion coming from an employee irrespective of their position or designation is therefore respected and considered sincerely by the organization. Any organization having a workforce of over three hundred thousand employees and producing more than ten million vehicles needs a very strong communication system to communicate within and outside the organization. We have tried to study the communication strategies for electronic and non electronic communication adopted by Toyota Motor Corporation. We intend to study how effective the current practices are and how they can be improved further to make them even better (Nichols, 2011).

The Toyota Motor Corporation resorts to the traditional communication methods and strategies when it comes to internal communication. Non electric communication is still the preferred means of communication for the Toyota Motors Corporation. They mostly communicate through writing within all the levels of the organization. They have also kept the tradition of written notices and newsletters alive for communicating within the organization. They are used to inform the staff and keep them updated on the happenings in the organization. The corporation also makes use of the bulletin boards and notice boards for dissemination of official information. Bulletins and newsletters are placed strategically in the places where they are accessible to the employees. However, it has been observed that people hardly take notice of these communication techniques these days (Toyota, 2014). The bulletins that are placed in the front desks and office counters mostly go unnoticed. The employees are given the information with the help of written memos that they are made to sign. This communication strategy is found to be very effective as the employees are personally approached and made to read the memos before they sign them. Apart from these, internal communication also takes place during the face to face meetings conducted in the corporate offices at regular intervals. This is generally used when the message to be communicated is sensitive in nature, for example while discussing employee performance. The rewarding and recognition of the employees also takes place during these meetings (White & Vanc, 2012).

Electronic media and communication methods used by Toyota Motor Corporation

The exchange of information between one organization and other groups or organizations is called external communication. External communication is done to build the brand image, and convey the product quality to the stakeholders of the organization. For the external non electric communication, the organization uses newspapers, pamphlets, leaflets, newspaper inserts, brochures and magazines in the non electronic forms. These are used to make the customer aware of the brand, latest offerings, limited period offers and schemes. The other stakeholders are also contacted and given the information via these mediums only. Public relations of the organization are also maintained by the marketing team of the corporation, but these are usually done using the electronic media (Burton & Grates, 2013).

Toyota Motors Corporation like all the other organizations these days use electronic media for most of their internal and external communication. The mobile communication, email and social networking websites are some of the most common forms of electronic communication for both internal and external communication being used in Toyota Motor Corporation. The mobile communication is generally considered less formal, but the organization is turning towards it more and more due to its ease of access and wide reach. The instant messaging application and internal communicator of the organization makes the communication between the employees very simple and quick. The organization uses the mobile communication for reminders, quick updates and instant communication. Email is the second most common internal communication tool used at Toyota. Email is used for official communication and sending detailed information to a large number of employees at the same time. Emails are also used to document conversations and official information exchange. Most of the courts now accept the emails in the form of a written contract and this makes email the most preferred form of official communication. The mailers and pamphlets have also given way to the email blasts, giving the people information about a new launch or a new location. This has not only saved costs involved in the marketing and promotions, but also ensured a wider reach of the mailers (Takeuchi, et al., 2008).

Another very popular medium for communication used in Toyota Motors is social media websites and portals. Although this majorly concentrates on external communications. The organization interacts with their customers and stakeholders via social media platforms, giving latest information, gaining feedback and perspective and resolving grievances and complaints. They promote their events, showrooms, products, offers and draw attention towards the brand by conducting various engaging activities over these platforms. The last and the most common form of promotion and external communication is television. The organization makes use of television adverts to promote the brand and products. The television also provides the organization a medium to directly interact with the people and give statements on behalf of the management. All this is organized and carried out by the public relations department of the Toyota Motor Corporation. They make use of the television to convey the messages straight from the organization (Moven, 2008).

Communication strategies SWOT analysis

Some less common and newer forms of electronic communication are video conferencing and internet broadcasting. Video conferencing has made it possible for the employees to communicate seamlessly from far away locations, thus saving the time, resources and travel costs for the organization. Internet broadcasting is also a relatively new form of communication in which the organization directly broadcasts the message to be delivered in text, audio or video format on the internet which can be accessed by anyone having access to the world wide web. This again saves costs for the organization and is a cheaper and more effortless alternative for television broadcast (Sipponen-Damonte, 2013).

