The Gatehouse Blog

Poor cross-team communication blamed for UK productivity gap

Poor cross-team communication is the primary cause of poor productivity in the UK and elsewhere, according to the results of a survey of more than 800 executives in 19 countries.

The 2006 Proudfoot Productivity Report, a piece of research commissioned by Proudfoot Consulting and the Conference Board in the US, is a robust study combining a wealth of proprietary performance data with the results of a detailed executive opinion survey.

The results make interesting reading and point towards some of the performance drivers and barriers that exist inside organisations. If you click on the link above you’ll be able to access the report itself, together with detailed results, press releases, etc.

Two points jump out for me:

  1. Over a three year period the UK is amongst the worst performing nations, ‘losing’ an equivalent to 36 days per worker, per year.  It seems that, despite making great strides in employee communication and engagement in recent years, we’re still pants when it comes to workforce productivity. This is no surprise (various engagement studies show the UK to be near the bottom of the pile too) but it’s still quite sobering.   
  2. The survey suggests that poor internal communication is to blame but appears to have only asked respondents about cross-team communication (the question asked was "How do communications problems (internal between departments) contribute to the inefficiency of your organisation?")  It’s a real shame Proudfoot didn’t ask more questions about other aspects of internal communication – communication of strategy, effectiveness of line managers, visibility of leaders, etc.  Now that would have made a really interesting read…

One question this does prompt is how much time and effort do we internal communicators put into improving inter-team communication?  In my experience it’s very little. Most teams concentrate on communication across the whole organisation and between various hierarchical levels (leader to troops, line manager to subordinate, supervisor to front line employee, and so on). I don’t know of many that are focused on improving communication between teams, business units, divisions or subsidiaries. 

Given it’s obvious importance to productivity, and the fact that many communicators I talk to still complain about employees having a ‘silo mentality’,  it’s probably an area we should all concentrate on in the future.