People are working more hours because they feel poorer, according to an article from the New Statesman.
The magazine argues that employment rates are currently high because more people feel they are not earning enough to financially sustain themselves and their families.
The reason for this is because wage growth has stagnated since the financial crisis of 2008. A typical earner is today earning a fifth less than they would before the crisis.
Although other causes will have had an effect, the UK’s poor level of productivity is cited as the main reason.
Employers are more likely to hold off on productivity-boosting investment due to rising costs and Brexit uncertainty.
However, doing so proves counterproductive. It leaves wages stagnant, meaning people are less likely to invest money back into the economy by buying on goods and services.
How can employers improve productivity?
Although these are problems that need to be solved on a national scale by the government, employers can act to make their own business more productive.
The main benefits of increased productivity are increased profitability, competitiveness, higher growth, and the ability to better meet customer demand.
To ensure this can happen, employers should look at how to improve the way their workplace is organised, review the role played by managers, and measure employee engagement levels.
Job design is the structure, content and configuration of a person’s work, tasks and roles. A key aspect of good job design is giving employees the opportunity to have some control over how they do their job.
This autonomy leads to greater employee engagement and commitment, encouraging better use of skills and knowledge and ultimately improving productivity. Continuous learning should be seen as an investment for the business and individuals alike.
Skilled line managers
Line managers play a large role in the design of jobs. They’ll also need strong people skills, as they provide the link between the organisation and employees. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), ineffective management is estimated to cost UK businesses more than £19 billion per year in lost working hours.
Managers should be trained in how to motivate, lead, and handle difficult conversations. This includes conducting performance reviews, and setting challenging (but realistic) targets.
Managing conflict effectively
Managers should be trained in how to handle grievances, investigations and disciplinary cases. Conflict is to be expected at times, and shouldn’t be ignored in order to try to portray the image of a ‘perfect’ workplace. Sometimes acknowledging it can be start of positive change.
Channels of communications can be improved to increase the flow of information between managers and staff. This will help reduce misunderstandings and prevent a ‘them and us’ culture taking hold.
Clarity on rights and responsibilities
Workplace policies outlined in an organisation’s staff handbook and employees’ contract of employment should provide the formal framework for a productive workplace. A lack of clarity leads to insecurity and a loss of motivation.
All employees should be valued and treated in an even-handed way. Certain aspects of fairness are the law and must be adhered to, such as the Equality Act 2010 regarding diversity, discrimination and prevention of harassment.
However, others depend on how the organisation deals with internal issues such as managing individuals, providing opportunities to progress within the company, and recognising the need for a work-life balance.
Giving employees a voice involves keeping them informed of developments within the organisation, letting them have their say and including them in the decision making process.
Employers benefit from this feedback, as employees have technical and tacit knowledge of the job that can help improve productivity and innovation.
Trust and employee engagement are linked. They create the right environment for productive relationships, leading to problem solving, operational efficiency, information sharing, and higher performance.
Not being open with employees leads to demotivating rumours being spread, which can often be worse than the truth. Managers should ask themselves a question before withholding information on a “need to know basis”; is it really confidential, or just hard to say?