HR professionals have a part to play in solving the productivity puzzle

Written by
Steve Hill

08 Apr 2016

08 Apr 2016 • by Steve Hill

The UK’s prolonged productivity problem received more attention recently, when the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) made the decision to lower forecasts for UK workforce productivity on Budget Day. This downgrade follows on from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, released in February this year, showing that UK productivity is trailing the rest of the G7 nations, averaging at approximately 18 points behind.

Although there are many initiatives that the Government could undertake to address this problem on a macro level, it is also important for those working in HR to understand that upskilling, equipping and motivating employees are measures which are well within their capabilities.

Future-proof skills to keep productivity high

Every decision maker can understand the necessity of high productivity, and so should be equally aware of ways to boost it. The role of education must not be overlooked, as it becomes of fundamental importance to develop a more highly skilled workforce to help to raise productivity levels in the UK. More specifically, fostering a new openness towards lifelong learning will help to ensure that the current workforce have the capacity to learn new important skills, ‘future-proofing’ their skillset. HR professionals have a significant role to play in encouraging individuals of all ages and at all levels to take advantage of training opportunities that contribute to their personal development. 

Part-time learning allows for practical application

Not all educational options are equally well-suited to tackle the productivity problem, however, there is a real need for high-quality, practice-based solutions that deliver value to individuals and to businesses alike. Many business leaders are concerned, primarily with generating return on investment from training programmes. When sponsoring an employee to undertake a course, decision makers must recognise the potential benefits for the organisation as well as the individual. 

Flexible education fits with work requirements

Investing in part-time or modular educational solutions, and choosing courses that are designed to align academic theory with practical application, is a smart choice for any employer. Educational technology is transforming the educational landscape, making learning increasingly flexible. Some of the most effective training solutions are available through online courses, enabling learners to study high-quality material whilst still maintaining a full time job. In turn, this gives employees the opportunity to align the training they receive with their workplace activities. 

The ability to deliver training and development options to employees whilst they are still working increases the impact of education on productivity. When looking at options, HR professionals no longer have to choose between the short-term cost and long-term gain. Instead, the benefits of the educational content can be felt as soon as a few weeks into a course, when the first assignment prompts an employee to apply theory to a real-life work-based scenario. By enabling individuals to study alongside their employment, the option to undertake a flexibly-delivered course also mitigates the adverse impact on productivity that can stem from taking time out to study away from the workplace. 

Lifelong learning is something that HR departments have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to embrace, since the impact on productivity can be crucial not only for their organisation, but for the UK economy as a whole.