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6th Sense

The Productivity Puzzle: let’s stop being busy!

July 2015 | Collaboration, Culture

Productivity in the UK seems to have stalled.  Our growth today is essentially down to more hours being worked.  However, that is unsustainable over the long term, and it also doesn’t help to grow the standard of living in the UK.

So how can we make our workplaces more productive?

Recently I went to a talk on the Productivity Puzzle hosted by IPA Involve.  As well as the Nita Clarke, there were speakers from the CBI, TUC and ACAS.  (Following recent discussion about the lack of women panelists, it was great to see that three out of the four were women.)

The CBI took the position of skills growth, job design and giving colleagues more of a voice.

The TUC predictably pointed to greater ‘collective voice’ as the answer.

ACAS, being ACAS, stepped in as the arbitrators and provided seven levers to success.

I couldn’t help but come away thinking that although there were important concepts here, is there a more deep-rooted issue?  All panelists agreed that employee voice was one of the most important drivers in spotting and implementing opportunities to improve productivity – and of course, the poor old ‘line managers’ were again said to be lacking the skills or support to seize the opportunity.

In Britain, we seem to have an aversion to the concept of productivity.  It’s Germanic.  It reduces our identity.  It makes us more machine than man.

Yet improving productivity is about more man than machine.  It’s an ability to question, to take responsibility, to not be afraid to do things differently, to take tough decisions, to know what’s important and what’s not.

There are many great articles about this subject, by people far more informed and far more intelligent.  But let’s consider this for a moment.  What if we could change mindsets about productivity?  See it not as a chance to get more out of less, but as a way of making the nation more skilled, more involved and more responsible?  Make it part of our culture.  Make us feel proud to be more productive…

We can start by never talking about how ‘busy’ we all are, but replace it with ‘how productive’ we’ve all trying to be.  If nothing else, that would help us all have more productive conversations!

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