Fighting the tide: how to break through the UK’s productivity problem

Author: Laurence Glen  |  Date published: March, 27, 2024, UK  |  Read est: 6 min read

Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group

In the post-2008 financial crisis world, the UK's productivity has been more elusive than a sunny British summer – everyone talks about it, but it seldom shows up for long. This challenge, deeply rooted in the economic downturn of the late 2000s, has stubbornly persisted, thanks in part to a collective failure to invest adequately in the very foundations that support productivity growth: skills, infrastructure, and commerce, making it all too easy to trip over the stumbling blocks of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For businesses aiming to not just survive but thrive in this tough environment, the question of how to boost productivity is as critical as it is complex. Enter the arena of productive business solutions, where Focus Group champions the idea that investing in technology isn't just about upgrading your office gadgets; it's about strategically empowering your workforce, streamlining operations, and ensuring your business can dance circles around the competition. This approach promises to turn the tide, suggesting that with a sprinkle of innovation and a dash of investment, businesses can transform their productivity from a sluggish stream into a roaring river.

Join us as we navigate through the currents of economic challenges and technological solutions, aiming to anchor UK businesses in more productive waters.

What is productivity in business?

Business productivity is essentially the efficiency with which companies convert resources into goods and services, much like brewing the perfect cup of tea with just the right balance of ingredients. It's measured by comparing total output to the input used, such as labour hours and costs, aiming for higher output with minimal waste. Recognizing a productivity problem might come from indicators like declining profits, increasing costs without a boost in output, or simply not keeping pace with competitors. The roots of such issues often lie in outdated technology, inefficient processes, or a workforce that’s not fully engaged or properly trained.

Why the fuss about UK productivity? Because it’s intimately linked to profitability, growth, and competitive advantage. A business that masters productivity can produce more at a lower cost, allowing it to offer competitive prices, pay better wages, and invest in innovation. This doesn’t just apply to the bottom line but also to the company's ability to stand out in a crowded market. Investing in productivity-enhancing measures—whether through technology, training, or boosting employee morale—ensures every effort and resource contributes to the best possible outcome, setting the stage for sustained success and growth.

Woman working at computer

Why is UK productivity so low compared to other countries?

The enigma of the UK's productivity lag, trailing behind powerhouses like the US, Germany, and France, is a multifaceted dilemma deeply rooted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. This enduring issue isn't just about numbers on a page; it's a systemic problem that has tangible impacts on wages, job quality, and economic resilience. Despite efforts to bounce back, recent data reveals a concerning trend: as of Q4 2023, productivity was 0.3% lower than the previous year, with a notable 1.0% drop from the preceding quarter. Historically, the UK enjoyed a robust productivity growth of around 2% annually, but the pace has significantly slowed since the 2008/2009 recession, marking a departure from its previous trajectory.

This stagnation isn't merely a tale of economic metrics; it's a story of missed opportunities and underinvestment, particularly in the realms of capital and skills development. The London School of Economics highlights a chronic under-investment as a key driver behind the productivity slowdown, pointing out that this lack of investment, especially in human capital, has been a significant factor. Over the past 15 years, this sluggish productivity growth has been the primary culprit behind the stagnation of real wages, leaving average UK wages today comparable to their 2005 levels. Such a trend not only diminishes the quality of life but also hampers the UK's economic flexibility, rendering it more susceptible to external shocks.

Comparative analysis with other countries underscores the depth of the UK's productivity puzzle. The labour productivity growth gap between the UK and its international counterparts widened dramatically post-2007, with the UK's annual productivity growth plummeting from 2.5% to 0.5%. This decline is markedly more severe than the slowdowns experienced by the US, France, and Germany.

The underutilisation of human capital, as employees find themselves tethered to low-skilled jobs, coupled with the motivational drain caused by stagnant wages, paints a grim picture. Yet, this isn't an issue without remedy. Individual companies can play a pivotal role in reversing this trend, through targeted investments in technology, training, and employee development, thereby catalysing productivity growth from the ground up. While the challenges are substantial, the path forward involves a concerted effort to invest in the very foundations that support economic resilience and prosperity.

Ways to increase productivity in business

Investing in productivity can feel like throwing money into the wind, but when it’s done right, the effects can be almost instant, and can result in a successful ROI within a period as short as a year. But where to begin? Starting your productivity journey can feel as daunting as taking that first step on the yellow brick road, but it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve pulled together 4 of the most impactful technologies to update and outsource to remove the mundane tasks from the plates of your employees, freeing them up to take their skills to the next level.

