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Sir Brendan Barber: Productivity: a human solution to an economic problem

Wednesday 24 June 2015

For those of you familiar with the ongoing debate around the UK 'productivity puzzle', you may be a little bemused by all the statistics.

 

Sir Brendan Barber

Sir Brendan Barber is Acas' Chair, joining in January 2014. Previously Sir Brendan was the TUC General Secretary (2003 to 2012) and sat on the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service Council (1995 to 2004). Sir Brendan was knighted in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to employment relations.

Acas Chair Brendan Barber blog

Statistics play a vital role in helping us to understand a problem, but they can only get us so far in terms of finding solutions. Some things only experience can teach you. This is where Acas comes in. We have a unique contribution to make to the productivity debate - both in clarifying the challenges and offering practical suggestions for change.

The human angle

We believe that what happens between managers and staff, the way they communicate and the way they organise their work, matters to UK productivity. There is much to be gained from exploring this 'human solution' as part of the resolution of the bigger 'economic problem'.

What happens inside the workplace counts. Managers and employees need to be open to opportunities for improving and innovating in areas of people management and work organisation. And in addition, what happens inside the workplace is vital in ensuring that macro solutions - such as capital and financial investment - provide reliable and sustainable returns.

Today we are launching a report 'pdf icon Building Productivity in the UK [644kb]' to set out our thinking and offer seven levers to help increase workplace productivity. An ambitious title, you might say, but the reason we know it can start to make a difference is because our evidence is drawn from multiple sources. It:

  • taps into the operational experience and knowledge of Acas' advisers, experience drawn from the tens of thousands of interactions the organisation has with employers and employees - over nine million contacts take place each year through face to face, telephone and on-line services.
  • reflects a growing consensus amongst a wide number of organisations that Acas works with, about the part the workplace can play in boosting productivity. The book contains contributions from many of these organisations, including the TUC, CBI, CIPD, UKCES and FSB
  • is based upon latest research and thinking amongst analysts and researchers.

The seven levers of productivity

The 'seven levers of productivity' are a tool to help organisations unlock their workplace potential - they provide a route map for improving business outcomes based on managing people well and finding smarter ways of doing things.

Using the 'seven levers' has the potential to lead to better jobs and better workplaces. The seven levers are:

  • Well designed work: jobs and work organised in a way that increases efficiency and makes the most of people's skills.
  • Skilled line managers: managers with the confidence and training to manage and lead effectively.

  • Managing conflict effectively: systems in place to reduce the likelihood of problems arising and to deal with problems at every stage.
  • Clarity about rights and responsibilities: a working environment where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.
  • Fairness: employees who feel valued and treated fairly.
  • Strong employee voice: informed employees who can contribute and are listened to.
  • High trust: relationships based on trust, with employers sharing information at the earliest opportunity.

The levers have been designed to help deliver mutual gains for both employers and employees.

  • For employers: a sustainable productivity model that benefits the bottom line, improves customer service, and facilitates innovation
  • For employees: workplaces that value employee inputs, offer  more fulfilling work and secure employee engagement

The search for solutions to the UK productivity problem is long running. We believe that the workplace provides a significant opportunity to start generating solutions.

Read other blogs in our productivity series

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