All that glitters is not gold. This commonly used proverb seems to perfectly summarize
the situation at Nuance Group. The successful management consultancy services provider boosts of highly educated consultants, or so it claims. With such "decorated" professionals within its ranks, the firm is not shy of sending their credentials all over the world and displays the same on their website. However, when Dorfman Associates come looking for consultants, the beautiful rock disguised as gold is unmasked. What initially looked as a case of one fraudulent consultant soon blows out of proportion as more cases of professional misrepresentations are unearthed
the respected consultants. A crisis looms over Nuance Group and this call for crisis communication. Crisis communication helps organizations to tackle effectively any unfolding
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Zaremba (2010) proposes that there are several categories of crises. Two categories, as outlined in the book, best describe the situation at Nuance Group. The firm is facing both reputational and human resource crises. The crisis is reputational as it threatens the glittering image of the consultancy firm. The image is very vital in consultancy services and if it becomes public knowledge that most consultants at Nuance Group have fake credentials, this can spell doom for the firm.
The firm is also facing human resource crisis (Zaremba, 2010). It now clear it does not have the apparently highly successful consultants as their biographical data claims. This is highlighted in the case of Patten who never attended Ivy League schools in the form of Yale University yet his credentials claim so. Swift decisions have to be made regarding those with fake credentials. Considerations also have to be made so that the firm does not lose some very
experienced consultants. The management should also weigh the business implications if the
firm retained some fraudulent individuals within its ranks.
The Nuance Group management also have to consider if they are responsible for the situation at hand. This is due to several decisions they made. They authorize 500 brochures on consultants` biographical information to be sent out to prospective clients all over the world. Similar data is uploaded to the group's website. However, this is despite the fact that management has not authenticated the information provided by the consultants. This is illustrated when Patten`s superiors only confront him after being alerted by Dorfman. Such material oversight can best be described as negligence. The clients did not need the ornamental touch on the consultants` credentials which Patten`s boss eventually discover are “factually inaccurate". Sending out unauthenticated credentials to customers meant the management failed to meet the thresholds of ethical communication (Zaremba, 2010).
The organizational and ethical culture at Nuance Group is questionable. This is illustrated when Patten is confronted by his superior. He does not seem apologetic even after putting the firm's image on the line. He argues that he had been informally told to "put his best foot forward". His boss does not refute the allegation and it seems the culture of deviance normalization has been inculcated in the firm. The phrase shows the consultancy firm may have been encouraging its employees to use underhand methods to boost the image of the firm. Though it is not documented, it would be interesting to know the punitive measures that were taken against and other culprits (Zaremba, 2010).
If Patten's was the only case of fabrication, Nuance Group could have perhaps been forgiven for its impaired ethical case. Isolated cases as such cannot be fully ruled out in an organization. Still and all, the vice of biographical data misrepresentation seems to have spread
across most of the firm's employees. Patten`s boss discovers this when the former`s case is brought forward. He realizes that more employees have added "self-congratulatory
embellishments" in their professional information just as Patten had claimed. The discovery exposes an obvious loophole in the internal controls at Nuance Group. Most organizations nowadays have internal departments charged with the responsibility of ratifying the professional documents provided by their employees. The existence of such a department would have surely prevented the unfolding and unwanted saga.
The crisis in Nuance Group threatens the existence of the management consultancy firm. The biographical data misrepresentation in the group's website and the brochures distributed exposes the firm to criminal proceedings against it (Zaremba, 2010). This is as a result of providing information with the intention of deceiving members of the public. The firm could also be in trouble with relevant regulatory authorities for professional misconduct. The firm was supposed to ensure that its employees were professionally competent as claimed by the information which they provided. Such scenarios can permanently dent the image of the consultancy firm and perhaps lead to its downfall.
Expertise in crisis communication come in handy in situations such as the one Nuance Group is in. Zaremba (2010) defines crisis communication as a means of creating and sending out information to both internal and external stakeholders when an organization is in crisis. Crisis communication is a crucial component of crisis management. How the management of Nuance Group conducts their crisis communication will define the future of the firm. The process hence has to be plotted and executed accordingly as outlined below.
