Ann Francke on low productivity: The time for excuses is over

15 November 2016 -


With Brexit pushing the UK’s productivity puzzle to the fore once again, CMI’s chief executive says modern apprenticeships and good old-fashioned management techniques need to be combined to solve this perennial British problem

Ann Francke

Productivity continues to be a concern in the UK – and all the more so post-Brexit.

There are many ways to improve the situation, but, for me, apprenticeships offer a major and systematic policy solution. When measured against other OECD countries, the UK underinvests in training.

Almost nine out of 10 employers say they can’t find the skills to fill job vacancies; one in four jobs goes unfilled.

With the launch of the apprenticeship levy, all companies have an opportunity to correct this. Now they can train their people in the skills they need to be more productive, such as engineering, digital, and, yes, management and leadership.

CMI has worked with more than 30 employers and education providers on creating the new suite of trailblazer apprenticeships. (These are available at every level, from first-line manager to senior leader.) Companies can use the levy to train their people and reap the rewards that great management and leadership bring, such as lower costs, higher growth and wellbeing, and greater engagement.

In September, CMI released a major study, An Age of Uncertainty, with the EY Foundation. This showed just how ambitious young people are: 63% want to lead a team; 40% want to be the boss.

But these young people are being woefully underprepared for the world of work.

Read more: How a CMI apprenticeship can help your business

Right now, according to our study, more than half find it difficult to get the right experience. Only 51% of 16- to 18-year-olds get access to work-experience opportunities through school.

So we are calling for a school-to-work syllabus as part of every child’s education. This would also be a great opportunity for local employers to help young people and prepare their own future employees. In our study, 88% of young people said that employers need to offer more work experience.

Finally, in another CMI study, we’ve looked at the need to re-engage middle management. These people, the heartbeat of any organisation, seem not to be trusted by their senior leadership: only 31% feel important in building a trusting workplace culture.

There seems to be a real disconnect here between senior and middle management, one that must be addressed through transparency and honesty.

To bridge the gap, we recommend regular Q&A sessions, involving managers in crafting strategic messages, and good old-fashioned Management By Walking About.

Sometimes the old ideas are the best.

This article is Ann Francke's 'Briefing' from the latest edition of Professional Manager

Powered by Professional Manager