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GDP in America may have fallen in the first quarter of 2014 but according to both the BCC and the CBI the picture is considerably rosier in the UK. The CBI’s growth indicator for May 2014 registered at +35%, the highest level seen since the indicator began in 2003 whilst the BCC have upgraded their growth forecast for 2014 from 2.8% to 3.1%.
Whilst both bodies take pains to point out that the forecast growth is coming from a low base, the news will certainly gladden the hearts of Britain’s bosses and workers as they look forward to a brighter future. Commenting on the upgraded forecast the Director General of the BCC, John Longworth, said “businesses up and down the country should be congratulated for their hard work and determination in the face of many challenges over recent years.”
Amid a wide ranging economic forecast which encompassed variables such as consumer spending, business investment and interest rates, the BCC also looked at expected changes in productivity. Over the next three years the BCC forecasts that productivity, both in terms of output per person and output per hour will rise by 2.4%. Despite this rise the projected level of productivity in Q1 2017 will still be below the level seen in Q1 2008.
This stark fact about productivity levels should be a wakeup call for employers. Whilst low productivity levels can result from a number of factors, prime amongst these is the level of employee engagement. Put simply companies do not work effectively when business strategy and employees are not aligned. And this lack of alignment is not only going to result in low productivity, it can also lead to the loss of key employees as they move to pastures new.
Businesses which want to make the most of the resurgence in growth don’t have a choice. Either they take steps now to re-engage their employees in the aims and values of the organisation or they will lose out in the race to profitability. Employees may have been reluctant to leave a culturally mis-matched organisation in the recession, but times have changed and the May 2014 Kelly Global Workforce Index revealed that 67% of employees are looking to move jobs in the year ahead.
More worryingly still, the same survey revealed that just 24% of UK employees are committed to their jobs. That’s a lot of disengaged people and it is therefore not surprising that productivity levels are so low. Why worry about disengaged employees? Well, with disengaged employees comes:
All in all, disengaged employees cost the business 46% of their salary in lost production. So what is the answer? Quite simply, a complete overhaul of the organisational culture with a focus on re-invigorating the beliefs and behaviours which drive engagement. And it’s not enough to simply sit around a board room table and come up with some new key words and phrases. The drive has to come from the top and the change has to be cascaded throughout the organisation with vigour and with sensitivity. Disengaged employees are naturally resistant to change so the task is fourfold.
Yes the cultural re-setting will take hard work, yes the process may throw up some uncomfortable truths but unless it is done, the business is going to continue to bump along the slow recovery trail, haemorrhaging good employees and with ever failing productivity.