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Workplace Week convention unveils secret to improving UK productivity

16 November 2015

Advanced Workplace Associates’ renowned convention, a key part of Workplace Week, the annual celebration of workplace innovation in aid of BBC Children In Need, addressed an array of topical issues at KPMG’s Canary Wharf Auditorium this November

It genuinely broke new ground in helping British business and workplace leaders to understand the real story behind the UK’s productivity woes and the link to culture and the management of the workplace. Central to the programme of inspirational discussions was the overriding question: what can we do in the workplace to improve the productivity of people and organisations?

Before tackling the answers to this challenging question, CBI’s Ben Jones revealed depressing data and shocking statistics about the state of British productivity levels. Since the 2008 credit crunch, productivity hasspiralled downwards: the UK is 20 percentage points below G7 average, the widest gap since the series began in 1991.
Following Jones, workplace experts shared their observations about the changing nature of the modern workforce and workplace, and each speaker reiterated the importance of understanding the millennial’s attitude towards work and the corresponding shift in culture that has materialised as a result of the ever-changing landscape of employment. 
Peter Cheese, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s CEO, argued that engaging employees and injecting meaning into each individual’s role should be the main focus of British businesses. Cheese wasn’t alone in suggesting that British businesses need to put the human back to into the workplace: Andrew Mawson, a founding director of AWA and director of AWA’s Cognitive Research programme, also stressed that managers should focus on the individual and the team in the pursuit of boosting both cognitive performance and business productivity.
In addition to understanding how business leaders can encourage employee loyalty and engagement, Eric Barends, CEO of The Centre for Evidence Based Management, shared the latest Workplace Performance Innovation Network (PIN) study on the factors that impact on the working of the brain. Mawson, while elaborating on how businesses can effectively use the workplace in order to tap into the factors that improve cognitive performance, also revealed six additional factors that relate to the productivity of knowledge workers. Recognising the part social cohesion, perceived supervisory support, information sharing, goal clarity and trust plays in encouraging the best performance from the workforce is an imperative step in addressing the UK’s productivity woes.
‘As an industry, we need to try and start getting a scientific movement in the direction of productivity,’ said Mawson. ‘We have real science in this area, now what we need is for workplace leaders to understand it and implement it.  Armed with the science we all have to be a little bit braver. We need to be having hard conversations and not be dominated by finance drivers which only describe 20% of the value in a business. It’s only by having these conversations we’ll improve cognitive performance of the people in our businesses – and, in turn, business performance. It’s a great challenge and we have to be a little bolder in order to contribute towards the success of our economy’.

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