Business IT

In the digital age, an efficient, reliable IT infrastructure is the backbone of any successful business. Business IT services encompass a wide array of solutions - from managing the lifecycle of hardware and software to ensuring robust network infrastructure, and from facilitating secure data management to providing round-the-clock IT support. These services are essential for maintaining daily operations, supporting data-driven decision-making, and enabling businesses to adapt to new challenges and opportunities swiftly.

Outsourcing your IT services

Focus Group distinguishes itself by offering bespoke IT support and services designed to fit the unique requirements of each business. By evaluating and understanding your needs, Focus Group can implement state-of-the-art IT systems and provide ongoing support that ensures your operations are always running smoothly. This personalised approach means that whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, your IT infrastructure is always optimised for peak performance, security, and scalability.

Go fully managed

Leveraging Focus Group’s Business IT services leads to a significant boost in productivity by reducing downtime caused by IT issues, enhancing the security and accessibility of data, and enabling employees to work more efficiently through the use of modern technologies. When IT systems run seamlessly, businesses can focus on their core objectives without being sidetracked by technical difficulties, thereby accelerating growth and improving operational efficiency.

Outsource your IT >

VoIP phone systems

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology has revolutionised the way businesses communicate. Unlike traditional telephony that relies on physical lines, VoIP uses the internet to transmit voice, allowing for greater flexibility, scalability, and a host of advanced features such as call routing, virtual voicemail, and video conferencing. This modern approach to communication is not just about making and receiving calls; it's about integrating your communication needs into a single, cohesive system that supports a dynamic business environment.

Your VoIP partner

With Focus Group’s VoIP solutions, businesses can expect more than just voice communication. They provide a scalable, cost-effective platform that includes advanced features designed to support modern work practices, including remote work, global teams, and mobile communication. Their VoIP services are tailored to improve both internal collaboration and customer engagement, ensuring that your business remains connected and responsive in a fast-paced world.

Streamline communications

Adopting Focus Group’s VoIP services can dramatically improve productivity by streamlining communication processes, cutting down on telecommunication costs, and providing employees with the flexibility to work from anywhere. Advanced features like call forwarding, automatic call distribution, and integrations with CRM systems ensure that every call is handled efficiently, enhancing customer satisfaction and freeing up employees to focus on higher-value activities.

Switch to VoIP >

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 represents the pinnacle of cloud-based productivity tools, offering a comprehensive suite of applications that facilitate document creation, data analysis, presentations, and communications. Integrated with cloud services like OneDrive and Microsoft Teams, it enables seamless collaboration and file sharing among team members, regardless of their location.

Capitalise on collaboration

Focus Group leverages its expertise to provide seamless Microsoft 365 integration, ensuring businesses can fully capitalise on its collaborative and productivity-enhancing features. From initial setup and user management to ongoing support and training, Focus Group ensures your team is equipped to use Microsoft 365 to its full potential. Their approach ensures that your business benefits from the latest productivity tools, such as Microsoft co-pilot, all while maintaining the highest levels of security and compliance.

Collaboration tools with a true ROI

The adoption of Microsoft 365 through Focus Group transforms the workplace into a dynamic environment. It enables teams to collaborate in real time, access documents from anywhere, and stay connected through cloud-based communication tools. This level of integration and flexibility significantly reduces the time spent on administrative tasks and supports a more agile, responsive business model.

Save on Microsoft licenses >

Cyber Security

In an era where cyber threats are increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, robust cyber security is non-negotiable for protecting business assets, customer data, and reputation. Cyber security encompasses a broad range of practices, technologies, and solutions designed to protect networks, devices, and data from unauthorised access, attacks, or damage.

Protect your productivity for cyber threats

Focus Group offers a comprehensive suite of cyber security services tailored to protect businesses from the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. Their solutions include proactive monitoring, advanced cyber security training, threat detection, risk management, and incident response services, all designed to ensure that your business's data and digital assets are secure. With Focus Group, businesses gain peace of mind, knowing that their cyber security needs are managed by experts who are always ahead of potential threats.

Safeguard against cyber threats

By securing your digital environment with Focus Group's Cyber Security services, businesses can significantly enhance productivity by safeguarding against the disruptive impact of cyber threats. A secure digital environment allows for uninterrupted operations, ensuring that employees can focus on their core responsibilities without the fear of data breaches or cyber-attacks. This security confidence fosters a culture of innovation and risk-taking, which are crucial for business growth and development.

Talk to an cyber security expert >

Laurence Glen photo

Laurence Glen
IT Director

Our IT world, together with the ongoing development of this business-critical portfolio of services, is in very capable hands with Laurence at the helm. IBM-trained and with a 22-year track record of proven success in the IT sector ensures Laurence is perfectly placed to lead the overall IT strategy for Focus Group, ensuring we’re at the forefront of product development and service innovations in order to deliver the best possible IT technologies for our customers.

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