The UK has a lot to celebrate as world leaders in several industries. However according to a recent article in The Economist, Britain is also a world leader when it comes to ’inefficient work processes’, being the least efficient of the G7 nations. You know that cultural stereotype of the efficient German? Well guess what, it’s firmly rooted in fact: Germany is 24% more efficient per worker, per hour than we are. What does that really mean? Essentially that what we get done in five days a German would get done in four!

So, this piqued my interest and I decided to dig a little further. Predictably, the factors behind why we seem to take longer to get the job done are many, and not particularly simple to summarise, but here goes:

  1. Job insecurity:

    With more businesses recruiting on a short-term basis and increasingly outsourcing once in-house roles to freelancers, many of us are feeling insecure about our jobs.

  2. Less on the job training:

    Fewer and fewer businesses can afford the impact of taking staff out of action to complete rigorous training programs. Frontline staff in customer facing roles especially, are being asked to maximise each hour of their day.

  3. Stalled wage inflation:

    With salary increases frozen and capped across many sectors, many staff don’t believe they are valued or being invested in. And this inevitably is having a knock-on effect on motivation and morale.

  4. Uncertain market conditions:

    Now that the wheels of Brexit have been set in motion, many of us are in unknown territory about what the future holds. In the same way that this apprehension might slow down the economy, it contributes to a decrease in productivity: we begin to question whether it’s worth pushing through that deadline, or taking on that additional risk.

  5. Wage inequality:

    This boils down to a feeling that things are not ‘fair’ compared to how they used to be. There’s a now famous science experiment which proved that even a capuchin monkey recognises unequal pay. Watch a video of it and you’ll see that the recognition of inequality and unfair treatment elicits a strong response and rejection of what the monkey is being asked us. It’s a magnified reaction of what we would do in the same situation*.

All of this has a considerable impact on our economy and our wellbeing

– £53 billion was lost last year to stress and absenteeism due to stress
– Disengagement, only 3 in 10 employees are actively engaged (meaning the other seven are on a negatively sliding scale of disengagement)
– Busy at work for many is synonymous with a culture of presenteeism – but working long hours often means tired, less focused staff, not alert and productive ones.

According to The Guardian, the national average recruit to replace cost to a company per employee is £30k (arguably quite cheap given the cost of recruitment fees). However, if 70% of your workforce are disengaged, spending money on recruitment to help your business get through more work, makes as much sense as throwing that money out of the window. A business with a headcount of 100-people, might suffer from a staff attrition rate as high as 50% as a result of these negative factors. If The Guardian numbers are to be believed, this could cost that mid-size organisation as much as £1.5m.

The most obvious way to counter this problem is increase staff engagement:

  1. Share your company vision

    People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Staff want to be brought into the business vision, so by sharing the company vision with your staff you immediately engage them. Get them as excited about your future as you are. Hold a vision day for your teams showcasing where the business has got to over the last few years, where it is going and how it’s going to get there – but be sure to convey how integral they have been and will continue to be in that journey.

  2. Make their job matter

    Most people who work for you, are there for more than just a pay cheque. Given the ever-rising retirement age, millennials will spend at least 50 years in work and they’re aware of this. Therefore, when they’re considering which career option to follow, they want to make sure they spend those years doing something they enjoy, feel part of and that gives them a future
    (Forbes shows, Millennials in UK work an average of 42 hours a week. Retirement age expected to be 74 for people in their twenties.)

  3. Trust your team to get the job done

    Embrace a dynamic, results-focused working culture. Different teams and individuals may be more productive at different times of the day. By encouraging flexible working you’re able to make the most of individual productivity and demonstrate trust to your workforce. Make a start by adopting technologies into your business that enables flexible working hours.

  4. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

    This has been shown as important amongst millennials and linked to making their job matter, by demonstrating your business matters within the community. Encourage CSR opportunities – the initiatives you choose to support tells your staff a great deal about your company’s values and encourages them that the role they serve in the business, has the potential to serve their own community or a cause that’s close to their hearts. There are some great CSR opportunities out there, the Great British Beach Clean is a favourite of ours.

  5. Friendships

    Close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by 50%. Having a close friend at work means your seven times more likely to engage fully and stay at your job. Technology can help with this, as tools such as Slack (an internal communications tool) encourage visibility and staff collaboration.

  • Technology has a role in a lot of employee engagement and making work lives easier. Articulating this well you should ‘have the best technology but you don’t want to be aware of it’. In essence, you should only notice when and if things go wrong. Technology should enhance your business and allow you to:

  • Share information internally
  • Share information externally
  • Create trust & visibility
  • Promote a sharing ethos.

*For the record, I’ve never thrown anything at a boss after discovering that a colleague was getting paid more than me for doing the same job, though I may have been tempted.