The Business Productivity Hub

Productivity Is Almost Everything

Our Mission

Awardaroo!’s mission is to create a Business Improvement Programme fit for the 21st century enabling companies to survive ur staff behaviours, business skills, service delivery and team. Today we need to think differently.

How To Improve UK Productivity

UK productivity grew by 2% every since year 1945, but in 2007 it slowed to a stop and it hasn’t increased much since.

Poor productivity can be caused by a range of different factors, including poor management skills, inadequate or poorly performing technology, demotivated staff, poorly thought out processes and not enough fun in the workplace.

The future of productivity is about working smarter, not harder. In fact, there’s growing evidence that working fewer hours can lead to improved productivity, with the BBC recently investigating whether firms should move to a four-day week.

People can feel vulnerable when showing their true selves at work.

According to a recent report by McKinsey, the modern workforce spends 61% of their time managing their work rather than doing it.

The future of productivity is relational and not transactional, and its approach heralds a new human-centric era at the heart of the way we do business.

What is Business Productivity?

Despite what the image above might make you think, business productivity isn’t all about pumping your employees full of caffeine so that they can get as much work done as possible.

But what is productivity? As a rule, we can define it as the amount of work produced by each worker for each hour, which makes it a measure of employees’ efficiency in converting inputs such as time into outputs such as a number of deliverables. So if a baker bakes 10 loaves of bread in an hour, their productivity is 10 loaves of bread an hour.

UK productivity grew by 2% every since year 1945, but in 2007 it slowed to a stop and it hasn’t increased much since. UK productivity is also amongst the lowest in Europe, with the Germans able to achieve in four days what the UK needs five days to complete.

Part of the problem is that “productivity” as a term is very generic. At its most basic level, we can define it as the rate at which a system, machine or person converts an input into an output. This output per hour is a key driver of economic growth, and increasing productivity is generally considered to be the only sustainable way of improving living standards in the long term.

Poor productivity can be caused by a range of different factors, including poor management skills, inadequate or poorly performing technology, demotivated staff, poorly thought out processes and not enough fun in the workplace.

Unfortunately for us, the productivity of UK workers is lower than it was before the financial crisis, lagging way behind the US, France and Germany. UK employee engagement is also at a low, ranking 18th out of 20 countries behind only Japan and Hong Kong.

Productivity is such a big issue that it’s debated at a government level, as was the case with business secretary Greg Clark’s plans to boost the UK’s productivity in four main sectors: construction, life sciences, automotive and artificial intelligence.

And so with that in mind, let’s jump on in and take a closer look at why business productivity matters so much to relational businesses.

Why does business productivity matter?

A 10% lift in productivity gives a 33% increase in revenue to the average business. If my calculations are correct, that means that if every business in the country improved efficiency by just 0.1%, the UK economy would benefit to the tune of over £10 billion.

I’ve talked about how we can improve UK productivity in previous articles and so I won’t go on about it here. Instead, I’m more interested in taking a look at why business productivity matters so much to individual businesses, instead of to the economy as a whole.

Productivity is linked to improved competitiveness (we’re talking friendly competition here) as well as greater efficiency. The problem is that when it comes to linking productivity with improving profit, we’re woefully underserved and many people either misunderstand or misinterpret what it means to improve business productivity. In my view, it’s the most misunderstood and underutilised resource in modern business.

Improving business productivity also leads to happier, more motivated employees and customers and clients who can’t live without you. You’ll be able to see it in your customer satisfaction ratings, and all of this positive word of mouth will help to drive more traffic and revenue and ultimately to establish and to protect your brand.

How to be more productive

UK productivity is low for ten main reasons, and it can help to understand what’s holding us back before looking forward to a more productive future. Those reasons are:

  1. Obstacles to employees completing their jobs
  2. Lack of innovation
  3. Not copying, emulating or implementing industry best practices
  4. Staff priorities different to the company’s
  5. Carrot and stick approach to motivation
  6. Resistance to change; operating in our comfort zone
  7. Low investment in new processes and equipment
  8. Slow or no decision making
  9. Poor management that leads to demotivated employees
  10. Leadership that doesn’t set a vision or strategy

Happiness and productivity go hand in hand, and there’s a direct correlation between the two of them. For some, technology is seen as the magic bullet we need to solve our productivity woes, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. Computing power has increased at an exponential rate over the last five decades but has not improved productivity rates. Productivity growth has been at about 2% per year globally for the last 200 years.

