Productivity is a critical issue threatening the future competitiveness of the UK economy. In fact, recent government figures highlighted the biggest gap between the UK and other leading western economies since records began in the early 1990’s. Alarmingly, the UK lags far behind the US, Germany and France. This cavity has created leeway for other businesses and nations to exploit the UK’s inefficiencies, putting the UK economy at further risk of decline.
So how did productivity become Britain’s Achilles heel and what can be done to close the ever-widening gap?
One school of thought puts poor management at the heart of the issue. According to the Financial Times, “there is a strong correlation between highly-engaged and motivated employees and productivity” and “there is an urgent need to train middle management so that they can inspire and coach their teams. Too often they are dealing with pressure from above and below and are not well trained or equipped to cope”.
This view was plunged firmly into the foreground by Chancellor Philip Hammond during the revelations of his Autumn Budget. The Chancellor challenged British businesses to invest more money in training and development in response to a whopping £84bn loss in productivity, caused by poor performing Managers. His message was clear. Industry leaders need to address the performance issues within their organisations to increase productivity and to improve their competitiveness.
Is it too easy to cast blame on this portion of the workforce? In reality, these ‘underperforming’ Managers are operating in the most volatile and uncertain times ever experienced before. Change is fast and relentless and there are few precedents that can light the way through such high levels of complexity and ambiguity. Consequently, the once useful skills and know-how of many Managers suddenly become insufficient or irrelevant when faced with navigating new challenges in a VUCA environment. But, perhaps the Manager is just the fall guy. In fact, doesn’t slumping productivity and competitiveness strongly indicate that despite all the economic signs, organisations are yet to change the way their workforces are organised or managed.
So how can organisations better prepare for change, encourage higher levels of contribution, harness talent, and equip Managers with the skills and behaviours that they’ll need to outperform others?
The answer may be that organisations need to re-frame the practice of ‘management’ itself. As the Chancellor urged, organisations do need to invest more in training and development; however sadly, management and leadership development training often fails to address the underlying, day-to-day behaviour of Managers and Leaders. Put simply, traditional training and development doesn’t necessarily prepare Managers to keep up with the pace of change.
Unfortunately, in today’s organisations, Managers can no longer be expected to hold all the answers. This command and control model of leadership fails to unleash the creativity and resourcefulness of an entire workforce. To survive and prosper in the new world, a different way of interacting, communicating, co-creating and problem solving is needed. Managers need to build and flex new muscles that help them to continually question and re-assess. They need to become masters of reinvention to enable them to deal with the barrage of change that comes their way. But, they can’t do it on their own - they also need to enable these behaviours in others. And, this calls for a new approach to leadership and management development.
Notion’s Managing Director, Dominic Ashley-Timms believes that organisations can strengthen performance, engagement and productivity by proactively investing in changing organisational culture and management behaviours. He explains that by adopting an ‘Operational Coaching’ approach, Managers will be able to change momentum in their organisations. He asserts, “if we are to reverse the productivity decline and urgently address these critical matters, a new approach is needed - we have found that by reframing Manager’s away from some of the (often) negative connotations associated with having to ‘Manage’ others, we can begin to build an entirely new set of behaviours that help the Manager become an ‘Enabler’ of others.”
These more helpful and authentic behaviours, when ingrained in the culture of the organisation, have the potential to unleash the talents of everyone in the organisation. Indeed, rather than cementing over the cracks, organisations that address both the culture of the organisation and its associated management behaviours, massively increase the chance of creating the shift that is required to increase productivity and outperform in today’s challenging economy.
To find out more about how to create a sustainable coaching culture that helps Managers adopt an ‘Operational Coaching’ approach, in order to boost engagement and productivity, please click here or call us on +44 (0) 1926 889 885.