How do you boost productivity?

As the rows and debates over UK productivity continue, Margaret Kubicek asks
what role training professionals can play in overturning the shortfall

Pressure is mounting to improve UK productivity. That is the view of
management experts and industry watchers from the Work Foundation to the
Confederation of British Industry. All agree that something must be done to
find a solution to the UK’s poor productivity level, which lags 40 per cent
behind the US and 14 per cent behind France. We ask what impact training can
have in boosting productivity.

Gordon Phillips
HR manager, Alstom Power

I am certainly a supporter of vocational training. We provide Modern
Apprenticeships and run graduate trainee schemes specific to our business.

A lot of larger companies today have stopped vocational training. It comes
down to cost, but the long-term consequence is that we are going to have skills
shortages. I think it is a false economy. If companies do not train our future
technicians and engineers, the cost will become far greater.

Simon Cutler
Learning and development manager, Dunlop Aerospace

If you are looking at people being more capable in their job
performance in terms of productivity, I think it is important to review
people’s performances in a positive light. It is important to give them
recognition that they have the skills set, but that we want to enhance it.

This needs to be done in a proactive and positive way. You’re trying to
increase their skills and capacity for learning as much as trying to identify
shortfalls that could be related to productivity. Sometimes we are too

David Butcher
Director of general management programmes, Cranfield School of

Unfortunately, trainers are far too impotent to impact usefully on
productivity. Training doesn’t have the organisational value other activities

Trainers don’t help the cause. Take leadership training. Irrespective of the
kind of training that would be appropriate, trainers will use the one they like
and say it is best practice. In reality, it is more the case that it appeals to
them, rather than being any good in itself.

Too often, training just does not have the credibility it should to impact
on productivity. Trainers and training need to be far closer to the management
and requirements of the business than they are.

Rick Woodward
Training and development director, Kimberly-Clark Europe

We place a strong emphasis on training to ‘gold standards’ rather than
simply learning from others already performing the job. In our paper
manufacturing, for example, this process of ‘centre-lining’ training achieves a
15 per cent productivity improvement.

We use technical input and team training to help operators better understand
the process and establish ideal settings for optimum efficiency. This means we
can move our productivity up to world-class standards of paper manufacturing.

We remain committed to apprenticeship. We need to – our workforce is ageing
at some mills. We are also pioneering apprenticeships for production roles in
addition to classic engineering ones. There has been a dramatic change in
apprenticeships available in UK manufacturing – thousands of apprenticeships
have been lost in the UK, so we no longer have the skilled workforce we once

Richard Malam
IT training manager, Centrica

I believe training professionals play a core role in working with their HR
and line colleagues to improve productivity. A good working culture and
environment is vital to drive productivity and ultimately, the success of the
business. It depends on the quality and depth of working relationships and
levels of openness, honesty and trust. Training can work to ensure clarity
around the standards and behaviours that underpin this.

The bottom line is the value of training depends on the quality of
relationships between ourselves and business colleagues. The closer we get to
understanding the business agenda, the more we can support the business to
achieve its goals.

Alison Doyle
Head of training and development, Cadbury Trebor Bassett

The productivity of individuals can be improved significantly though
training. There is often a feeling that training is a cost and an investment in
an individual, and is something that can only be done when there is a lot of
money about. I firmly believe that when money is tight, training should be used
to get people working more smartly.

My main thrust is IT training, and IT tends to underpin everything else in
the business. If you can’t use the software on your PC to get that message out,
you certainly won’t be as effective as you could be.


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