Two reasons for low productivity

A few days back I wrote a blog about the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’.

The fact that UK productivity levels are weak when other indicators show it should be at much healthier levels is something economists can’t easily explain.

Yet while those economists look outward towards macro-economic factors to find a solution for this puzzle, what are we doing as organisations to address the internal factors at play?

There are pain points in almost every organisation’s employment framework that can restrict productivity. Often they are so deeply entrenched that change seems impossible, thanks to the high costs of collective bargaining and the risk of destabilisation, which could result in a further reduction (rather than improvement) in productivity.

However, change may be difficult, but it’s rarely impossible. With the right approach you can have the opportunity to improve efficiency and flexibility in your organisation.

We look at two common contributors to low productivity in the workplace, and how you should address them:

Entrenched working practices

Almost every organisation has entrenched working practices. They vary from minor to significant, and are not always a negative; some working practices become a core part of the culture or identity of a workplace. However, they can become problematic, forming a stumbling block to productivity and creating an inflexible workplace that is resistant to necessary change. Unfortunately, challenging these entrenched working practices can result in even further problems for the organisation. To address them takes a strategic approach that considers both the risks and opportunities of implementing change, together with a robust plan and capable line managers.

Change in the workplace

Changes in the workplace can do more to hinder than improve productivity, if handled incorrectly. Measures taken to improve budgets and reduce costs can be contradicted by a loss in productivity as employees feel disgruntled, demotivated or too stretched by their workload. Likewise, downsizing or restructuring can make employees feel under threat even if those changes have been made to improve the security and stability of the organisation. It’s important to see the bigger picture in order to implement change effectively. This can often be as simple as establishing effective communications and engagement, and ensuring that line managers are given the right tools to manage.

At Marshall-James, we’re able to examine your entire employment framework to analyse the risks and opportunities in your workplace structure, and help you develop strategies that work for you.

Andy Cook is CEO at Marshall-James

To find out more about how Marshall-James can work with you to improve productivity, efficiency and flexibility in your organisation by transforming your employment framework, call us on 0203 021 3970 or email

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