The role of technology in the UK’s productivity puzzle.
The UK is in the midst of a productivity crisis.
Wage growth is the weakest in the G7 since the financial crisis ten years ago. Of the 34 OECD countries, only Greece and Mexico have fared worse. In the first quarter of 2018, productivity fell by 0.4%.
The cause of this productivity crisis has been the topic of fierce debate. A lack of investment from businesses is the most popular theory. There have been others though. Some have blamed a reluctance from businesses to lay off unproductive staff. Others have blamed low interest rates, whilst some have blamed attention-sapping smartphones.
Could there be something unexpected contributing to Britain’s ‘productivity puzzle’ though? What about technology? Or to be precise, our poor use of it?
Technology issues contribute to poor UK productivity.
In a recent study, Samsung made some worrying discoveries about small business productivity.
91% of workers lose concentration by helping colleagues with IT issues.
It’s important for any successful business to have employees that help one another. Yet, it’s counter-intuitive if nine in every ten of your employees get distracted on a regular basis. One might argue that helping a colleague is a ‘good’ distraction. It isn’t akin to browsing social media or gossiping. Nonetheless, it isn’t helping that individual carry out their role either. It is reducing their productivity.
63% of workers spend 15 to 45 minutes every day helping their colleagues with IT issues.
Over the course of a calendar year, an employee will spend 46 weeks at work, once you consider annual leave. This means that they could be spending up to 34.5 hours every year helping colleagues with their IT issues. This might not sound like a lot, but if you have ten employees, you could be losing 207 hours every year. Assuming a 7.5-hour working day, you’re then losing 27 days. This is more than an entire month of potential output and not very productive at all.
Small business owners spend on average two hours and 47 minutes handling IT issues.
This sort of unproductive behaviour isn’t limited to regular employees alone. Small business owners could be spending 128 hours each year resolving IT problems. Again, this isn’t productive. This is another example of how technology is inhibiting productivity. It is getting in the way. Productivity is dropping due to the time individuals are spending on IT issues. This is time that individuals should be spending on their day-to-role responsibilities.
How can you resolve this problem?
Remember, technology is not a magic bullet. It will not fix everything or be the answer to all your problems.
Many businesses have a similar reaction to solving productivity issues. They often ask, ‘what technology will make us more productive’? They want to throw money at the problem. They expect the issue to disappear by purchasing a new product or service. Unfortunately, technology does not work like that.
Think of it a little like losing weight. We hear a lot about fad diets and ‘superfoods’. These ‘superfoods’ will help us lose untold quantities of weight in super quick time. Yet, in the long, they never work. In most instances, you will lose a lot of water. Very little actual weight loss will occur.
We all know that to lose weight there is a simple solution. You must eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. In even simpler terms, you must work hard and cannot expect instant results. The same applies to technology. You won’t immediately become more productive by purchasing any piece of technology. You must use the technology in the correct manner. The processes surrounding it must be fit for purpose. And it is critical that your employees understand how everything works.
Context is crucial to ensuring that technology works and aids productivity.
The correct implementation of technology is crucial. Many technology issues which result in lost time, are a result of poor implementation. If technology was not set up in the correct way it is always likely to cause problems.
Your workforce may find ways to circumvent these ‘niggles’, but it will often be unproductive to do so. In many ways, it defeats the point of implementation in the first place. Why would you invest in new technology, and not use it in the correct fashion? In such an instance, you would not see the best possible return on your investment. It does not make sense.
What’s more, many implementation problems are common. A professional will often be able to fix them in little time. So whenever installing or purchasing new technology be thorough. Ensure it is the right product or service for the task at hand and always set things up as they should be. Don’t try things before they are ready and always test throughout implementation.
Combine technology with training and teaching.
Equipping your employees with great, well-implemented technology is only half the battle. You must also teach your employees how to use that technology. They must know how it works within your organisation.
It is not fair to expect them to know how something works, even if you or other employees have that knowledge. You need to ensure that they have the knowledge they need to perform in their role. If necessary you be providing training and education.
User error, or misunderstanding, can cause inefficiencies within your business. Often, staff waste time completing a task in a less than efficient way. Usually, a few minutes of user training would illustrate the correct way of doing things. In the long run, this could save hours of time.
Employees are creative, emotional and have unique skills.
As technology continues to play a larger role in business it’s important you don’t your employees. Are all human beings and each of them are unique. There is a reason why you hired the people that you did, so keep that in mind.
Your employees are your largest asset. Even with the rise of AI, they can perform tasks that technology cannot. For example, a human can show empathy and adapt a lot quicker than a computer can. They can perform many tasks at once and combine several skills. They can solve complex problems, in instances involving human emotion.
You should be looking to remove trivial IT issues that get in the way of your staff doing their jobs. Technology can be a great tool, but it can also inhibit productivity.
Let your staff focus on those areas where they can generate the most value. Don’t let your business be one of the many, in which 91% of the workforce is losing concentration due to IT issues.