Productivity, as measured by the amount of work produced per working hour, is the main driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards. However, in the UK productivity remains below the average pre-crisis growth rate of 2%, with the country still lagging behind most of continental Europe at about 16.3% below average.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – the UK’s productivity rates did grow in the final two quarters of 2017 by 0.9% and 0.7%, the strongest growth we have seen since 2011. More still needs to be done to bolster the country’s productivity though, mainly to be able to compete with productivity powerhouses France and Germany in a post-Brexit world.
What can be done?
If the UK raised its productivity by a solitary percentage point every year, within a decade it would add £240bn to the size of the economy, making it a force to be reckoned with. According to the London School of Economics the keys to unlocking the power of productivity often already exist within the organisation, no matter their size or what industry they operate in.
1. Evaluate and improve management practices
It’s simple, better run organisations perform better. The LSE recommends regular reviews of management practices, including how an organisation’s leaders plan, deliver and utilise the firm’s assets – not just in times of crisis! The four main areas to focus on when reviewing your practices are:
• Operations management: What modern/lean techniques have been adopted?
• Performance monitoring: What kind of indicators are used for performance tracking?
• Target setting: What targets are set for the company?
• Talent management: How do senior managers show that attracting and developing talent is a top priority in your company?
Research suggests that companies that don’t regularly review their practices and approaches are the ones taking the most risk. To be successful in both the positive and negative cycles, it’s important for managers to continuously seek to maximise performance and productivity.
2. Embrace technology
If your company isn’t embracing technology, then where have you been! The LSE’s research suggests that access to and use of ICT can help small to medium-sized businesses become or remain profitable – SMEs with the biggest rise in productivity are more likely to adopt advanced technology and use it to drive innovation and productivity than their peers.
When the use of technology is combined with best management practices, companies can expect to see productivity boosted by as much as 20%. The report suggests following these three guiding principles to reach technological success.
Make digital a business priority: Digital disruption is a real threat to businesses in the UK if they don’t strive to keep ahead of changing technological advancements. Mobile, cloud, social media and mobile connectivity are driving large-scale changes, from faster production to responsive customer services – things that are disrupting companies across the country at an alarming rate. UK businesses need to future proof themselves and embrace digital transformation, not see it as a threat.
Look for ICT that supports your business priorities: Digital technology’s potential is endless – it has the potential to enhance employee collaboration, supplier and partner communications, systems and process. Companies shouldn’t mindlessly grab at the first piece of tech that takes their fancy though – all investments into ICT should be made in line with clear business goals, using it to engage innovation and improve their competitive position and productivity.
Get ready for a more mobile workforce: The rise of digital technologies has enabled everyone and everything to be connected and “always available”. In turn, this is changing the needs of the workforce – 61% of employees use their home broadband service to access work applications, while 24% use mobile data via their phone, tablet or laptop. A trend that’s set to continue and one organisations would be foolish to miss out on.
3. Create an agile, flexible workforce
Flexible working can generate big benefits, according to the LSE’s research. By using a mix of best management practices and investment in technology, employers can give their workforce the flexibility they crave.
More than two-thirds of workers who make use of smart working practices say that flexible working enables them to work more intently, and exercise greater effort. There isn’t just a clear benefit to employees – a survey on flexible working practices at 8,000 firms in 10 countries found that 61% of respondents said their company’s profits increased, 83% said their productivity increased and 58% said their organisation’s reputation benefitted as a result of flexible working practices being in place.
From the use of the Bluestones One worker technology and supplying large-scale flexible workforces to our in-depth knowledge of lean practices, we use a variety of different methods here at Bluestones One to improve our clients’ productivity. If you’d like to find out how we can support your business goals and help you improve your productivity, get in touch with the team.