Employers not giving staff a chance to lift productivity

Manchester office

Bosses need to engage and train their staff better to help to solve the nation’s chronic productivity problems and prepare their companies for the future, research has suggested.

Half of employees claim that their organisations are failing to create the right work environment, only a fifth believe that they are keeping pace with technological change and two thirds say that they are given no incentive to learn new skills, according to a survey by Deloitte.

The accounting group’s findings support fears that British companies are falling behind. More needs to be done to improve employees’ experience, sharpen up leadership and increase on-the-job training, its report said.

“Human capital is a business’s biggest asset,” Will Gosling, a partner at Deloitte UK, said. “Employers are already facing huge disruption challenges, from technology advances to demographic changes, and an unproductive and unengaged workforce simply should not be one of them.”

Britain’s productivity has stagnated since the financial crisis and is so far below that of other advanced G7 nations that it takes a British worker five days to produce what a German or French one can deliver in four.

The productivity problems have been blamed on shortcomings such as a lack of investment and cheap labour, but studies also have linked it with bad management. The UK has a very long tail of companies with weak productivity where bosses are failing to follow best practice and adopt new technologies.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, which compiled responses from 10,000 people including human resource professionals and business leaders in 119 countries, appeared to confirm those concerns. It said that only 22 per cent of British employees were satisfied with their company’s use of technology, compared with 51 per cent in Germany, and only 18 per cent believed that their leadership programmes “are effective at developing leaders to meet evolving business and economic challenges”.

A big majority of employees, 84 per cent, believed that there was a link between staff engagement and productivity, but 68 per cent of companies did not measure the correlation. This “suggests UK business leaders need to think differently to prevent productivity slumps”, Deloitte said.

Staff training is also considered vital to prepare people for the future world of work, where machine learning and automation will replace large parts of the labour market. Last week, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that 11.7 per cent of UK jobs were threatened by automation and 26 per cent faced significant change in the next 15 to 20 years.

Yet Deloitte’s study found that in Britain 69 per cent of the workforce were given “no incentive to learn new skills”. Only 50 per cent of employees said that their companies were effective at creating a positive work environment and only 36 per cent believed that employers successfully engaged staff in career advancement opportunities.

“The workplace is seeing a huge transition, as traditional organisational structures and hierarchies are being broken down into team structures. Adopting team structures will improve productivity and in turn performance, so businesses that have not yet made this transition are at risk of falling further behind,” Mr Gosling said.