In order to determine how effective and efficient the communication strategies of Toyota Motors Corporation are, we have conducted a SWOT analysis of the same. In this we have taken into consideration both the electronic and non electronic forms of communication being adopted by the organization and analyzed their internal strengths and weakness and also studied the external opportunities and threat that the organization faces by practicing these communication strategies (Das, 2015). The matrix below defines and explains the strength of the communication system of Toyota Motors and the shortcomings or weakness of the same. The second row of the matrix consists of the opportunities that are present with the corporation  and the reasons for the same along with the factors that may pose as a threat to the communication strategies of Toyota Motors in the near future.

Strengths

·         Respect for all cultures and customs during the communication process

·         Innovative communication practices

·         Management for harmonious growth

·         Open and fair communication abiding by the code of conduct of the organization (Hoque, et al., 2013).

·         Agile to market variations

Weakness

·         Cross linguistic barriers

·         Multicultural workforce

·         Slow communication due to large and complex organizational hierarchy

·         Language diversity in production plants

·         Speedy communication and implementation expected

Opportunities

·         Halo effect due to excellent market image

·         Brand recognition (Piedade, 2016).

·         Huge popularity among the masses

·         Operational skillfulness

·         Well defined communication policies

·         Speedy internal communication

·         Advanced modes of communication

Threats

·         Soft target for media due to previous pitfalls and vehicle recalls

·         Cultural divides

·         Unprepared for crisis management

·         Communication barriers (Rowland, 2017).

If we look at the major automobile manufacturers of the world, Volkswagen and General Motors are the closest in the race with Toyota Motors. The communication strategies of these three organizations are very different from one another. These organizations and their marketing and communication are influenced majorly by their home country and its culture. Toyota being a Japanese corporation is more transparent and believes in inclusive growth and decision making. The German Volkswagen has a very different approach to the internal communication of the organization (Shukor & Sulaiman, 2016). They have a hub designed specifically for the organizational communication purposes which connects their sales, after sales and technical departments with their headquarters in Germany. This is actually a web portal that is designed for organizational internal communication. It also comprises of tailor made content for the employees related to their field and preferences. The employees can access the hub from their computers, tablets or Smartphone. This was created at Volkswagen to make internal communication and knowledge sharing more convenient. General Motors is an American organization based in the automobile hub Detroit (Hamel, 2006). The internal communication and employee relations at General Motors are not valued much. In fact, GM and their manufacturing plants have often complained of no motivation for the employees, high absenteeism and high employee turnover. They refused to stop manufacturing no matter what the situation was. This led to manufacturing of sub standard vehicles. Thankfully, GM has learned from it and come a long way. They realized the importance of employee encouragement, teamwork and maintaining a healthy organizational culture (Ghemawat, 2005).

With respect to lobbying and promotional activities, Toyota and General Motors, both the organizations are highly involved in political endeavors and lobbying. They give and take political favors and also have the support from the ruling political parties. Volkswagen on the other hand has no financial connect that is directly in association with the political parties (Keller, 2009).

Toyota has invented and adopted the Toyota Production System which is widely applauded, accepted and imitated. Cultural harmony and respect is at the heart of the communication policy of Toyota. They aim for innovative management and are transparent  in their approach to both internal and external communication. They stand up to any statement that they give in the media and are known for the reputed brand image. Toyota Motor Corporation believes in keeping the official internal communication simple. It is a rule in Toyota that the emails and other official communication must be worded in an easy to understand manner. They try their best to minimize the cultural divide and keep the conversations simple so that it is easy to understand for the people who come from different cultural backgrounds. However in the process of making sure that the information reaches all the employees, the communication system has taken the shape of a very complex web. It is therefore suggested that the communication process must be lined in a way that it is able to fulfil its purpose and no information is distorted or lost in the process. A brand as successful as Toyota needs to ensure that the quality of the product doesn’t get compromised on. Some previous cases reported of recalls and replacements have earned a bad reputation for the organization. To prevent this from happening in future, the organization must act towards streamlining the communication process. The organization must also work towards minimizing the cultural and linguistic barriers by using effective tools to communicate that are able to translate and deliver the messages.

