Looking to improve workplace productivity? Expanding the workforce should not be the default solution, writes Nick Howes
The issue of workplace productivity has long been debated in the national media, as UK businesses search for ways to match and exceed the performance levels seen from their global competitors. According to recent government data, over the last decade the UK’s labour productivity growth rate fell to a level lower than at any time during the 20th century, with little indication that matters will improve in the immediate future. Currently ranked behind many of its European counterparts, workplace productivity is an issue that UK businesses must address, especially as Brexit uncertainty builds.
The UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’
Measured by the amount of work produced per working hour, productivity is the main driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards. According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK has achieved productivity growth of just two percent in the last decade, a rate that was previously managed every year. Widely referred to as the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, the statistics support the idea that despite more people being employed, organisations are facing an uphill battle when it comes to improving business output.
With the issue of workplace productivity intensifying, businesses are beginning to take drastic measures to improve the situation. Although investing in state-of-the-art technology can be a necessary move, many organisations are spending a lot of money to make internal processes more efficient. However, new research suggests the answer could be much simpler and cheaper by comparison, as businesses fail to capitalise on their existing workforce. Rather than replacing workers with technology or expanding the existing workforce, improvements can be made by providing focussed training for individuals, giving them the skills needed to successfully complete high payoff activities.
Nurturing the talent within
Not only will personal development enhance workplace productivity, it will also reduce the need for businesses to recruit talent externally, saving significant time and money. While some organisations attempt to solve the productivity puzzle by bringing in experienced leaders to oversee daily operations, others recognise the potential in their existing workforce and offer the training needed to progress. For many years, there has been a false perception that productivity can be improved by simply working longer hours, however some of the most productive nations in the world have a shorter average working week than the UK. Instead, it is important to discover the strengths of your existing team, using your workforce effectively to accomplish tasks.
Inspiring new leaders
For those organisations looking to boost their workplace productivity, there are personal development programmes designed to teach people how to become more productive. Refined and improved over time, these courses help individuals understand the true power of goal setting, teaching important communication, time management and delegation skills. Other programmes focus on the strategic side of personal development, recognising the need for clear-thinking leaders, who can create effective business strategies. Helping workers become strategic leaders is crucial to long-term business growth, as they begin to optimise internal structures and enhance productivity using newly learnt skills.
Embracing a culture of development…
The UK’s productivity puzzle has left organisations scratching their heads, as they continue to search for ways to improve the situation. While expanding the existing workforce may help soften the blow, businesses must look closer to home, recognising the potential of their workers and giving them the training needed to become effective leaders.