The latest official figures suggest that, last year, the productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 nations is now at its greatest since comparable records began back in 1991. In fact, every G7 member – except for Japan – is presently ahead of us. This has prompted Chancellor George Osborne to refer to the raising of the UK’s productivity levels as being “the challenge of our lifetime”, writes Andrew Hallam.
With the UK’s finances confronting a cocktail of battles which could destabilise the economic rate of recovery, the ‘productivity puzzle’ (www.productivitypuzzle.com) has arguably never been more pertinent and critical for UK businesses.
The outlook for 2016 is one of the toughest since the financial crisis began. On that basis, companies will need to contribute heavily towards economic productivity in order to become more competitive and create employment opportunities.
That’s the macro view. Closer to home, across the security business sector most people associate productivity with the introduction (or ‘blending’) of technological solutions with traditional methods of protection performed by trained and licensed security personnel. Of course, this is something of a natural thought process as technology continues to develop at an alarming rate.
Clearly, there’s a need to integrate the very best of new technology with skilled and highly-trained security teams. Working in unison, there’s no better ingredient for the successful delivery of effective security.
Video analytics, for example, can alert us to the individual who may be in danger, but it’s the skills of our security officers who bring the human element of compassion and understanding to the fore in dealing with what can often be extremely challenging situations.
The major challenge facing most UK security businesses is how to work smarter, rather than harder, and create more efficiencies with the same amount of input, thereby generating sustainable productivity growth.
Investment in employees
If the UK’s security companies are to play their part in contributing towards solving the productivity puzzle, we must all consider how we invest in our employees, and explore ways in which we might create a truly engaged workforce that’s more productive, in turn narrowing the gap between aspiration and achievement.
Teams operating in a more efficient manner will produce more. Engaged teams perform because they’re encouraged to do so, and because the environment is conducive to innovation.
For my part, I’m fortunate to be working within an organisation that fully understands this ethos. ‘The Unipart Way’ is our guiding philosophy. As one of its core principles, ‘The Unipart Way’ states that employees are empowered to ‘solve problems at their own level’. What better way to increase productivity than to have empowered teams acting as the catalyst for improvement within and positive continuous improvement on customer sites?
Since the economic crisis began there has been a real downturn in operating margins within the UK’s security sector. As such, most businesses have struggled to maintain the level of investment in training they would like, although I’m sure we all consider this to be a crucial element of achieving sustainable growth and operational excellence.
Setting targets that are stretching, unlocking real potential among the workforce and providing opportunities to develop individuals’ careers within our world are key elements by which the security business sector can balance operational productivity with the introduction of new technology.
Reputation and perception
As a direct result of reduced investment in training and development, could it be that the subsequent lower levels of employee performance have contributed towards the UK’s poor productivity levels?
Might all of us have done more to engage and motivate a valuable resource that’s required to solve the UK’s productivity puzzle, and thereby improve what has been a sustained period of reducing margins?
A well-developed, highly engaged, motivated and efficient workforce within the security world will significantly contribute towards an enhanced reputation for – and overall perception of – the security business sector, at the same time allowing that sector to display its real abilities alongside other industries now striving to help solve the UK’s productivity puzzle.
Of course, attaining this objective requires a creative approach in tandem with effective leadership. When the two are in alignment, this can lead to higher levels of productivity, improved sustainable processes, potential margin improvement and sustainable growth for our sector.
Across the last decade and more, the UK’s security industry has achieved so much when it comes to raising the sector’s profile. Year-on-year, it’s now increasingly considered to be a critical industry in terms of protecting our borders and the Critical National Infrastructure resident within.
While there’s still much work to be done, businesses that continue to drive a culture designed to inspire and enable their employees to ‘go the extra mile’ and actively seek opportunities for continuous improvement in all that they do – for the benefit of themselves, the organisation and their customers – will inevitably continue to be successful and more productive.
Andrew Hallam is Managing Director of Unipart Security Solutions