How Does HR Solve The UK's Productivity Gap?

The UK’s current productivity gap is the biggest since records began suggesting a demotivated, disengaged workforce. This is at stark odds with low unemployment levels and pay rises which are reportedly rising at their quickest rate in six years. 

As employers examine ways to resolve a skills shortage, their staff, it seems, are heading for the exit. According to the London School of Business and Finance nearly half of employees want to change jobs, with many staying at their current organisation for the sake security alone.

Beneath the positive headlines lie stories of disengaged, stressed, burnt out employees.

What is HR’s role in this crisis? Only 3% of people say that HR is the biggest positive impact on their engagement levels in the workplace, the most positive coming from colleagues, line managers and senior managers, with HR in fourth place. The report concludes that HR must ‘own’ engagement strategies but how?

Here we consider some of the key steps to improving employee engagement and solving the UK’s productivity gap:-

Improve workforce skills : According to a report released today by the CIPD, Investing In Productivity : unlocking ambition, 21% of businesses are in ‘survival mode’, held back by an 'ambition ceiling'. Investment must continue in people and technology to boost productivity. While many businesses focus on skilling younger people, training must be made available to all of the workforce to improve staff retention and engagement levels.

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Don’t marginalise under 25s : Growing numbers of employers have declared their commitment to the National Living Wage prior to it coming into force in April 2016 but the law doesn't extend to under 25s. Starbucks has now announced that it will pay all of its workers the National Living Wage including under 25s and apprentices. The brand goes a step further offering interest free loans to staff for tenancy deposits. This is in contrast to other companies such as John Lewis and Costa Coffee who have expressed concern over implementing the National Living Wage.

Offer workplace journaling : Writing in HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby promotes the idea of workplace journaling as a way of helping employees to achieve their goals. Opportunities for journaling include with task forces, during performance reviews and as a channel for employees to process their career goals. It may prove to be the initiative HR needs to show it means business when it comes to supporting the career aspirations of its employees.

Monitor wellbeing : Over 3 million Britons are now working ‘excessive hours’, yet 90% of UK employees are going into work when they are genuinely ill, fearing that time off sick will jeopardise their job security and financial status. The figures suggest a workforce which is not confident enough in the value they offer to their employer. To prevent a talent exodus, HR must incorporate an effective well-being strategy in order to engage and motivate employees.

Avoid ‘mushroom management’ : The lack of transparency from employers causes a quarter of all employees to quit, according to new research, which accuses UK employers of a ‘mushroom management’ approach. Authentic communication must be adopted by HR. Implement a strategy that will motivate employees to perform rather than leave them feeling excluded and superfluous to requirements. Communicate the truth, however hard it might be.

Don’t treat engagement as a fad : Employee engagement consultant David Zinger urges businesses not to treat engagement as a fad or bandwagon but part of the fabric of an organisation. He recommends companies involve employees in engagement initiatives that are strategic and purposeful to make work ‘an energy gain, not an energy drain’. Employees who understand the journey an organisation is on, how goals will be achieved and their role in achieving the company vision are more likely to stay with a brand.

Invest in HR technology : While UK companies are aware of the benefits of HR technology, many still express a reluctance to make the transition from paper based systems to cloud based software yet businesses that do enjoy improved hiring success and increased employee retention levels. If HR is to focus on improved productivity and ‘own’ its engagement strategies, investing in technology is the vital first step.

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