University of Gloucestershire’s Productivity Summit: Leadership will drive productivity

Malcolm Prowle, Stewart Barnes and Rob Loveday

Malcolm Prowle, Stewart Barnes and Rob Loveday - Credit: Archant

When 125 business leaders attended the University of Gloucestershire’s Productivity Summit – the first of its kind – innovation and skills were high on the agenda, but it was leadership that emerged as the greatest single influence on improving productivity.

In Gloucestershire, productivity levels are lagging 8% behind the UK average, and the UK’s productivity rate is 18% below other G7 nations. Stephen Marston, Vice Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, warned of the demographic shifts that suggest we will have less than half the number of working-age people in the county in the next few decades than is required to fulfil the opportunities anticipated through job creation.

The significance of improving productivity for the broader economy was balanced with a company-level perspective by Malcolm Prowle, Professor of Performance Management at the University of Gloucestershire. Organisations must first know how to measure their productivity before they can determine how to improve. Professor Prowle offered guidance on the influencing factors, based on research published by the University’s Centre for Innovation and Productivity in 2017.

The challenge was powerfully summed up by Stewart Barnes, Managing Director of QuoLux and Visiting Fellow at the University of Gloucestershire. “A lack of people will be a throttle on competitiveness,” said Stewart. “It is imperative that we increase productivity from existing staff and this is something that every organisation, of any size, needs to address for themselves.

“While there is much to celebrate in the innovation that is evident in so many firms, the UK has 15% fewer people in R&D than Germany. Under-investment in infrastructure, the damaging impacts of recession and low skills all have a bearing on the productivity gap that’s developed between us and our competitive neighbours.

“It is leadership that has the greatest single impact on productivity. Strategic focus and an innovation culture are both strikingly evident in firms with high productivity, and these are driven by strong and effective leadership. To lead a business to its greatest competitive advantage requires strategic focus. For productivity to improve, leaders must take responsibility to drive change, to have a clear vision for others to follow and share.

“Innovation is a key ingredient for improving business productivity and requires an open culture where it can thrive. Culture is down to the leadership; setting the values, behaviours and practices. And with research suggesting that 30% of performance is due to culture, it’s clear leaders have a massive impact on the bottom line.”

Guests also heard from Rob Loveday, Strategy Director, GE Aviation; Chris Pockett, Head of Communications at Renishaw, host of the event, and John Workman, Senior Partner, BPE Solicitors. The panel took questions from the audience, chaired by Ian Mean, Director of Business West.

Visit the Quolux website here.

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