Want a Raise? Beef Up Your Contact List.

Last Updated Jan 25, 2008 4:15 PM EST

For ages, managers have been looking for just the right metric to measure the importance of each individual team member to the team's success. It might be closer than they thought -- if they just ask for a quick peek in their team's email address books.

Three researchers at the Center for Economic Policy Research in London have published a study that finds productivity is tied to the size of a person's intracompany email network.

CEPR had been trying to discover, by surveying a management recruiting firm, whether IT usage was connected to productivity at an individual level, as there was evidence of a connection at every other level from the world economy down to the corporation. But what they found was that it is not how many emails you sent out or received, or how much time you spent on emailing, but rather how much you reached out to others in the company, and helped them reach out, that determines your worth to the overall effort.

The researchers came to their conclusions by monitoring people's email activity on a voluntary basis, and surveying people within the management recruiting firm on their use of phone and face-to-face contact. They found that both the number of people in the company with whom a team member was in contact, and the number of times they served as a connector between people within the company is more directly tied to performance than commonsense factors like experience, education, their network outside the company, and age. To a lesser extent, people who felt confident using the company's internal databases also were more productive, as were those who reported benefitting from face-to-face contacts.

And interestingly, despite recent headlines to the contrary, the survey also revealed that people who felt they had "information overload" were just as likely to be productive as those who didn't.

So stop obsessively polishing your resume and kissing up to your boss to earn that next raise or promotion. Get on email and start building bridges. Sure, your Outlook inbox may be humming like rush hour at Grand Central Station, but that could just be the sound of your gravy train coming in.