The cost of poor communication
Managers’ inability to communicate clearly is holding back productivity says article on productivitypuzzle.com
The quality of management and leadership is the number one factor in determining productivity, according to new research from the OECD. And that is a big problem for the UK. It’s a big problem because we’re not very good at it.
The London School of Economics’ Growth Commission calls the UK’s quality of management “mediocre by international standards”. The CMI has the numbers to back that up: ineffective management could be costing UK businesses more than £19 billion per year in lost working hours.
Where specifically are so many UK managers failing? In a study of 2000 employees, the CMI uncovered the primary culprit: unclear communication (33%).
This isn’t just a British problem. In an HR Magazine poll in the U.S., 48 percent of employees said they regularly received confusing directions, leading to an average of 40 minutes of lost productivity per day. Over a year, that translates to more than an entire month’s productivity lost each year.
The Harvard Business Review reported that in a poll of 1000 workers, the second biggest complaint employees voiced was the lack of clear direction from their managers. The HBR noted, “Effective leaders … know that productivity is tied to communication.” (Last week, The HBR raised the subject again, advising readers to improve their communication skills to boost productivity.)
Government can’t communicate clearly, either. This week the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee attacked Osborne’s productivity plan for being vague, offering no precise roadmap — or milestones — for the UK’s growth.
Why do so many managers lack this fundamental skill? All too often, the process of hiring managers fails to look at candidates’ “soft skills”, considering only their technical skills or output, says Professor Cary Cooper of Manchester Business School.
A revolution needs to take place in management and it needs to happen now if UK productivity is going to recover. Research points to the need for employee engagement to improve productivity. Listening to employees is crucial, but what’s not mentioned as part of the equation is the quality of the manager’s communication skills. If employees don’t know what, exactly, is expected of them, how can they engage?
Ben Willmott of the CIPD points out, “Line management is vital to improving productivity. Winning hearts and minds – ultimately that’s at the heart of the employee/manager relationship.”
Communication is the basis of any good relationship. The best managers create a culture of communication. They’re transparent and straightforward. (They do not use vague business jargon according to Forbes, which is “annoying”, “pretentious” and “useless”.)Professor Cooper wrote, “Until we start investing in the right skills for our managers we won’t see dramatic improvements in the UK’s productivity.”
Clear, precise communication urgently needs to be one of those skills.
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Author: Frank Nigriello
Director of Corporate Affairs at Unipart Group Ltd