The Impact of Formal Communication on Employees’ Responses to New Information Technology

Primary author: Deborah Compeau

Primary college/unit: Carson College of Business
Campus: Pullman


Changes in information technology (IT) in the workplace are frequent, driven by opportunities to create value from ever-developing technologies. Yet such changes are challenging for employees who must cope with disruptions in their work and continually update their skills. Research in information systems has provided robust insights into how individuals’ feelings and beliefs about themselves, the IT, and their environment influence IT implementation success. The managerial mechanisms that facilitate success, however, remain less studied.

This paper investigates one particular mechanism, formal communication, which has been found to be important in organizational change. Building on an earlier qualitative study, we extend the organizational change literature by examining the specific characteristics of formal communication that influence employees’ responses.

We tested our theoretical model with a survey of 303 individuals who were anticipating IT-based changes at work. The results show the importance of four content categories of communication: information about WHAT the IT is, WHY it is being implemented, WHEN change will occur and HOW the individual’s work will be affected. We show that high quality formal communication positively influences beliefs about the usefulness and ease of use of the new IT. These in turn promote enthusiasm and reduce anxiety and thus motivate engagement in further social interaction to prepare for the new IT. We contribute to the literature by articulating an improved conceptualization of formal communication, and investigating the role of formal communication in cultivating employees’ readiness for IT change.