The UK has been particularly slow in recovering its productivity levels after the recession of 10 years ago. But why?
The UK has a reputation for being innovative, I have the fortune of working in a location where much of the early pioneering research into enzymes and their effect on the human body was carried out, and I walk past the plaque which commemorates the fact every day. So why would it be that our productivity is still below 2007 levels? Moreover, why are we in fact the worst performer in terms of productivity of all the G7 countries since the last recession!
The Work Foundation is a think tank that works in conjunction with the University of Lancaster to influence public policy making and organisational practices in the UK through research and intellectual thinking. In 2017, the Work Foundation was commissioned by Cisco to conduct a study aiming to get to the bottom of why the UK has performed so poorly post-2007, and we here at TourTraxUK found the results so fascinating that we have chosen to produce a synopsis of their findings here on our blog. Interspersed with some of own thoughts of course!
The study was based on interviews conducted with 1,500 employee’s at large companies across the UK, plus business leaders, academics and public-sector executives. Some of the results are very surprising (and frankly quite worrying), and many do not shed the UK’s working practices in the greatest of light. Here are some of the most concerning findings…
The report cites that technology, when implemented properly, results in greater workplace productivity. I agree, although you may be concerned by my own bias here, in that we are a technology driven business and we sell technology-based solutions!
But surely, whatever anybody may think about tomorrow’s technology (I refer here to things like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and genetic modification which still do require a huge amount of debate), the benefits of cloud technologies and remote working are proven and without doubt?
Only yesterday I was discussing our next creative campaign via a crystal-clear IP-based voice connection with an important stake-holder in Canada. We shared our screens to review the campaign. A campaign that is being produced by somebody in Puerto Rico, with copy and creative input from us here in the UK. The collaborative tools that we use enable us all to make comments, to be alerted if required to make input, and if necessary, we could all be in a virtual “room” to brainstorm ideas even though we are all sitting in different corners of the globe. Just as an addendum to that, I have logged in this morning to be greeted with the latest swathe of updates based on all of our input yesterday that were made last night whilst I was either spending time with my young family, or asleep.
So why oh why oh why would anybody feel the need to RESTRICT flexible working in ANY job role?
This is an extremely important point in my opinion and I have a couple of theories on this (based on talking to mates down the pub of course!) which relate to the way that I think technology is currently perceived by the general population in the UK...
These are both arguments that I have heard and understand, but surely technology is being blamed when really it is the human beings who have used it for their own inappropriate, even dangerous, personal gain who should take responsibility? It is also an issue for law-makers who must address security and how to protect vulnerable people in a social context. It is not an issue for businesses, as businesses go to extraordinary lengths and expense to protect their corporate assets, networks and ultimately their staff.
Although the report does not stray into such subjective opinion, what it does do is list reasons as to why some technology projects fail and what we need to do to avoid them failing in the future. They talk about poor business planning, lack of innovation, out-dated infrastructure, and our low uptake of flexible working practices. The first point is obvious (fail to plan, plan to fail) and the subject of infrastructure is no surprise and indeed of constant annoyance to us all in the UK, especially when we hear that South Koreans have been watching streaming video on underground trains for about 15 years. The policy of austerity might be partly responsible, but that’s for another day!
What I want to know is WHY we have failed to innovate, and WHY our uptake of flexible working practices is so low. What I suspect, as I have already suggested, is that many decision makers are now sceptical of, and therefore not “buying into” technology, even in the workplace. If I am right, the UK really needs to get over it, and quickly. If we don’t, China, Russia and India will continue to blaze a trail ahead of us.
If this is what is holding us back, then again, I refer to the report. It talks of “intrapreneurship”, meaning that young innovators must be allowed to take ownership of implementing technology so that the productivity benefits can be reaped for all. They must be allowed to make mistakes. Because they will probably be younger and less “experienced” than the rest, but they will also be better and more at home with technology and gadgets because they grew up with them.
And we should probably ALL bear in mind the following recommendations that were also made in the report...
The report “Productivity, Technology and Working Anywhere” was compiled by Lesley Giles, Helen Sheldon, David Shoesmith and Ciceley Dudley of The Work Foundation. It highlights (in their words) the often “complex and strained relationship” between productivity, technology and work and it can be downloaded by visiting their website at http://www.theworkfoundation.com/ or by clicking the link below.