Once again the issue of UK productivity has raised it’s painful head.
With the 2017 Budget came the news from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) that the UK economy will grow by less than 2% in each of the next 5 years – the worst forecast since 1983. Underpinning this is an even more worrying set of productivity figures. Larry Elliott of the Guardian suggested that this provides Further evidence that “Britain is no longer the force that it used to be!”
“It’s hard to overstate how much productivity matters,” said Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer; however, it wasn’t just the Guardian/Observer that was lamenting this data. The Daily Telegraph suggested that the lack of investment in technology and training is at the heart of the issue. Achieving more from each hour worked, by improving technology and working practices, “allows wages to rise, lifts living standards and boosts the tax take to finance additional government spending.”
Unfortunately there is no end in sight to this protracted period of low growth; on top of which we are about to seriously disrupt relations with our main trading partners with Brexit. Just when you thought that the going was tough, it is about to get even tougher!
So how do we address this potentially calamitous situation?
Productivity is all about people. Just because we provide an employee with a new computer with the latest software does not guarantee that they will be more productive with it. As organisations devise new strategies for increasing sales, reducing costs and winning market share, so we must provide an equal focus on the human aspects of those investments.
Whether it be mergers and acquisitions, new market expansions, new product development and deployment or simply organisational restructuring, we need to invest in the people side of change. Change management is not just a ‘nice to have’ if we are to pull ourselves out of this productivity nosedive, it is THE essential ingredient that will allow us to tap into the ‘golden goose’ of productivity, the discretionary contribution of our employees.
At every step along this now precarious pathway towards Brexit, organisations must pay more attention to the potential that lies within their own workforce to raise their productivity through voluntary means. This requires clarity of vision and purpose, the provision of an infrastructure and working environment that promotes autonomy for employees to make decisions, coaching support from management to help employees in their development and investment in knowledge, skills and behaviours that will help them take advantage of these new opportunities, and an ongoing two-way flow of communication between employees at all levels to help embrace these changes and turn them into productivity gains.
We are well beyond the point of our productivity being a peripheral issue for UK business, it must become front and central to our focus if we are stand any chance of making Brexit a success. Change management is indeed THE key issue and organisations must waken up to investing in this as a discipline if we are pull out of this productivity nosedive before it gets too late.