Employee perceptions of symbolic corporate identity elements and employer-employee relationships at Lonmin Platinum
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Large multi-national corporations experience more and more pressure to maintain good relationships with their stakeholders, including employees. Concurrent with this, the focus of Corporate Communication management has shifted from pure communication management to relationship management. Lonmin Platinum, a mining company within the South African mining and minerals sector is no exception in this regard. In fact, due to the apartheid legacy and government regulations that are aimed at safety and equity, it is especially difficult to manage employee relationships in the mining industry. Apart from historical and environmental factors, Lonmin Platinum's task is further complicated by its diverse work-force. At the time of the study the work-force of approximately 20 000 employees consisted of literate, semiliterate and illiterate employees. In addition, the company comprised five business units, each with their own corporate identity. In order to manage relationships effectively, a company needs to understand the nature and quality of its relationships as well as which factors might influence its stakeholder relationships. Studies have already indicated that a company's corporate identity can contribute to the stakeholders' images of the company. Over time, the image impacts on the company's reputation and consequently on the stakeholders' relationships with the company. In the case of a company such as Lonmin Platinum, with an endorsed corporate identity, it can be expected that corporate identity will also play a role in the nature and quality of relationships, including employee relationships. Previous studies have investigated the link between corporate identity and relationships focussing on communication, and on behaviour elements of identity. Up until now, no examples of research of the possible influence of symbolic corporate identity elements on relationships in the South African mining industry could be traced. Against this background, the following research question was asked: What is the relationship between employees' perceptions of symbolic corporate identity elements and employer-employee relationships at Lonmin Platinum? Semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews and quantitative questionnaires were applied as data collection methods. The results confirmed that Lonmin Platinum did not have a good relationship with its employees in general. The lack of trust was seen as one of the most apparent problems. It also seemed that the employees did not understand the company's endorsed corporate identity. They, for example, did not understand the company structure and identified themselves more with the symbolic corporate identity of their respective business units than with the company itself. With regard to the correlation between symbolic corporate identity and relationships, this study indicated a relationship between employees' perceptions of how effective the company reached it objectives and the quality of its employee relationships. Company objectives, such as a safe working environment, a healthy working environment, socioeconomic empowerment and accountability, as well as a company that unites its workforce and creates a family feeling amongst the employees impacted most on employee relationships.
- Humanities