This week’s letters

Does workplace motivation hold productivity key?

That Britain has a productivity problem is clear (News, 22 October).
Estimates vary, but the gap with the US is between 35 and 40 per cent and with
Germany is between 11 and 15 per cent.

This is worrying in itself, but what is more worrying is the fact that this
productivity gap is not new. We have had a productivity gap with Germany and
the US since about 1900, so something fundamental must be wrong. What is even
more worrying is that if you look at any reliable source of productivity data,
it is clear that Britain has as much capital invested per man hour as Germany,
for example, but still has lower productivity.

The only conclusion to draw from this is that the way in which Britain’s companies
are managed is at the heart of the problem. Yet British managers have been
following the mantra of high performance with religious verve for the last 20
years at least.

Maybe the problem is deeper than that and is at the heart of workplace
motivation. Why is it, for instance, that the German workforce of a global
company is twice as productive as its UK counterpart? Training and motivation
have been shown to be critical, as is the psychological engagement of the
workforce in the work process itself.

These are issues we are addressing at the Work Foundation through the Work
and Enterprise Panel of Inquiry. I would urge readers to become involved so
that we really can begin to make a difference to UK productivity through UK
workplaces. For more information go to: www.theworkfoundation.com/research/work

Prof Rebecca Harding
Chief economist, The Work Foundation

We must ‘sell’ the voluntary career

Recent research conducted for ACEVO among leaders in the third sector found
that there is a major issue around recruitment of full-time staff and
volunteers. This supports the findings of the National Council for Voluntary
Organisations salary survey (News, 12 November).

A study by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
found that the main reason is the issue of low pay. This is especially true for
senior management and professional roles such as finance manager, who would
expect to receive a five-figure increase in salary if they did the same job in
the private sector.

Recruitment difficulties are most likely to occur in these senior positions
as they offer fewer intrinsic rewards and are more similar to private-sector
positions. One voluntary sector leader suggested that organisations need to
improve the whole package to attract staff in the future – such as the personal
development the position can offer.

Additionally, with about 1 in 50 of the national paid workforce working in
voluntary sector employment, contracts and HR processes have had to become more
formalised. Organisations are attempting to improve employment policy and
responding more quickly to changes in employment law, for example, to keep pace
with other organisations in the battle to retain the best talent.

But working in the sector is not just about money. There are non-financial
benefits – the focus of activities is commonly on the front line, offering
staff an opportunity for a great deal of input in the organisation and its
decision-making processes.

Further, the sense of doing something that makes a difference, the training
and development opportunities, promotion prospects or experiences they may not
get elsewhere are considered to be ‘pull’ factors.

Leaders have to ensure that these benefits remain if staff are to be
retained and attracted to the sector.

Stephen Bubb
Chief executive, ACEVO

Fobbed off by Van den Burgh reply

I was fascinated to see the reply interim manager Geraldine Dawson received
from socialist MEP Ieke van den Burgh about the draft Agency Workers Directive
(Letters, 29 October).

It is identical in every word to the reply I received after sending her a
very long e-mail over the problems that the directive will create in its
current form. I wondered why she had failed to answer any of my points or

I e-mailed back another long missive making a few more points, and even some
helpful suggestions. This time a very short reply came back from her assistant.

It seems that Ieke van den Burgh cannot be bothered with replying to

She would rather send a standard ‘letter’ and if they have the cheek to
question her further, fob them off with the old ‘reply from the assistant’

So much for Europe listening to, and consulting with business – no change
there then.

Roger Brown
Senior partner, Endale & Company

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