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How do you maximise productivity?

Whatever company you work with, the questions, answers and solutions all lie in one common playing field – the combined mindset of the workforce.

Would you prefer to become as productive as your best overseas competitors, develop leading edge ways of working, or maximise your employee engagement & satisfaction? What if one method could help you achieve all three? 

The stats about the UK’s productivity rate really are quite astounding – for me, it captures where we fall short as a nation. Depending on what you read, British workers produce on average 30% less per hour than workers in Germany, the US and France, 10% less than the average Italian, and we lag behind all but Japan in both productivity per hour and output per worker.  If we were as productive as most other workers, we could take off every Friday and still achieve the same as we are today.

Why is this, and what can we do about it? Interestingly, I think the I have the answer… but to let you in on the secret, I first have to bore you with a background story.

Historically, I was in the “tech gang” – the pool of consultants who thought that high tech was the answer to everything. Why invest in skills when you can invest in science and technology? Surely machine beats man? How wrong I was. I learned this when I started to question my (and many other consultants) former techniques and methodologies. Who are we to go into a company with the view that we can change their business and solve all of their needs? Surely if we know more about their business than they do, then alarm bells should be ringing?

Then the penny dropped. Whether we were working with a service based call centre or a high technology engineering company, the toolkit we used was the same. We’d developed methodologies which brought together the major asset present in any decent organisation. I began to learn that whatever company you work with, the questions, answers and solutions all lie in one common playing field – the combined mindset of the workforce.

The answer to the productivity problem in the UK is get more bang for your buck from your workforce.

More often than not this isn’t a problem within the workforce, but a lack of trust or confidence from higher echelons in the business. On one hand business owners are wanting solutions rather than problems from their staff, and creative businesses that grow themselves – but they’re not prepared to trust their employees to achieve this.

This is where we bring in the big word – Innovation. For all those who haven’t been reading my other blogs, Innovation isn’t just about science, technology and R&D. As soon as the government learn this too, the productivity gap will start to close. Innovation is about gaining benefit by doing things differently – and to do this continuously, it has to be a culture embedded within the workforce. The best way to grow through Innovation isn’t by designing a “thing” – it’s about enabling continual growth using the knowledge, experience, competencies and creativity within your workforce – who truly are your most valuable asset.

According to CIPD’s HR Outlook, Innovation is now the top business priority for business leaders – for first time. The survey revealed that 35 per cent of HR and 32 per cent of other business leaders consider innovation to be their top business strategy as employers increasingly recognise the need to think creatively and change the way they work. Dr Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser provided wise words, quoting “With people being at the heart of how businesses operate, HR has a significant role to play in wider organisational innovation. This requires business-wide systemic thinking and action to affect change.”

Funnily enough, I suspect that if I’ve had titled this blog “Innovation and Intrapreneurship” only half the number of people would have read it.

This emphasises the importance of truly understanding where Innovation can have impact within our businesses!

Richard Harrison