UK businesses could improve productivity by as much as 20% by focusing on technology, management practice and flexible working, according to a report, The Power of Productivity, produced for mobile operator Vodafone by the London School of Economics (LSE).
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Based on academic research and interviews with more than 20,000 businesses, the report explored the state of the UK’s productivity, which continues to underperform when compared to many other developed economies.
The three so-called levers identified by the report should all be relatively easy for enterprises and SMEs alike to implement, according to the report’s author, Alexander Grous, an associate and researcher at the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance.
“Some of the solutions to improving productivity are such low-hanging fruit that you trip over them,” said Grous.
“The best-performing companies show that by combining good management thinking, technology and flexible working practices, you can boost performance significantly.
“Taking this approach is also easier than many businesses think because the capabilities to move forward often already exist within the company.”
All three of the levers set out in the report are interrelated and align with each other, with adoption of management best practice acting as the lead to enable more flexible working and improvements to IT.
Significantly, the report noted, IT adopted intensively alongside best management practice could yield a 20% uplift in productivity, compared with just 2% if not.
Improved use of IT centres, first and foremost, on networking and communications technology, said Grous, because the first person many businesses turned to for technology assistance was generally the most visible supplier in their day-to-day work – their fixed and mobile operator.
The report said superfast broadband connectivity was an essential enabler of productivity improvements through enabling email, web access, purchasing, banking and business websites. Other improvements, such as voice over IP and video, were still untapped by most UK firms, it added.
The researchers said firms failed to adopt readily available and cost-effective IT measures because most were not aware of what was available, and among those that were aware of their options, most did not know where to turn.
Phil Mottram, Vodafone enterprise director, said the operator had already undertaken these steps through an internal initiative called Better Ways of Working, addressing such things as office design, working hours, and mobility and unified communications.
“We are also working closely with businesses and public services across the UK to support how they transform the way their people, processes and operations work through new thinking and productive technologies,” said Mottram.
“However, there is clearly more to be done to help more businesses understand the options available to them. The findings of the report highlight the need for greater collaboration and sharing of best practice across industry and the public sector. UK business will face opportunity and uncertainty over the coming years. It is important that improving productivity is top of the agenda.”