The UK’s problem with productivity is becoming a weight around the neck of British businesses and is in danger of holding back the economic recovery. Despite the latest figures from the ONS showing that output per hour has increased 1.3 per cent in the year, it is stil 20 percent below the G7 average.
Few would argue that the abilities of other European workers are superior to our domestic workforce, but the same problem doesn’t seem to be repeated in countries like France and Germany, where workers currently generate 30 percent more output per hour. In order for Britain to fully recover from the economic downturn of 2008, the issue of productivity needs to be addressed by both the Government and by companies internally. So what practical steps can UK businesses take to ensure that they are leading the way when it comes to productivity?
Stagnation is one of the biggest killers of productivity. It’s very easy for businesses to get stuck in their ways and begin to reject change. In subtle ways this can include neglecting to innovate services or not utilising the ideas and experience of new staff members that come from different backgrounds or even competitive firms. Having senior employees that have been with the organisation for some time, and own a good knowledge of the firm, can be very useful, but it needs to be balanced with fresh thinking. Businesses need to be constantly evolving to remain productive, and can benefit hugely from hiring nimble new leaders focused on market conditions to gain fresh insights that can affect real change.
2. Set clear goals and expectations.
To ensure that each member of staff is performing at the right level, it’s also important that every employee is equipped with a clear sense of purpose, tangible goals and set expectations that ensure everyone knows exactly what is anticipated of them, Clearly outlining to each staff member what their job role entails, and what they should produce on a week-to-week basis, can provide a useful framework to measure productivity. This can also help to highlight which staff members are achieving beyond their level and who might need additional support.
3.Share the responsibility.
Companies should also get in the habit of distributing decision making where necessary. Assuming all responsibility for your staff is an unproductive way to handle business and can stifle the development of colleagues. In addition, granting autonomy can help employees feel as though they are stretching their skills and pushing themselves to reach higher. A workforce will be much more productive and motivated to work at a high level if they are able to prove their worth and challenge themselves. Providing regular feedback and support can also help to encourage staff development and identify any issues before bad habits have a chance to settle in.
4.Recruit for culture
Lastly, companies need to employ the right people in the first place. If you take on someone that is a bad fit for the business culture or working process, you are setting yourself up to fail. Ask yourself: Do they fit it with the values and culture of the company? If they are used to a slow working environment, will they be happy with the pace of the job? Also, identify what motivates them. It costs a lot less to spend time hiring the right person than it does to deal with a bad hire, so ensure that you get to know your candidate and research their background before employing them. Solving the productivity puzzle will take time and it’s unlikely that change will happen overnight. However, if UK businesses do implement a strategy to tackle issues of productivity, there might still be time to catch-up with the rest of Europe.