6 Things Your Business Could be Doing Right Now to Boost Productivity

02 November 2016 -


While UK productivity has returned to its pre-crisis level for the first time in the second quarter of 2016, British businesses still lag behind other major countries

Jermaine Haughton

Costing the UK economy just under £80 billion, the productivity puzzle continues to pose a threat to the future success of UK Plc.

There are a number of reasons for UK productivity remaining low, with economists citing everything from the hangover of the financial crisis of 2007-08 to an over-reliance on low-paid work and a lack of investment.

As CMI’s Quality of Working Life 2016 study showed, a common factor explaining the UK’s decline is the quality of leadership and management compared to other advanced economies, with some small, medium and large UK firms having management performance that falls behind the best international standards.

So to help British business get back on track, here are six simple tips to boost your team’s productivity:

1. Offer More Work Opportunities to Young People

The lack of skills available in the UK labour force has helped damage productivity across the country, with as many as 91% of employers facing recruitment problems today.

Therefore, the CMI’s new Age of Uncertainty report recommends that employers can help alleviate the issue by proactively attracting school leavers and graduates to their work experience and internship placements, as well as participating in talks and skills workshops.

Among its key findings, the study found that young people are very keen to gain more experience in the working world, and aspire to be future leaders.

Ann Francke, CMI Chief Executive, said: “The UK will need a further 1.9 million managers by 2024. This means developing the next generation of managers and leaders is more important than ever – not just in helping individual businesses grow, but to help UK Plc bridge its productivity gap too.

“Enlightened employers know that developing young people isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s key to their ongoing business success. Businesses will sink or swim based on how well they attract the most talented, and how well they tap into the diverse abilities of young people from all backgrounds.”

2. The right equipment is needed

Technology is an integral part of virtually all businesses today, and managers must ensure they are providing the best possible tools for their teams to use. This includes assessing the systems that are essential for your teams to work on and training employees on how to use it.

Particularly poignant in creative, tech, communications and digital industries, old and outdated systems and devices can mean the difference between a job well done, and a total mess.

Even the most efficient and dedicated individual will struggle to performance at their best, if they are unable to competently complete tasks due to the computer, server or printer constantly being “down” or “out of service”.

Research from Sharp has revealed that almost 40 minutes are wasted per employee per day in UK offices, the equivalent of 167 hours, costing businesses over £2,100 per employee per year.

This adds up to the average office worker wasting at least 21 days each year due to slow or inefficient technology, which is longer than most UK office workers get for their paid annual leave.

3. Monitor Employee Productivity Data and Set Goals

Measuring the time taken to complete specific tasks can help managers keep track of productivity levels and provide a starting point to understanding the source of where your productivity woes may lie.

However, the process should be open and honest, ensuring that employees understand that you are not trying to pick holes in their performance or status, but gain insight into the bigger picture of how the team is operating and which inefficiencies need to targeted.

Top managers often have regular check-ins with staff about their goals and progress, and push them to achieve individual and team targets like a 10% increase in sales or satisfaction in support.

There should also be a plan in place for counselling employees who may be falling behind due to unproductivity. An employee’s unproductive hours may result from spending too much time on non-work related sites or too many distractions in the workplace, whether in a traditional or home office.

4. Encourage Flexible Working

Giving employees a better work/life balance, reducing stress and a way of building greater loyalty, flexible working is a great method of helping boost productivity in your organisation.

In the ever-demanding, 24 hour nature of today’s corporate world, the licence for employees to be able to work different hours or from a different location, that fits around their lifestyle and needs, can be a powerful method of getting the best performance from them.

Gallup research found that employees who work remotely even part of the time are both more engaged and more productive. The survey also found that 83% of respondents said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity.

Results with 8,000 global employers and employees, conducted by Vodafone, also showed that 61% said it had helped increase company profits.

5. Continually Train Your Staff

Training new or established staff is equally valuable in empowering them to conduct their daily tasks efficiently and with ease. An employee is more likely to be productive when they understand what exactly is expected from them and they are given the training to perform such a task.

Training gives confidence and confidence leads to employees that are productive.

Some managers often fall into the trap of focussing their training resources primarily on new recruits, but the retraining and “upskilling” of existing team members can be crucial for helping adapt to technological changes, fulfil the requirements of new projects and enhance the individual’s career prospects.

With regular training, a business can more easily identify any gaps in the market and skill gaps within the existing workforce. By identifying these gaps early, there is time to train staff in required areas so they can fulfil the role effectively.

From having a library of books and material on the latest industry developments, or holding workshops introducing staff to new procedures or systems, regular training opportunities shows the commitment you are making to your team and can give them a much higher sense of job satisfaction, which can improve their motivation towards their work.

6. Listen To Your Team


The onus to be productive is as much the responsibility of the manager as their team, and top bosses create an environment in which employees can voice problems damaging their productivity. Individuals within your team may spot an important fault with a new measure or even a mistake you’re guilty of making.

As the perceived leader in the office, many leaders struggle to listen, nevermind accept they need to do this, because they’ve become more accustomed to speaking than listening.

This can create an awkward, sterile environment whereby some employees may be deterred from making valuable points or asking valid questions due to being scared or not wanting to show a lack of specific knowledge to what is expected from them.

To help solve this, managers are advised to ask for the opinions of their colleagues, showing humour, bringing other people into the discussion and, very importantly, answering staff queries clearly and in a timely, satisfactory manner.

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