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Why is the UK so behind on productivity?

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By David Walker, Chief Commercial Officer at Personal Group

The facts speak for themselves, the UK is less productive than most of the western world. In fact, ONS figures for 2015 suggested that the UK is 27, 30 and 35 percentage points lower than France, the USA and Germany*.

Many people may be surprised at these figures but this isn’t old news, it’s been happening for a long time. So what is causing this? A number of reasons are often debated and discussed, but we cannot forget that there is a strong correlation between our workforce and output – we need to think about how we are getting the most from our people. I feel that employee engagement is a key aspect of our approach to bridge this gap. If employees are not engaged they are likely to be less productive.

Employee engagement is notoriously difficult to define, and to gain a meaning that both resonates with a workforce, and that is understood by all. What is consistent is that when you close your eyes and imagine what an engaged workforce looks like, one word that is universally used to describe them is happy.

Happier employees are likely to be more engaged at work – fact. The 2014 University of Warwick’s study proves that (in the words of the Researchers) “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity”**. So, the happier employees are, the more productive they will be, which for an organisation will be a very satisfactory definition of employee engagement. That translates into better businesses no matter what they do. for example, service industries that rely on call centre staff can process more calls and generate more work. More ideas are generated as people think differently. Improvements are made across internal divisions as people feel less comfortable walking past metaphorical broken windows.

This is a huge opportunity that organisations need to recognise and find ways to align with their people and engagement strategies. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach to engagement and companies should spend time understanding what employee engagement means for them.

So one critical aspect in bridging the productivity gap is to make sure your employees are happier – so how do you do that?

One way is to start to think about your employees as consumers, and how they live their lives outside of work. In delivering a compelling, valued and understood employee benefits program, think about how this can be created and delivered. One key insight is to think about is how we currently access those things that make us happy today – shopping, communicating, gaming, listening to music – we do all of these things through our smartphones. Studies have shown that people are spending up to five hours a day on their smartphones, while a third of us keep our phones by our bedside so that we can check emails during the night***.

For an employer that is a massive insight – that one of the best ways of capturing the imagination of your employees is through their mobile phones. Another key insight is that out of those five hours of smartphone activity, 90% is focused on going through apps**** . That’s very different to sitting at a desktop PC, browsing, surfing, and cruising the web. On your smartphone you tap an icon because you know what you want.

Organisations can apply this behaviour to their employee engagement strategy, by creating a whole suite of employee services, including engagement, benefits and communication programs, and create a compelling reason for people to access those services through a simple, easy to use, engaging app on their mobile phone. Employees suddenly start to see all the great things their employer is giving them, and employers start to see the scale of the opportunity this presents to build closer, stronger, more frequent connections with employees.

If you have an app with everything your employees need in one place, then you have an opportunity to communicate effectively and drive take-up of your benefits. And if those benefits include saving people money, booking holidays, rewarding and recognising peers and sending them instant messages, then what better way doing this than through a simple, easy to use app.

Creating an infrastructure for communicating and talking to all your employees is neither difficult nor expensive – the chances are almost all of your employees already carry a smartphone. And they should have no problem with having your app on their smartphone, if it’s going to make their life easier and them happier.

By working with an engagement provider who is already offering a number of employee services, you don’t even need a separate app. We are working with a number of clients in creating and developing customised, bespoke apps for them and their workforce, plus a core suite of services, offered through our Hapi platform.

Companies looking for ways to increase productivity and keep their staff happy and motivated, should be thinking about making mobile the key part of their engagement strategy.

*UK productivity back at pre-crash level, but lagging behind G7, October 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/06/uk-productivity-back-at-pre-financial-crisis-level-office-for-national-statistics, 2016

** New study shows we work harder when we are happy, March 2014, http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/, 2016

*** People check their smartphones 85 times a day (and they don’t even know they’re doing it, November 2015, http://www4.ntu.ac.uk/apps/news/180892-15/People_check_their_smartphones_85_times_a_day_(and_they_dont_even_know_the.aspx, 2016

****10 Interesting mobile app usage stats, June 2016, https://blogs.adobe.com/digitaleurope/mobile-marketing/10-interesting-mobile-app-usage-stats/, 2016

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John Ormond House
899 Silbury Boulevard
Central Milton Keynes
Buckinghamshire
MK9 3XL

Click here for a map.

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10 key insights on employee happiness

We’ll be in touch from time to time, with more insights to help you on the road to hapi-ness. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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