Leader Views


Posted on:
27th February, 2019

We need to unlock better skills capability to boost UK productivity

As we approach the start of National Apprenticeship Week on 4 March, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have published a report about the role of LEPs and other stakeholders in how to address skills demand at local level to increase productivity. Here, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of CIPD, outlines exactly what needs to be done.

We need to unlock better skills capability to boost UK productivity

"The skills of our workforces are critical to productivity, innovation and growth.  Yet for too long we have had a national policy framework focused almost largely on increasing the supply of skills, whilst at the same time a growing mismatch of demand for skills with too many low skill jobs and lack of investment in the workplace.

This has left us, on one hand, with one of the most qualified workforces in the world, but on the other, with too many people in jobs which don’t make full use of their capabilities, and an economy hampered by low and stagnating productivity.

There is a growing consensus that enhanced leadership and people management skills are needed if we are to tackle these challenges, with support targeted, in particular, at the long tail of under-preforming firms. Not enough businesses have the capability to ensure that they manage and develop people and design jobs to ensure staff put their skills to good use. Addressing these issues is a particular challenge for SMEs, many of which are understandably preoccupied with business survival and ‘getting the job done’ rather than investing in management skills, the workplace and people management practices to increase productivity and growth.

The OECD has argued that the best level to address these challenges is locally, as progress is likely to require interweaving skills with interventions around economic development, business improvement and job quality across a local economy.  A number of Local Enterprise Partnerships, working alongside other local stakeholders, are taking the lead here, and research by CIPD, supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, published today, sets out a road map for how Local Enterprise Partnerships can support more local employers take the high road.

As the representative body of the people profession we recognise that we also have an important role to play here. That’s why we have been working in different regions across the UK, including more recently with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce to help small firm owner-managers to improve their people management and development practices, to enable people to perform their best at work while helping businesses raise their ambitions.  Our People Skills programme will see CIPD-qualified HR consultants provide people management support to SMEs to help them understand their workforce and get the best out of them. This can be at the most basic level, ensuring they are recruited in the right way and on the right contract for them, through to more transformational interventions that can see owner-managers recognise the skills required by their teams and ensure they are utilised in the best possible way.

Unlocking the skills and capabilities of our workforces through better people management practices is crucial to solving the UK’s productivity puzzle. That’s why we are calling on Mayors, combined authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to build on this opportunity and help build better and more productive workplaces.

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