The 3/2 Rule of Employee Productivity

A reader just turned me on to Allan Engelhardt’s October post called “The 3/2 Rule of Productivity.”   Wonderful.  Fascinating research with data showing the more employees your company has, the less productive each person is.  Basically, in terms of profit per employee, when you triple the number of employees, you halve their productivity (the 3/2 Rule).  Allan supposes the causes could include self-selection, relationship friction, a shared vision, and the ability (or lack thereof) to collaborate.  If I could toss in my two cents, from what I hear employees of large corporations complaining to me about, it’s:

* a huge volume of email to deal with and some moron replying to all with a 50-person distribution list and 100 spams each day

* meetings that run on and on with no purpose and no apparent outcome

* interruptions by co-workers who have nothing better to do than waste their time

* waiting…and waiting…and waiting…for an answer from someone who was supposed to deliver it days ago, and now the poor worker has to implement reminder systems just to babysit the lazy butt

* work arounds for IT departments that only allow a laughingly-small amount of storage space for pst files

* several layers of bureaucracy to dig through to get the slightest irregular expenditure approved.

What else?  Please add to my list or tell me I’m not on target.



  1. Hi Laura: I totally believe this – thanks for finding the study! I’ve worked in offices and at home, and I always get so much more done when I’m working for myself at home than when I’m dealing with who’s in the office at what point, who just sent an email, dealing with IT, etc. I’m sure this is one of the biggest problems small business owners have, though. At some point, you have to hire other people, but how can you keep a high level of productivity? Maybe we should only contract with other free agents/sole proprietors… so no one’s business gets too big (and unproductive!)

    Laura Vanderkam
    Author, “Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues” (McGraw-Hill)