For many years, the national media has focused on the issue of workplace productivity, as UK manufacturing businesses struggle to find ways to match and exceed the performance levels seen from their global competitors. 

According to Government data, over the last decade the UK’s labour productivity growth rate fell to a level lower than at any time during the 20th century, with little indication that matters will improve in the immediate future. 

With the UK currently ranked behind many of its European counterparts, workplace productivity is an issue that urgently needs addressing, especially as Brexit uncertainty continues to build.

The UK’s productivity puzzle

Measured by the amount of work produced per working hour, productivity is the main driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards. 

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK has achieved productivity growth of just 2% in the last decade, a rate that was previously managed every year.

Widely referred to as the UK’s productivity puzzle, the statistics support the idea that despite more people being employed, organisations still face an uphill battle when it comes to improving business output.  

In theory, recruiting more workers or increasing working hours could help solve the longstanding problem. However in practice it is having the opposite effect, as more people seem to be entering unproductive jobs.

Simple solution

With the issue of workplace productivity intensifying, businesses are beginning to take drastic measures to improve the situation. 

Although investing in state-of-the-art technology can be a positive and necessary move, many organisations are spending a lot of money in a bid to make processes more efficient.

However, new research suggests that the answer could be much simpler and cheaper by comparison, as businesses fail to capitalise on their existing workforce, underestimating the importance of personal development. 

Rather than replacing workers with technology or expanding the existing workforce, improvements can be made by providing focused training for individuals, giving them the skills needed to successfully complete high payoff activities.

Nurturing the talent within

Not only will personal development enhance workplace productivity, but it will also reduce the need for businesses to recruit talent from elsewhere, saving significant time and money. 

While some organisations attempt to solve the productivity puzzle by bringing in experienced leaders to oversee daily operations, others recognise the potential in their existing workforce.

For many years, there has been a false perception that productivity can be improved by simply working longer hours. However some of the most productive nations in the world have a shorter average working week than the UK. 

Instead, it is important to discover the strengths of your existing team, using your workforce effectively to accomplish tasks. 

Inspiring new leaders

For those organisations looking to boost their workplace productivity, there are programmes designed to teach people how to use their time and talent effectively. 

Refined and improved over time, these courses help individuals understand the true power of goal setting, teaching important communication, time management and delegation skills, all of which are vital to operating within a highly productive team. 

Other programmes focus on the strategic side of personal development, recognising the need for clear-thinking leaders, who can create effective business strategies.

Helping workers become strategic leaders is crucial to long-term business growth, as they begin to optimise internal structures and enhance productivity using newly-learnt skills.

Proactivity is key

While training your team and inspiring a new wave of leaders is a major part of the journey, businesses must recognise the importance of being proactive, looking for new ways to improve standards over time.   

In recent years, psychometric assessments have become increasingly popular, allowing organisations to uncover the personalities and motivations of new and existing workers. 

Typically used during the recruitment process, these assessments allow businesses to clearly judge potential candidates, gaining a better understanding of whether an individual will fit the culture of the organisation.

Psychometric assessments can also be used within existing teams to identify strengths and weaknesses, showing businesses how to enhance productivity by utilising the talent at their disposal. 

Embracing a culture of development

The UK’s productivity puzzle has left manufacturing organisations scratching their heads, as they continue to search for ways to improve the situation. 

While expanding the existing workforce or investing in the latest technology may help soften the blow, these solutions tend to cost a significant amount of money and are not sustainable long-term.

For those businesses looking to capitalise on their existing workforce, consult an experienced team of coaches and research the development opportunities available. 

Nick Howes is the managing director at Leadership Management International UK, a global organisation, committed to delivering bespoke personal development programmes to businesses of all sizes.