Could British firms adopt overseas cultural and behavioural working practices to boost declining productivity levels?
Productivity is essentially described as the efficiency of company production or the output per unit of input. Researchers use GDP divided by hours worked as the best measure of productivity. In the UK, hours per employee is higher than many European countries – therefore with a significantly high level of human input, why does productivity decline, particularly in light of the highest numbers of working personnel in the UK? The suggestion that culture plays a part in the declining productivity levels is one that allows for a study into the societal engagement between work and the human factor – simply stated, how the nature of one’s job affects the attitude to which an individual worker performs a task. Poor performance levels may be due to:
It is therefore relevant to understand that there may be different levels of pressure, job timescales (the extent to which they are realistic and hence induce pressure), the number of roles per person (e.g. staff performing more than one job since the financial crisis and how they overcome this) and targets (the extent to which they are realistic and hence induce pressure) vis-a-vis other countries which may be crucial in understanding the poor productivity levels.
Roles can be performed by many individuals with transferable skills. Therefore, it may be that an individual required to perform a task may not necessarily need to have performed that exact task the preceding week prior to his/her commencing a new job as is usually the case. A role may be performed by an individual who may indeed ‘want’ that role. Many workers may not wish to continue performing the same tasks in their next job, but may wish to transfer their skills elsewhere. This gives rise to the ‘skills transfer process’ as opposed to the ‘hit the ground running’ due to the time taken to develop a worker with transferable skills but does not possess the required experience. The time issue gives rise to efficiency and may again ask the question: ‘To what extent are UK firms efficient?” Skills transfer processes may lead to:
A further insight may be the levels to which workers are ‘part of’ the organisation. The identification of a ‘partnership’ where certain tasks are more project-based, i.e. workers and add value to ensure that processes are made more efficient, effective rather than the new incumbent of a role follows the processes of the previous incumbent. Small partnerships may be able to create:
The Germany company Claas has introduced a employee ownership through share ownership, giving the employee a feeling of being valued, with the resultant factor being higher levels of motivation which leads to innovation, productivity and profits. They also recognise job quality rather than job quantity. Similar practices have been welcomes in many Scandinavian companies leading to successful enterprises.
In the UK, poor productivity translates into figures where approximately 30 percent of the UK working personnel are actively seeking alternative employment at any one time, 40 percent are passively seeking with the remainder being content. The decline in UK productivity is an important issue which is becoming more prominent in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) – the driving forces behind economic growth in every country. It may be time to look towards some of our European trading partner firms and apply some of their positive working practices.
Dr. Victor Chukwuemeka
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