RESOLVING THE ‘PRODUCTIVITY GAP’ AT UK PLC

Patrick Tickle, chief product officer at Planview, discusses how leveraging technology to boost employee productivity will have a direct impact on organisational profitability and performance.

In September 2015 the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures showing that in 2014 UK productivity lagged behind every G7 advanced economy bar one. According to ONS estimates, output per hour and per worker were 20% lower than the average achieved by the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. The ONS goes on to say that this marks the widest productivity gap since figures began in 1991.

Its news that should sound alarm bells for UK business leaders. Because while UK employees actually work 3.1 hours more than the average for the number of hours collective agreed – a bigger gap than anywhere else in Europe, according to the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) – the ONS figures show UK productivity continues to lag behind other developed economies. Indeed, it turns out that France, Germany and the US were 32-33% more productive than the UK last year.

So what’s the missing link?

Examining the causes

According to economists, one reason is that companies don’t spend enough on the latest technology. And that means they’re failing to give workers the tools they need to access data and do their jobs from any type of device, wherever they may be, and whenever they need to.

In other words, there’s a frightening degree of complacency when it comes to evolving new work processes that maximise productivity and support today’s working practices.Meanwhile, other nations around the globe are already grasping the efficiency gains that come with the clever use of technology.

Leveraging efficiency – a global perspective

A recent survey of senior managers and CEOs, conducted by research company Loudhouse on behalf of Planview, reveals the top identified causes of wasted time during the workday as inefficient processes, followed by an overload of paperwork and meetings. Yet those organisations that have the right tools in place are more confident about their ability to achieve productivity ambitions.

The US, for example, emerged as the most tech-driven region, with 59% of US respondents claiming that technology plays an integral part in making their organisation more efficient. And they using their new found capabilities to streamline business operations, freeing up valuable time and resources that’s being reinvested in developing their people and innovative new services. All of which has a long term impact on customer satisfaction and market positioning.

Clearly, US businesses aren’t leaving productivity gains up to chance. Not only are they using technology to address inefficient processes, they’re also using it to enable an improved workplace environment that keeps staff happy, stops them from looking for jobs elsewhere, and makes them a more productive company asset.

Competing successfully and closing the productivity gap

The reality is that we live in an increasingly mobile, dynamic and global economy. One in which business models are subject to fast-paced change and disruption. And UK organisations need to get on board with productivity tools that enable their teams to share resources and collaborate across projects, departments and geographies. So they can work with suppliers, partners -and customers – seamlessly.

What’s more, UK business leaders need to empower managers to address performance challenges head on. Using the time gained from tech-driven efficiencies to drive new productivity and service development initiatives.

Finally, tech-driven solutions make it easier for the workforce to be productive and enable a better work/life balance for employees. And that adds up to a more positive employer brand reputation which in turn delivers additional ROI – making it easier and more cost-effective to find and retain top talent.

Taking the plunge

If implementing tech-driven efficiencies to close the productivity gap seems a little daunting, it’s worth keeping in mind five key principles:

  1. Start small – target initial investments in key areas of inefficiency; easy-to-implement cloud and SaaS products exist for almost every organisational challenge.
  2. It’s better together – effective teamwork and project management are key business productivity; using collaborative software will clarify cross-team communications, eliminate effort duplication and reduce admin pressures.
  3. Aim for mobility – cloud computing and mobile equate to greater workplace flexibility and time savings; ride the BYOD trend and prepare for wearable tech to hit the workplace.
  4. Keep scalability in mind – ensure your current productivity tools are future-proof and capable of keeping up with future developments; software-based solutions are the way forward in this regard.
  5. Ease-of-use is a MUST – people won’t engage with complicated solutions; if they don’t like -or can’t use – the tools you provide then you won’t realise anticipated productivity gains.
  6. One thing is clear, if UK PLC wants to become stronger, smarter and faster and compete more effectively in the global marketplace then it will need to tackle workforce productivity head on. And that means adopting tools and technologies that deliver against the expectations and needs of the organisation itself – and its workers.  The UK is home to many of the strongest brands, largest companies and creative people.  By opening up its organisations to the potential that new technologies offer, we can narrow the productivity gap and get the country’s economic record back on track.