The Sears Study

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Q: I was wondering whether you could help me find some research. Specifically, I am looking for information on Sears. I read bits and pieces here and there about how they used communication to turn themselves around. Apparently, Sears has documented a correlation between improved communication and improved performance. Do you know where I can find out more about this? Would also be interested in any other similar research involving other retail companies.



A: Dear Heather,

The most complete write-up I’ve seen of the Sears research was in an article in the Harvard Business Review about three years ago. In essence, they found that if they could improve the scores on certain employee satisfaction questions (some related to communication) by 5%, it would improve the scores on customer satisfaction by 1.3%, which would bring in 0.5% more on the bottom line. They were able to prove the connection because they could measure all three factors in every store location, which allowed them to do some very solid statistical correlations.

About 10 years ago, Brad Whitworth at Hewlett-Packard found a statistical correlation between employees’ satisfaction with face-to-face communication with their supervisors and those employees’ productivity and intention to stay with the company, both of which are measurable bottom-line issues. You can read more about that in an article Brad wrote in IABC’s Communication World in December 1990.

Professor Daniel Denison at the University of Michigan did a study described in his book Corporate Culture and Organizational Effectiveness (published by Wiley-Interscience in 1985) that found a correlation between companies’ information-sharing practices and their return on investment and return on sales.

Finally, I just heard a presentation by Jack Bergen, president of the Council of Public Relations Firms, showing research correlating how much companies spent on various aspects of communication with other measures of organization success. His data show that employee communication makes a huge difference. I believe some of the data are available for viewing online at

Angela D. Sinickas

See also “The linear connection between employee and customer satisfaction.”

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