Author(s), Title and Publication
Suh, J., Harrington, J., & Goodman, D. (2018). Understanding the link between organizational communication and innovation: An examination of public, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations in South Korea. Public Personnel Management47(2), 217-244. doi:10.1177/0091026018760930

Research suggests that an organization’s internal communication facilitates continuous change. However, the effects of communication on organizational innovation, specifically employee-driven innovation, have not received as much attention in the public and nonprofit sector as they have in for-profit sector research. Furthermore, little is known about the different effects of communication on innovation across the three sectors, especially in an international context. Leveraging 5 years of the Korean Workplace Panel Surveys (KWPS) from 2005 to 2013, the authors of this study investigated what types of communication media are effective for employee-driven innovation in Korea. Specifically, a comparison was made of the different effects across the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors. The total number of samples was 1,749 organizations for 2005, 960 of which remained in the 2013 data.

Overall, the results show that internal communication influences employee-driven innovation in the for-profit sector, but that the effects are mixed in the nonprofit sector and that there is no effect in the public sector. As expected by the researchers, meeting with the executive director and having regular employee surveys influence employee-driven innovation in the for-profit sector. However, internal communication only marginally influences employee-driven innovation in nonprofit organizations. Of nine types of communication (meeting with the executive director; senior director regular field trips and communication with employees; hotline for direct communication with senior directors; sharing business information through regular meetings within departments; regular employee surveys to identify employee opinion/attitudes; regular newsletter for providing business information; bulletin board system [online/offline] for providing internal/external information; sharing information via regular e-mail; and Intranet system for sharing information that all employees can access), only meeting with the executive director and e-mail have marginally significant effects on employee-driven innovation. As expected by the researchers, the results show that internal communication has no effect on employee-driven innovation in the public sector. The findings also indicate that the public sector had no communication effect on employee-driven innovation even though it had the highest average number of internal communication channels. Considering the Korean Confucian culture of hierarchical and top-down control in government and nonprofits in Korea, rigid organizational culture obstructs open and flexible communication for innovation in these two sectors.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should be aware that (1) meeting with the executive director has significant effects on innovation for the profit sector, and (2) public and nonprofit senior managers should build a communication strategy that involves listening to employee opinion and establishing trust with employees via the utilization of upward and rich communication media rather than just distributing information by lean media.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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