How good is your business? A new three-step plan for boosting productivity

08 July 2016 -


The EU referendum has thrown more dirt into the UK’s lacklustre productivity engine. For our future economic health and social cohesion, it’s more important than ever that we refocus on boosting productivity, says UKCES

Matt Scott

Despite decades of comment and analysis, the problem of poor British productivity is not going away.

Since the recession, UK productivity has gone from second fastest-growing level in the G7 to second slowest, and business growth has virtually ground to a halt. In 2015 British productivity was 14% lower than if growth had continued at the same rate as in the 2000s.

A new report from UKCES (the UK Commission for Employment and Skills), How Good is Your Business Really? Raising our ambitions for business performance, has laid out a roadmap for driving up productivity.

Writing in the report, Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and UKCES, said boosting British productivity was important for society as well as business, and that strong leadership was vital if changes are to succeed.

“Productivity is vital not just in driving the growth agenda, but increasing social prosperity and improving living standards, too,” he said. “Yet our current productivity trajectory is flat. The global crisis and recession that followed has left a severe impression on the business world and the turbulence following Britain’s vote to leave the EU risks more economic uncertainty in the months and years ahead.

“If productivity growth was important before 23 June, it is even more so now.

“Although our lacklustre productivity performance has been much analysed and discussed we are a long way from it being resolved. That resolution will come mainly from business and it is time for concerted action. The routes to improvement are many and varied but they all depend on strong ambitious business leadership and enduring action on the ground.”

The need for professional management

CMI director of external affairs Petra Wilton said: “Today's launch of the Productivity Review clearly acknowledges the need for better skills and far higher ambitions if the UK is to be internationally competitive. A key theme being raised is the need for better leadership and management, reflecting CMI’s own research that has found that 43% of managers rate their own line managers as ineffective. A CMI survey also found that the current approach to the productivity puzzle is not working, with only 27% of managers surveyed believing that organisational change is delivering improvements in productivity.

“Under the leadership of Charlie Mayfield, the productivity group has called for British business to inspire each other, and has launched a new movement for better business. This is all about sharing best practice, and we look forward to sharing the benefits of the new trailblazer management and leadership apprenticeships.

“If we really want to drive productivity through the skills agenda, it will be important that business does not get distracted by discussion around the levy, but focus on the real returns that these new management apprenticeships can offer. Now more than ever, recognising the value of professional management can help turnaround the UK's competitiveness."

The report found that “for many businesses ‘productivity’ is not enough of a priority. Few businesses measure it, and, when asked, most businesses say they are above average. We therefore need an approach that is simultaneously practical, engaging and ambitious at scale.”

To address this, the report highlighted three practical steps for boosting engagement – and, thus, productivity.

1. Know how good your business is

The UKCES is asking businesses to ask themselves: ‘How good is your business?’ By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation you can start to see the areas in need of improvement, and that is the first step for taking action that succeeds.

2. Know what good looks like

By leading discussion groups and working parties in specific business areas, UKCES is leading the way with the sharing of best practice and is encouraging thousands of businesses to take up the challenge and join the drive for better productivity.

By working together, British businesses have a real chance to learn from the successes (and failures) of others and make a real difference to the way the country is performing on the international stage.

3. Have access to support to make improvements

By providing access to examples of best practice and cutting edge innovations, the Productivity Leadership Group aims to give British business the support it needs.

UKCES wants to drive knowledge sharing and increase innovation to spur on improvements in productivity and help businesses help themselves and others.

Find out more about the UKCES report and how you can boost your organisation’s productivity here:

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