UK Productivity lags behind Europe

UK Productivity

BBC Radio 5 Live discussion on UK Productivity with Adrian Chiles

Currently, UK Productivity lags behind many of our European counterparts such as France, Germany and the US.

In the UK productivity is growing but we’re still way behind other comparable countries and growth remains weak. Linked to – a lack of education and training, low numeracy and literacy skills.

How is productivity measure and what can we do to improve it?

  • Productivity is measured as the amount of output/turnover – minus the cost of intermediate input / divided by the number of workers or the hours worked.
  • Productivity is easier to measure in product, manufacturing industries. Measure the number of units produced compared with the cost to produce those units.
  • Harder to measure in service industries such as the business and financial sectors.

We need to work smarter, NOT harder by improving skills, training, better equipment and technology, organisational management and leadership skills.

Productivity is low in retail, accommodation, food and administration sectors. More training and better skills is needed.

Unproductive firms in the UK tend to underinvest, not only in IT and digital technologies but in management practices. There’s a greater variance in performance and management practices compared with other countries.

At Cumbria Crystal they improved productivity by looking at opportunities and identifying weaknesses within the company.

  • Make small incremental gains.
  • Avoid unnecessary rework, repairs – do things right first time.
  • Tap into available advice and financial support.
  • Incentivise staff to achieve targets.

Productivity improvements enabled them to increase turnover by 90%, tripled GVA (gross value added) margins.

What do we need to know about time management? Learned habits, lack of skill. People don’t use their time effectively.

Does increasing pay, increase productivity?

Cumbria Crystal introduced a bonus scheme to hit certain targets. Now working collaboratively and three times as effectively.

Happy employees work more productively. If they’re already overworked and working long hours, employees won’t necessarily work more productively just because you pay them more.

  • Work smarter
  • Do less but do it better
  • Focus on the right things

Productivity is down around 60% with 1-2 hours being wasted each day as a result of:

  • meetings
  • emails
  • distractions and interruptions
  • poor systems – technology, processes.

Improve productivity and reduce wasted time by:

  • More effective meetings
  • Reduce emails – manage communication
  • Manage distractions – better boundaries, limit interruptions

Get in touch if you need to work smarter and improve your own productivity, reduce the time you waste or you just want to work fewer hours.


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BBC Radio 5 Live discussion with:

Anna Valero – Centre of Economic Performance, LSE

Chris Blade – Managing Director of Cumbria Crystal

Clare Evans – Time Management & Productivity Coach


Listen online:

BBC Radio 5 Live Daily – UK Productivity discussion (while available)

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