Survey Puts Telecom Tops in Productivity

The telecom industry is filled to its gills with statistics, but here's one you might not have seen before. The telecom industry has the most productive staff in the world -- 15 percent more productive than those working in the food and beverage sector, according to a labor productivity study conducted by Proudfoot Consulting.

The telecom sector came in with a 72 percent staff productivity level in 2002, with the automotive sector the next most productive at 68 percent. The electronics sector scored just 63 percent, and the food and beverage sector wound up at the bottom of the pile with a staff productivity score of just 57 percent.

Put another way, telecom workers spend more than a quarter of their working hours shirking, and yet they're still atop the productivity table.

Productive time was viewed as "time spent by any member of staff on activity that is relevant to his/her job function and is of value." Proudfoot believes that the optimum productivity level is 85 percent, so even telecom firms have some whip-cracking to do yet.

Unfortunately, Proudfoot didn't look at how much time telecom sector workers spend reading news Websites, though this surely would have counted as time well spent...

Proudfoot conducted more than 1,400 detailed studies in seven countries (Australia, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.), and found a positive correlation between the productivity of workers and the level of competition in their industry sector.

Country by country, the U.S. and Germany are the most productive nations, with productivity levels of 63 percent, closely followed by the Australians at 61 percent. France, Spain, and the U.K. scored 60 percent, while the South Africans spend only 59 percent of their time being productive.

All this wasted time costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year, it seems. Proudfoot estimates that in 2002, the U.S. lost $1,067 billion, or 10.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), as a result of wasted labor. In Germany, 11.3 percent of the country's GDP ($224 billion) was lost in wasted labor last year, while the Brits managed to squander just 10 percent of their GDP ($132 billion). Meanwhile, Proudfoot finds that the French wasted just 7.3 percent of their GDP ($104 billion) in 2002. Zut alors!

Poor management is the main reason for lost productivity, while IT-related problems only rank fifth.

Table 1: Reasons for Lost Productivity
2001 2002 2003
Insufficient management planning and control 43% 43% 41%
Inadequate supervision 22% 23% 26%
Poor working morale 14% 12% 11%
Inappropriately qualified workforce 6% 7% 9%
IT-related problems 8% 8% 7%
Ineffective communication 7% 7% 6%
Source: "Missing Millions: How Companies Mismanage Their Most Valuable Resource," Proudfoot Consulting 2003

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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