They need to make their production process and services more customer centric and try to gauge the public sentiment before making internal strategies. They must devise a framework to encourage customer feedback. This will help them in further improving their products and services. The cultural uniqueness and diversity found in Toyota is one of its kind and so many cultures working together in perfect harmony is also a rare sight. Toyota must work towards maintaining this at all costs (Toyota Motor Corporation, 2006). They empower the employees in the decision making process which are appreciated, but sometimes this leads to unnecessary delay and confusion. The management must perform their duties and they must definitely seek opinions of the employees, but involving them in every meeting cannot be fruitful for the organization. They lay a lot of emphasis on the leaders and their leading style and believe in empowering the employees which is commendable. They have set numerous benchmarks in the production quantity, but the organization also has to ensure that the quality of the automobiles does not suffer due to this. The way they had to recall thousands of vehicles due to the vehicles facing unintended acceleration. This will only degrade the organization’s image and the trust that the people have in them. There were cracks observed in the fuel emissions control unit of some of the cars which again led to recall of seventy three thousand vehicles. The bad reputation that Toyota earned due to these events has tarnished the brand. Thus the leaders need to ensure the organizational values and instructions are properly communicated within the organization to the employees failing which, the repercussions can be immensely dreadful (Automation, 2013).

References

Automation, R., 2013. Toyota press shop transfer system enjoys far greater uptime thanks to lateral thinking, Available at: https://www.andautomation.co.uk/files/ww/EMEA1829%20Toyota%20_AND%20Automation_%20EN%20_Hi_.pdf

Burton, K. & Grates, G., 2013. Best-in-class practices in employee communication: through the lens of 10 global leaders, Available at: https://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/IPR_Best_in_Class_White_Paper_Final_04_2013.pdf

Das, A., 2015. Toyota Prius; Marketing Communications Plan, Available at: https://images.template.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/09232204/example-of-marketing-communication-plan.pdf

Felton, J., 2011. The Toyota recall crisis: Media impact on Toyota’s corporate brand reputation, Available at: https://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/JFGRA-InfoTrend-case-study-ver-2.pdf

Feng, Y., 2010. Toyota Crisis: Management Ignorance?, Available at: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:349746/fulltext02

Ghemawat, P., 2005. Regional Strategies for Global Leadership, Available at: https://hbr.org/2005/12/regional-strategies-for-global-leadership

Hamel, G., 2006. The Why, What, and How of Management Innovation, Available at: https://hbr.org/2006/02/the-why-what-and-how-of-management-innovation

Hoque, I., Faruque, O. & Shahid, E., 2013. Analysis of Toyota’s Marketing Strategy in the UK Market. European Journal of Business and Management, 5(20), pp. 1-7.

Keller, K., 2009. Building strong brands in a modern marketing communications environment. Journal of Marketing Communications, 15(3), p. 139–155.

Moven, 2008. Toyota Motor Corporation Internal Communication Practices, Available at: https://moven.wordpress.com/2008/04/22/toyota-motor-corporation-internal-communication-practices/

Nichols, A., 2011. Toyota’s Cultural Crisis: A case analysis of the company’s 2010 recall and the communications crisis that could have been avoided., Available at: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/ashleynichols/files/2011/10/Toyota-Case-Study.pdf

Piedade, J., 2016. Marketing management brand strategy and brand communication, Available at: https://www.academia.edu/8833178/MARKETING_MANAGEMENT_BRAND_STRATEGY_AND_BRAND_COMMUNICATION

Rowland, C., 2017. Toyota’s Marketing Mix (4Ps) Analysis, Available at: https://panmore.com/toyota-marketing-mix-4ps-analysis

Shukor, M. & Sulaiman, Z., 2016. The effect of emotional versus rational appeal in advertising on malaysian consumers’ purchase intention of hybrid car. ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 11(24), pp. 1-6.

Sipponen-Damonte, M., 2013. Internal communications through new media - A narrative study of a company's first steps, Available at: https://epub.lib.aalto.fi/en/ethesis/pdf/13412/hse_ethesis_13412.pdf

Takeuchi, H., Osono, E. & Shimizu, N., 2008. The Contradictions That Drive Toyota’s Success, Available at: https://hbr.org/2008/06/the-contradictions-that-drive-toyotas-success

Toyota Motor Corporation, 2006. Guiding Principles at Toyota: Code of conduct, Available at: https://www.toyota-global.com/company/history_of_toyota/75years/common/pdf/code_of_conduct.pdf

Toyota, 2014. Basic Philosophy regarding Employees- Sustainability Report 2014, Available at: https://www.toyota-global.com/sustainability/report/archive/sr14/pdf/sr14_09_e.pdf

White, C. & Vanc, A., 2012. Internal communication, information satisfaction and sense of community: the effect of personal influence, Available at: https://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/White_Vanc_Stafford.pdf

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