A new survey has found that the UK’s top performing businesses have one thing in common: prioritising employee learning and development. The survey said that 94% of the businesses in the best performer category identified learning and development in the workplace as a critical component in success of the business overall. However, most UK businesses have yet to reach the point of viewing learning, training and development in the workplace as critical – and, in productivity terms, that leaves the UK trailing other nations where the training culture is more entrenched.
The UK productivity gap
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, Britain’s output per hour is now 22.2% lower than the USA. In fact, productivity growth in the UK is so low that it has fallen well behind that of other G7 nations, such as Germany, the USA, France and Italy. Every member of the G7 suffered in the wake of the 2008 recession but the impact on productivity has been twice as bad in the UK. There have been many reasons put forward for the UK’s poor productivity results and an insufficient training culture is one of them. It was even acknowledged by Philip Hammond in his 2016 autumn statement as one of the reasons why “it takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five.”
The USA’s training culture
In America, one of the key current workplace trends is the training – and retraining – of employees to help boost productivity and fill skills shortages. Many American companies have already recognised the value of training in the workplace – IBM found that getting the right training was the common factor for 84% of employees at the best performing organisations. At the worst performing businesses only 16% of employees were getting the right training. According to Forbes, there are average annual savings of $70,000 for businesses when proper training is in place, plus a 10% increase in productivity. American employers also recognise the value that can be released in employees through training – when AT&T had to notify 100,000 of their employees that their roles wouldn’t exist in a decade, it launched the Workforce 2020 training initiative to upskill its employee base, giving both the business and its workers a future.
Closing the productivity gap
For the UK, learning and development is going to have a key role to play in boosting productivity. A lack of it can seriously hinder competitiveness – companies with decreased turnover are twice as likely to say their staff members do not prioritise learning. Conversely, two thirds of companies with increased turnover over the past 12 months prioritise leadership and management development. If the UK is to catch up with businesses in countries like the USA then it needs to focus on creating a more active and entrenched training culture. As Steve Hill, the external engagement director at the Open University, said “The UK’s productivity keeps falling behind other developed countries, and this is unlikely to improve unless firms invest properly in training.”
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