The management should start with stakeholder identification. A stakeholder is anyone
either internal or external who has an interest in the firm. In the case of Nuance Group, such stakeholders include Dorfman Associates. the online clientele who represent external stakeholders and the firm's consultants themselves who make up the internal stakeholders. The management should then come up with the appropriate messages to send to the different stakeholders. The message should have the intended impact on each shareholder. The message must include apologies, especially to the external shareholders. Such heartfelt apologies can help in repairing the image. The management should then decide on how the drafted message will reach each stakeholder. The means of communication will definitely be dictated by the location of the target audience. The intended impact will also help in choosing the most suitable means of communication (Zaremba, 2010).
The management should start by communicating to the firm's consultants. The crisis directly affects them and actions of some of them have led to the issue at hand. They should also get the message first as the crisis threatens their careers. An emergency meeting can be convened where the management can inform on the discovery. The culprits need to be admonished for putting the firm's image at risk. Measures also taken should also be communicated. Some of these measures may include suspension of the affected consultants. Though this may be harsh, it is necessary so as to restore the confidence of other stakeholders and the credibility of the consultancy group (Zaremba, 2010).
The management next needs to communicate to Dorfman Associates. They need assurance that their concern has been received and is being acted upon. A decisive action such as suspension of Patten needs to be taken. Communication of the same should be relayed to
Dorfman Associates. The management has to ensure that communication with them is clear and
that they are contented with the corrective measures which have been adopted (Zaremba, 2010). This is because they are very much aware of the situation and if they don't get satisfied, they might take further actions which may be detrimental to the firm. The management can communicate to them through the phone, just like they did. This will also be an effective means of communication in the sense that the message will be delivered in time. The feedback provided will also help to gauge if more action should be taken.
The third target audience should be the clients who visit the group`s website. A notice of the new developments should be uploaded to the Nuance Group website as soon as possible. A clear explanation of the situation should be made to avoid making the already bad situation worse. This is because unlike the Dorfman Associates who blew the whistle and the stakeholders, the online clientele to will be hearing of the new development for the first time. This calls for care to avoid unnecessary panic (Zaremba, 2010).
The above three audiences can reasonably be reached within the first 48 hours if not less. However, that does not mean that more corrective actions should not be undertaken. The above measures will effectively render the over 500 brochures issued worldwide misleading. Nuance Group hence should print new brochures with the correct biographical data of consultants and distribute them out to prospective clients. Perhaps a note to the effect that previously issued brochures are void should be inserted in the new ones. Such clarification can help prevent Nuance Group from future liabilities arising from the misleading brochures.
The management of Nuance Group can also employ other image restoration strategies. Zaremba (2010) proposes measures such as bolstering and employing corrective strategy. Bolstering in the case of Nuance Group could be in the form of management identifying the achievements made in remedying the crisis. Such can include highlighting the suspension of the
affected consultants. On corrective strategy, Zaremba (2010) says “organizations employ the restoration strategy called corrective action when they explain to stakeholders what they are doing or what they will do to ensure such a crisis never occurs again." The management of Nuance group hence has the obligation of constantly assuring the stakeholders that no more misrepresentations will be made on consultants at the firm.
As illustrated in the case study above, crises are bound to hit contemporary organizations. Nuance Group's image is threatened. This calls for all organizations to adopt relevant crisis communication strategies within their hierarchies. Lack of such mechanisms can effectively lead to the downfall of an organization. The situation facing Nuance Group is a matter of make or break for the firm. Lack of decisive response in terms of crisis communication can end the life of a global consultancy firm. Organizations do not have to be necessarily reactive in crisis communication. Proactive crisis communication strategies are better as an organization can hardly predict when a crisis will hit. As noted earlier, crisis communication helps organizations to tackle effectively any unfolding decisive situation.
Zaremba A.J. (2010). Organizational communication. Oxford University Press
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