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State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

by | Feb 27, 2023 | Public Relations

As comms pros are well aware, effective communication is essential to meet new business, customer, and workforce demands as brands and businesses navigate continued market pressures and workplace transformation—but new research from AI-enabled communication platform Grammarly reveals that communicating effectively at work is a growing challenge for businesses and employees.

The firm’s second annual State of Business Communication: The Path to Productivity, Performance, and Profit report, in partnership with The Harris Poll, shows the deepening effects of poor communication on everything from productivity to stress, confidence, and job satisfaction.

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

The data shows we’re communicating more than ever across channels, but its effectiveness is waning

Employees spent 18 percent more time year-over-year communicating in writing, and both workers and leaders are using more asynchronous communication (i.e., communication that is not in real time or does not expect immediate responses). Yet, leaders report a 12 percent drop in the effectiveness of written communication over the same period—and “decreased productivity” as a result (+15 percent YoY).

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

“The research is clear: Leaders who shrug off the massive impact of poor communication on their bottom line will lose,” said Matt Rosenberg, Grammarly’s chief revenue officer and head of Grammarly Business, in a news release. “Last year, we found that ineffective communication costs U.S. businesses up to $1.2 trillion annually, or $12,506 per employee. This year’s report shows the problem is getting worse with greater impact on everything from operational efficiency to employee and customer satisfaction. At a time when the stakes are critically high, leaders who invest in empowering efficient, consistent communication across their organizations will see results and profits climb.”

By illuminating the state of communication trends, challenges, and tools, the study of U.S. business leaders and knowledge workers underscores the growing link between communication and company performance in an evolving landscape.

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

Additional findings include:

  • Workers now spend over 70 percent of the workweek communicating on various channels, but most (58 percent) still wish they had better tools to be more effective—especially Gen Z (63 percent), Millennial (65 percent), Tech (68 percent), and ESL (71 percent) respondents.
  • Over 8 in 10 business leaders (84 percent) are feeling the downsides of poor communication, with lower productivity, missed deadlines, and increased costs ranking as the top three.
  • Workers report increased stress (+7 percent YoY) due to poor communication, and most leaders (60 percent) and nearly half (45 percent) of workers say personal connections have suffered in the hybrid workplace.

Grow—or sacrifice—revenue and results based on communication

Effective communication drives higher internal and external performance, with increased productivity (72 percent) and customer satisfaction (63 percent) topping leaders’ list of outcomes. Of those reporting higher customer satisfaction, 69 percent say that the increase is 10 percent or more. Yet most leaders (68 percent) lost at least $10,000 or more in business in the past year due to poor communication—13 percent even report $50,000+ lost. One in five also say it eroded their brand credibility or reputation.

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

Prioritize quality and tone for productive collaboration

Leaders (72 percent) and workers (53 percent) alike are paying more attention to the tone of messages lately. Most workers (62 percent) say a positive tone drives a faster response, and Millennials and Gen Zers are especially likely to do higher-quality work based on a positive tone. But the rise in more written and asynchronous communication makes it harder to discern tone—and 63 percent of workers report spending too much time trying to convey messages in the right way.

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

Rethink investments to augment teams’ skills and capabilities

Leaders prioritize investments in more processes and platforms instead of empowering teams to communicate better where they already work. They consider the platform of communication as “very important” (66 percent), but only 36 percent of workers say the same—ranking it last after aspects like content, tone, and empathy. While eight in 10 leaders are considering AI tools to augment employees to be more productive and effective, it’s not in their top three investment areas to improve communication—with better processes and strategies topping the list (88 percent).

State of business comms in 2023: Poor workplace communication sinking productivity and performance

Download the full report here.

The findings are based on a survey conducted online by The Harris Poll from October 14–31, 2022, among 1,001 knowledge workers and 251 business leaders in the U.S. Respondents include employees working full-time at corporations with 150 employees or more and represent a diverse mix of industries and job functions. The online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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