I can’t think of a better illustration for this than the productivity paradox, which states that just because there’s an increase in computing power, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there will be an increase in productivity. The term was originally coined to describe the lack of productivity growth in the States during the 70s and 80s, often in industries that had invested heavily in information technology.

Writing for the New York Times, Matt Richel argued that, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused. Nobel laureate Robert Solow adds, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” That’s one of the reasons why it’s also known as the Solow computer paradox.

Studies have shown that some companies are getting huge productivity increases from IT investment. Others are not, despite spending vast amounts of money on new systems. The question, then, is why and how best to use technology to improve productivity.

The future of productivity is about working smarter, not harder and improving consistency across the business. In fact, there’s growing evidence that working fewer hours can lead to improved productivity, with the BBC recently investigating whether firms should move to a four-day week. Business Productivity Coaching can help here.

There are four main ways to go about doing this:

  • Minimise waste: Less waste means greater efficiency, and greater efficiency means that you’ll keep your overheads low and make the largest amount of profit possible.
  • Minimise checking: Don’t get me wrong, checks can be important. They can also take up a lot of unnecessary time and cause delays. And as they say, time is money.
  • Look for delays between functions: Building on from the last point, identifying delays can reduce production time, increase time to market, drive efficiencies and cut down on costs.
  • Engage with your employees: Engaged employees are happier employees, and happier employees are more productive. They’ll also stay at your company for longer, thus reducing your training and recruitment costs.

Employee and professional vulnerability

People can feel vulnerable when showing their true selves at work, usually when they’re working in a more conservative environment or at a company at which individual expression is frowned upon or discouraged. This leads to a dilemma, because we need each and every employee to be playing to their strengths and to feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work each day.

So when it comes to productivity, we have two main pressures on our employees: transactional pressures on one side and vulnerability on the other. When these two pressures are allowed to build up, we start to see more mental health issues amongst employees, and companies are often ill-equipped to deal with them. This is a major problem, and not just for well-being; mental health problems at work cost the UK economy nearly £35 billion per year.

So what can we do about it? Well, we can start by shifting from a transactional to a relational model to reduce the pressure on employees and to develop a future-proof business. We’ll be talking some more about relational businesses in coming posts, so be sure to check back often for more.

On top of that, we can try to develop a culture in which employees feel able to express themselves. Even if certain industry standards are required, such as a certain dress code or no music in the office to make incoming calls more legible, you can allow people to express themselves in other ways. This will largely be led by employees as opposed to senior management, but management teams need to allow people to express themselves in the first place.

Still, nobody’s perfect, and there will always be employees who slip through the net. That’s why we also need to establish processes and protocols to pick up on employees who are having problems so that we can head those problems off at the pass. This includes establishing mental health programmes and knowing the warning signs so that you can intervene and provide support before employees have more serious problems.

The future of productivity

According to a recent report by McKinsey, the modern workforce spends 61% of their time managing their work rather than doing it. That’s a big problem, and it’s one of the biggest threats when it comes to the future of productivity.

That’s why more and more people are turning to technological tools, from customer relationship management (CRM) tools to communication platforms like Slack and productivity tools like Evernote. The problem is that new tools don’t necessarily drive efficiency and productivity, and so we need to evaluate each of the tools that we use with a skeptical eye and to consolidate multiple tools into single platforms where possible.

At the same time, we need to remember that this shift from transactional to relational business means that productivity comes in many shapes and sizes. On top of that, our employees are stuck between the rock and the hard place of vulnerability on one side and transactional pressure on the other. No wonder we’re not being as productive as we could be
— we’re too busy worrying.

The future of productivity is relational and not transactional, and its approach heralds a new human-centric era at the heart of the way we do business. Ultimately, a company is a collection of human beings, each of which has different needs, dreams and motivators. We’d do well to remember them.

Conclusion

Now that you know more about relational businesses and the complex interplay between productivity and the relationships you have with your employees, the next step is for you to put it into practice. Take notes on this blog post and feel free to share it with your coworkers, but above all else be sure to take action.