“It has been worse than we had expected and worse than we had expected for the last several years. We have been successively disappointed.” - Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England on UK productivity.
Closing the productivity gap is a huge challenge in the UK, and one that keeps economists and politicians awake at night.
Helping employees improve output will certainly require innovation in training, and elearning has a key role to play in boosting worker productivity.
The amount of output produced per hour worked. Definition of productivity:
What is it with the UK and productivity?
Despite economic growth, low unemployment and longer working hours compared with many other advanced economies, productivity remains below par. It’s a pretty big productivity gap, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney sees predicting productivity as one of his ‘most difficult judgments’ , while Chancellor, George Osbourne is focusing on a ‘productivity plan’ to kick-start output.
Recognising the problem and dealing with it are two different things, but there is common ground among experts as to some of reasons behind the productivity conundrum.
Broadly speaking, economists cite three main causes of low productivity in the UK:
- Poor training, skills and education
- Lack of investment in technology and research
- Poor management
It’s worth noting that the productivity gap varies between industries. Car manufacturers and the admin and support services sector appears to be faring better in terms of improving output compared to the financial services and pharmaceutical industries.
Closing the gap
There is no ‘silver bullet’ for ending the productivity crisis, and no single solution. Rather, it will take a concerted effort in a range of different areas, one of which is workplace training.
Elearning can play an important role in helping to boost the training offered by organisations looking to boost worker output. We’ve identified five areas where elearning can help businesses improve their productivity through training:
Productive businesses are innovative businesses; they use technology to improve and get ahead. Elearning offers organisations a way of bringing innovation into workplace training in terms of both technology and approach. Whether it’s a module that staff can do on their mobile phones, an interactive leader board showing team completions, or an interactive video game - elearning can help modernise workplace training and introduce innovations to help drive productivity.
There are lots of theories about the link between productivity and motivation in the workforce, but they boil down to a single sentiment – motivated workers tend to be more productive. Good elearning can aid employee motivation. It can help them learn skills and improve the way they feel about their job, keep them informed and engaged in the business, and allow them to understand the impact and relevance of their choices and behaviours. Techniques such as gamification tap into motivation through competition and rewards. Elearning is also flexible and cost-effective, allowing temporary staff to have the same access to training as permanent workers. Some analysts think this is a crucial dimension of workforce motivation in the UK, given the high proportion of temporary employees in some sectors.
Bad leaders are bad for productivity so boosting skills in this area should be a priority for any business seeking to improve worker output. Once upon a time, management training in most organisations involved some form of residential course, and the costs involved often meant it was ‘rationed’ or targeted at the highest pay grades only. Elearning is helping to revolutionise management training, allowing organisations to meet their training challenges in new ways. A good example is interactive video, which some businesses are using to help train leaders across the pay scale in how to deal with difficult conversations.
- Measuring impact
Data is driving improvement in all aspects of business, and training is no exception. Elearning hosted on a Learning Management System (LMS) offers advanced reporting and analysis capabilities, allowing organisations to gain a deep understanding of performance and learner preferences. Aligning training objectives closely to productivity objectives, and then measuring the impact, is a good way to drive change which makes a real difference to bottom line output.
Each business will have a specific productivity gap they need to bridge and it will be much harder to close this with a one-size-fits-all training approach. Elearning offers much greater scope for tailored solutions that meet individual challenges. Organisations will need to review where their ‘productivity pinch points’ existing, what needs to change to improve performance and the role training can play if they want a fully-customised solution.
The only way is up
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to the UK’s productivity gap with some economists predicting a turnaround in the near future.
One thing is clear - organisations will need to integrate their strategy on training with their overall business strategy, and invest in learning technology, if they want to meet their specific productivity gap sooner rather than later.