Connecting people and devices – the key to unlocking UK productivity

After years of stagnating wage growth, The Bank of England has hinted that the UK economy could pick up faster than expected and this could have a positive impact on workers’ pay packets.

With unemployment levels also at their lowest for years, you could be forgiven that thinking that things are looking positively rosy at the moment. But it’s not as positive as it might seem on the surface.

A surge in growth is expected to result in price hikes and an increase in interest rates in a bid to keep a lid on inflation.

The principal cause is the fact that the UK continues to be strangled by a productivity crisis, and remains languishing behind most other key economies, and only just above Italy and Greece who have had their own much publicised problems. To put this into perspective, workers in France produce more in four days than a British worker does in five.

Since the 2008 financial crash, UK productivity – the amount of output each worker produces for every hour they work – has more or less totally stalled. Up until 2008, UK productivity was growing at 2% a year on average. Fast forward ten years to today, however, and the reality is that we are no more better off than we were back then, and 20% worse off than we should be if growth had been sustained at 2%.

So what’s to blame for the UK’s productivity problem?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that it is not so much that the UK doesn’t have productive industries; it is just that more people are now working in less productive industries, with sectors like health and hospitality proving more popular than manufacturing and aviation, which have traditionally been at the heart of UK productivity.

Other research appears to point to the fact that UK workers are only spending a minimal amount of time on their primary jobs. In other words, spending a lot of our time doing things they’re not paid to do, such as endless admin, instead of value-added tasks.

Whatever’s to blame, the productivity conundrum isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

If the UK is to achieve the giant strides it needs to close the productivity gap, boosting the economy and living standards in the process, organisations must take steps to stimulate productivity.

Productivity-enhancing technology

In a digital era, when technology consumes much of our everyday lives, it’s perhaps not surprising that technology offers real cause for optimism in addressing the UK’s productivity crisis.

Yet despite this, technology in the workplace is failing to evolve at the same pace, with many UK organisations continuing to rely on outdated processes supported by legacy systems.

Why is this? Cost inevitably remains the prohibitive barrier to technology adoption in the workplace. For most organisations, implementing a new software solution is perceived expensive and out of reach of most businesses, especially SMEs and startups that have to weigh up the reward against the risk to their bottom line.

Even for larger organisations, the mere thought of investing thousands of pounds on a solution that may or may not deliver on its promise is too big a risk to take, while the time taken to undertake a complex installation project then training staff to use it correctly can be hard to justify.

The challenge facing organisations is to find and invest in technology that not only fuels tangible productivity gains but delivers an immediate return on investment.

While advances in mobile and cloud technology have provided a unique opportunity to rethink how work is done and where, so too are they transforming the way we can manage staff, connecting people and devices in real-time and enabling powerful solutions to be implemented at a fraction of the cost too.

Today’s attendance management systems maximise the opportunity afforded by the latest cutting edge wireless technology to empower organisations to capture real-time attendance and presence data and automatic timesheets from anyone, anywhere using any device.

This provides managers with the convenience to gain on-demand visibility of their workforce, so they can account for their movements at all times and safeguard their wellbeing.

With accurate attendance data to hand managers can better align working patterns to business demand, eliminate inefficiencies and wasteful costs caused by absences, overtime or unproductive time and engage with their staff like never before.

JVM Castings

One company that has seen an upturn in productivity since investing in an attendance management system is recruitment agency Workforce Staffing, who have adopted cloud-based presence and location portal EveryOneCloud to deliver total transparency of its supplied temporary workforce to the Worcester site of metal cast manufacturer JVM Castings.

Transparency of their supplied workers has enabled Workforce to assume full responsibility for the attendance of its supplied staff and proactively cover absences to maximise machine use in order to reduce costly downtime, while streamlining its payroll process.

Oliver Page Account Manager at Workforce says: “Implementing EveryOneCloud at JVM Castings has enabled us to consistently adapt to their fluctuating staffing needs to meet production demands while modernising our invoice and payroll functions by removing disruptive manual processes and freeing up valuable staff time.

“In the past, JVM could lose up to three hours in production time by the time each absence was covered. Now we can login to EveryOneCloud at the start of each shift to identify any no-shows instantly before the client does, chase up the individual to see why they haven’t arrived, and have a replacement worker on site within thirty minutes.”

Staying connected

During his Autumn Budget in 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s productivity plan focused on improving the national infrastructure and plugging the skills gap, but overlooked general people management.

With productivity so intrinsically linked to the performance of people, it beggars belief why so many organisations fail to adopt modern attendance systems.

At a time when technology is revolutionising work and life, there has never been a better time to stay connected with your workforce and integrate technology within your processes to create a culture centred on efficiency, productivity and engagement.

The UK urgently needs to up its game. Organisations can no longer perceive their workforce as simply a cost of doing business but a key driver of performance and profitability.

The UK’s productivity problem is a huge puzzle that needs solving. Of course there are many pieces, but gaining transparency of your most expensive asset, your people, should be the first.