It’s no secret that the UK has a problem with productivity. The statistics are stark:
A major survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics back in 2016 put the UK nearly at the bottom of the productivity chart for G7 nations. Amongst our nearest G7 neighbours, we trail Germany by 26.2% and France by 22.8%.
A time for change
The need to change this situation is more urgent than ever, as the UK faces stark economic reality in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. One recent report states that 6.5 million UK jobs could be lost as a result of the pandemic and that our economy could shrink by as much as a third.
But one thing that can help limit damage and encourage growth is increased productivity. A more productive workforce means less time-wasting, better communication, and higher employee satisfaction levels across an organisation – resulting in lower costs and higher profits.
However, to fix something, you first need to identify the root of the problem. What is causing us to lag so badly behind other developed nations in regard to productivity?
There are likely to be many factors. But one hypothesis is that a major part of the problem lies in the relative lack of quality management training in the UK workforce.
This may in part be due to a British willingness to promote workers to management positions on the basis of performing well in existing roles. As opposed to employing trained managers or sending management candidates through proper training before they start. This means there is a high degree of luck involved, as without proper training there is no guarantee that high performance on the ‘shop floor’ will be replicated higher up the chain of command.
Good training delivers good managers
The fact is that management is a discipline that requires skills and knowledge that can’t quickly or easily be learnt on the job. By not being equipped with these through management training, new managers often find themselves out of their depth – through no fault of their own.
This problem has been highlighted by the Chartered Management Institute, which has coined the term ‘accidental managers’ to describe this situation. The CMI’s view is that there is no leadership ‘gene’ that makes some people uniquely suited to a management role, but rather that good managers are developed through the correct training.
The CMI’s own research reveals that just one in five managers are rated highly by employees, but that 75% of people rate their own manager as being the chief influence on their career. This amply illustrates the scale of the problem - as poorly rated managers are leading disaffected workers, which is a recipe for poor productivity.
The problem may be exacerbated by the small size of so many UK firms - 99% have less than 50 employees – as these often have a more informal, less structured approach to career progression. Hard working staff tend to be promoted from within, but are not given the training they need to cope properly in a management role.
A solution to improve productivity
So, the solution to the productivity gap is there for everyone to see. Better management training will boost productivity across the UK workforce. The ONS identifies skills such as KPI setting, performance monitoring, and setting and measuring targets as being essential to greater productivity. These aren’t skills you magically acquire when you become a manager – you need to learn them. And the easiest and most effective way to do this is through management training.
And this is not just an opinion, it’s fact. ONS stats show that a 0.1% increase in management prowess equates to a 10% increase in productivity. This means that quality management training tracks a hell of a punch in terms of ROI.
Also, a study performed by a team from Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, McKinsey & Company, and Stanford found that American firms are on average the best managed in the world. And it is surely no coincidence that it is also the US that leads the G7 productivity table.
It’s evident that proper management training will go a long way to solving the UK’s productivity problem, by helping both managers and employees to work both smarter and better. And at a time when the country is facing its biggest economic challenge since the Second World War, this must be a problem that is addressed quickly – or we will all suffer because of it.