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It’s time for fresh dialogue and that means really putting people at the heart of our industrial strategy.
On first viewing the Government’s Industrial Strategy seems to have covered many of the bases. Ideas/innovation is there as is infrastructure, environment and places. People too come in for a mention as one of the five foundation areas which are aimed at boosting productivity and earning power across the country.
And that’s as it should be. Whatever type of organisation, whether you’re a micro business or a country your strategy is only as good as your people. So whether you’re building a culture of innovation, looking to deliver improved productivity, or focusing on great customer experiences; unless you not only give your people the tools which they need in order to deliver the strategy but also engage them in the identified strategy, vision and values, quite simply you haven’t got a hope of success.
With that in mind, what is the government’s approach to setting people at the heart of the industrial strategy? Well, to borrow from the political sphere, it comes down to education, education, education. And there’s nothing wrong with that, provided that furthering the education of STEM and computing subjects is seen as just one facet of an overall programme which also looks to help people to build soft skills such as communication and empathy and which helps organisations to build people engagement and a strong culture. Unfortunately, none of those other building blocks of corporate success feature within the industrial strategy White Paper. There is a nod towards flexible working and the importance of diversity, but they are almost seen in isolation rather than as part of an overall strategy.
Should we excuse the omission of employee engagement allied to strong organisational culture as being outside the main thrust of the White Paper which after all looks to develop our industrial strategy? Maybe in the past when people were merely seen as cogs in the industrial machine that approach could be justified. But the world has moved on, we have moved into the fourth Industrial Revolution and as a consequence people have moved away from being mere adjuncts to the machinery and have firmly taken their place in business as drivers of success.
It’s no coincidence that comparatively low levels of productivity which have been an open concern to the government and others runs alongside a period of low employee engagement. People have moved on, they are looking for something more than mere pay checks, and it is up to the government and industry to look to meet the new imperative. Successful engagement, empowering people to work within a more open and innovative culture can turn the strategy on its head, with employees actively seeking to boost the skills which they need to deliver success. It’s time for fresh dialogue and that means really putting people at the heart of our industrial strategy.