Reigniting Workplace Productivity in 2018

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This is a guest blog post by Nick Mayes, Principal Analyst at industry analyst group CXP

Breathing new life into stagnating productivity levels is one of the biggest challenges for businesses in 2018.

While some major economies enjoyed a slight improvement last year, global productivity remains below pre-financial crisis levels.

Businesses have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in technology tools designed to improve and enhance their employees’ ability to perform their job. But has this been applied in the right way and to the right parts of the organization?

It is not just a question of technology. As millennial workers become the dominant presence in the workforce, companies are being forced to question their entire approach to the workplace. Are employees based in the right locations? Are they using flexible working models to their full advantage? Do they offer the kind of work/life balance that will keep the workforce motivated and engaged?

What is holding productivity back?

PAC recently partnered with Fujitsu to interview more than 1,278 senior decision-makers at organizations in Europe, North America and Australia & New Zealand to understand the current challenges they face in delivering a productive workplace environment.

Perhaps the headline finding from the research is that technology is acting as a barrier to productivity, rather than an enabler.

90% of participants said that the complexity and ease-of-use of technology is a challenge, while 84% stated that poor interoperability with outdated technology is holding back their workforce.

Some 83% cite a lack of access to the right productivity tools as a further shackle on productivity, which suggests that a lot of past investment has been channeled into the wrong areas.

The battle against attrition in the UK&I

Staff attrition is a challenge to productivity for 85% of the 351 organizations in the UK and Ireland that participated in the study, and is a particular issue for public sector agencies. For example, annual churn at the UK Cabinet Office has reached 35%, which is four times the average rate across the civil service.

Some 17% admit that their workplace approach is having a negative impact on recruitment and retention, while less than 30% said that their current setup has a highly positive effect.

The large majority of participants in the study (84%) say that current working practices are not flexible enough to get the best out of their workforce. This is something that will need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, with the Prime Minister having called on all companies to advertise all jobs as flexible from Day 1, unless there are solid business reasons not to.

One of the biggest issues is that UK and Ireland businesses simply don’t have a good understanding of how productive they are today. Just 12% of participants in the study currently use analytics tools across the business to track and measure productivity.

Without knowing how productive different parts of the organization are, it is very difficult to focus technology investment in the right parts.  And interestingly, technology is often viewed as a barrier, rather than an enabler of productivity.

More than 90% of participants in the study state that the complexity of today’s workplace technology is holding employees back. And one of the most startling findings was that over half (57%) of businesses in the UK and Ireland say that their current cybersecurity strategy has a negative impact on productivity. This is a worryingly high level and a new approach is clearly required.

Breaking down the barriers

Businesses are tackling these issues in several ways.

Starting at the top, many are bringing in new policies in order to enhance productivity today and to lay the foundations to support the changing preferences of the future workforce.

Three-quarters of organizations are actively implementing new policies designed to create an improved work/life balance for their employees (an interesting case study of a UK marketing firm switching to a four-day week can be found here), while two thirds are looking to impose a more agile and compelling workplace experience.

Technology will play a key role in this latter area. A significant proportion plans to invest in areas including social enterprise platforms (55%) and robotic process automation (44%), with demand for RPA particularly strong in Ireland (48%). UK companies are also among the most aggressive in their plans to invest in digital virtual assistants in the next 12 months (55%).

Data is becoming the lifeblood of businesses across all sectors in the digital era, and 60% are rolling out a policy to provide their staff with instant access to information.

But companies are also keen that their cyber defenses will no longer slow workers down in accessing this data, with the majority implementing biometric technology, and behavioral and contextual analytics to provide a less intrusive and more effective approach to authentication.

Some final thoughts

High staff attrition stands out as a much bigger drain on productivity for companies in the UK and Ireland than the other countries that were covered in the wider study.

The region’s highly competitive labor market is clearly a factor, but the war for talent will only increase over the next decade, with millennials pursuing career paths based around flexible, dynamics postings – rather than long-term stays in single job positions.

But it is encouraging that UK&I businesses are not standing still in building a more productive and engaging workplace environment. Investment in technology to drive efficiency and a better experience is being supported by the implementation of corporate policies designed to fundamentally change current approaches to flexible working and how employees can access corporate data.

There is a long way to go, but many are starting to put the right building blocks for a future-proof digital workplace are starting to be put in place.

Join us for our live webinar on February 21st at 10.00 GMT / 11.00 CET to find out how to future-proof your workplace.


Nick Mayes is responsible for PAC’s research on the UK IT services market, and is also one of the lead analysts in PAC’s global coverage of areas including application management, business process outsourcing and IT outsourcing. Nick also leads many consultancy engagements in addition to managing PAC’s Deal Tracker service.

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