While calls from the likes of the CIPD for a top-down approach to boosting UK productivity, I believe there are also steps every organisation, regardless of its size or sector, can take to improve its own productivity.
At Vodafone, we explored the productivity challenge from many angles in order to advise and help our customers build better businesses.
In 2016 we commissioned the London School of Economics to create Vodafone’s Power of Productivity report, which analysed productivity trends at a regional level. The report revealed businesses of all sizes could benefit from a productivity boost of as much as 20 per cent by combining better management practices with technology investment.
We also examined the productivity challenge at a grass-roots level. After all, employees are the heartbeat of every business and it is essential to understand their perspective.
The resulting report, Working in the UK, revealed three steps we believe can help businesses to unlock the productivity potential of their teams.
Invest in meaningful work
In our working lives our colleagues can empower us and enable us to perform at our best. At the same time, too many meetings and unnecessary work processes can hold us back. In fact, that’s exactly what over half of workers said in our study.
We are operating in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment and businesses need to redesign their work processes to enable employees to focus on meaningful, results-based work and create a frictionless working environment.
Technology is not the solution to everything – but it is a great problem solver
One way to reduce inefficiencies is by digitising and automating administrative processes. This can be anything from approving a finance request to working together on a report.
Businesses can increase employee productivity by taking some easy steps, for instance, embracing up-to-date and relevant technology, particularly around connectivity, communication and collaboration, and regularly evaluating and improving management practices.
Our work with Fife Council is a clear example of how technology can improve productivity. We identified that Fife Council field-based engineers were spending a lot of time completing admin while on the move. So, we equipped field-based electricians with rugged mobile devices with access to back-office systems. This simplified admin and enabled them to complete 20 per cent more jobs each day. They now spend more time using their engineering skills in a productive way.
Empower your workforce – and keep them connected
Businesses have to understand how and where their employees want to work.
Our research revealed that over two-fifths of British workers say that they work from a customer or project site. When your people are not in the office, but are working on the move or remotely, businesses simply have to create a fit for purpose ‘roaming office’, accessible from a variety of locations. When successful, this approach lays the foundations for a business that is adaptable and able to react to changing market conditions.
And luckily, the technology to support this exists.
The productivity challenge facing the UK may feel like something that can only be tackled from the top – by government initiatives and legislation. But I think every business in the UK has an exciting opportunity right now to explore this at a micro-level. We have an opportunity to unlock the productivity potential our workforce.
Anne Sheehan is enterprise director at Vodafone UK