How to fix UK productivity

  • Identify the causes of the UK's productivity problems
  • Describe how the UK workforce could be more motivated
  • Identify ways to help with the UK productivity problem
How to fix UK productivity

The financial crisis in 2007 signalled the start of a slump in productivity for UK businesses.

Previously, the UK had the highest output per hour worked in Europe.

Now however, output has fallen by 0.6 per cent in Q1 2019 compared to Q4 2018 levels.

This rapid fall shows no sign of slowing amid ongoing political and economic uncertainty.

On a macroeconomic level, the lack of productivity for UK firms is a major issue.

But the way to fix it is to focus on the micro. At an organisational level, there is a perception among employees that senior management teams are having a negative impact on productivity.

Almost half (45 per cent) of UK employees say that their employer does not understand how to improve productivity, while a sixth (16 per cent) believe that poor management and a lack of recognition is having a negative impact on their work.

Furthermore, a staggering one in four (23 per cent) believe that their boss does not care about their health or wellbeing, which ultimately damages productivity.

In simple terms – there is a disconnect between employers and their staff on the topic, with employees believing their bosses are not doing enough to address the problem.

To resolve this, there are measures employers can implement to solve the productivity problem within their organisation.

Three ways to solve the productivity problem

First and foremost, employers must consider working practices.

The lack of investment in technology is a crucial piece of this puzzle.

Four in five (80 per cent) employees say that technology has had a positive influence on their productivity at work, while two-thirds (66 per cent) of managers saw a correlation between technology and their organisation’s performance.

Upgrading existing systems and investing in technology to speed up working practices is an obvious win when it comes to improving productivity.

However, there is the looming threat of automation.

Supplying the right technology is a challenge to organisations that want to increase overall productivity, but if jobs are replaced, they run the risk of leaving employees disengaged from an increasingly automated workplace.

Regardless, unreliable hardware loaded with outdated or incompatible software is a clear detriment to a productive workforce.

Aside from technology, employers should consider day-to-day working patterns.

Are their policies and procedures fit for purpose?

Flexible working

Now more than ever, employers are beginning to realise the benefits of flexible working.

Three quarters (77 per cent) of employees who have been offered flexible working say it improved their productivity.

However, not all flexible working requests will be granted.

Operational and business reasons, like the fulfilment of an employment contract will supersede such requests.

Therefore, businesses should consider requests on an individual basis and have policies in place to support management decision-making.