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Time to get real to solve productivity puzzle

To improve the UK's productivity, organisations need to rely less on economics textbooks and think more about real life.

The recent Acas Employment Relations Comment paper pdf icon Rediscovering human potential – a response to Keith Sisson’s paper on the ‘UK productivity problem’ [127kb] by Professor Ewart Keep argues that successive governments have treated the workplace 'as a sealed environment that was best left alone'.

It said that injecting public policy measures (such as education and training) into this sealed environment has not had their intended consequences.

Without attention to work organisation and job design, employees will be unable 'to deploy the full range of their skills to productive effect or to engage in many forms of workplace innovation'.

Skills and training alone not enough

It pointed out that the UK already has 'the second highest level of over-qualification in its workforce', so skills training alone may not be the answer.

An integrated approach which upgrades skills 'in combination with a focus on work organisation and job design' will be ensure 'good utilisation' of these skills.

This is evident in how young people make the transition from learning to earning, it argued, drawing on research that found the relationship with managers to be critical in creating a successful move into full-time work.

The role of employment relations

The paper forms a response to the Acas Policy Discussion paper pdf icon The UK Productivity Puzzle - is employment relations the missing piece? [255kb] which urged policy makers to consider the role of employment relations in productivity.

It also recommended employers to have 'clear and easily understood workplace policies in key areas of employment relations such as discipline, grievance, equality and absence', backed up with 'better communications that put people at their heart'.

Professor Keep suggested more research needs to be done about exactly how innovations in job design and work organisation might 'put our skills to best use' and drive productivity.

Acas publications and services

Acas has detailed information advice about improving employment relations and workplace performance.

Acas experts can come to your organisation, look at your policies and procedures, and develop practical Workshops, projects and business solutions to a range of people management issues. Call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150 for more details.

Acas practical training is also available on key areas of employment relations, including People management, Discipline and grievance and Absence management.

Communication, employee voice and engagement can be improved through courses in Staff retention, Skills for supervisors and Performance management.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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