At the start of Britain's first full week back at work, the country's managers have been urged to make improving employee productivity their top priority for a prosperous 2005.
The call, from Investors in People (IIP), comes after research carried out last November by the Future Foundation which found that whilst employers recognise the importance of employee development in delivering overall productivity, they are reluctant to invest in their staff to achieve this.
The Future Foundation found that although three-quarters of bosses say that effective development of employees will be vital or important to the future productivity of their organisations, only one in three put it at the top of their list when faced with competing priorities, such as new technology, knowledge of competitors, and research and development.
The research also suggested that commitment to employees is diluted when management is faced with day-to-day priorities and investment choice, despite a clear recognition that employees hold the key to improved productivity.
According to Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of IIP, many employers are failing to convert their understanding of the importance of employee development into action.
"It's as if they see productivity as someone else's problem, which is potentially damaging, not just to their organisations but to Britain as a whole," she said.
To help employers get the most out of their workforce this year, IIP have come up with a list of New Year resolutions for managers.
- Invest in structured training courses for employees at every level of the organisation. Low skill levels in the workplace have consistently been shown to be the primary factor affecting the UK's productivity;
- Invest in your staff's development outside work. Encourage your employees to take part in evening classes by contributing to the costs. This will help their overall motivation and their new skills may prove invaluable to your organisation in the future;
- Poor time management is one of the main reasons for low productivity. Encourage employees to plan their days properly, for example by using check-lists for their tasks;
- Encourage staff to have regular breaks away from their work station - this will help improve their concentration, increasing output;
- Promote a balanced work-life culture. Research by NOP World in 2002 found that three-quarters of UK employees feel they would be more productive at work if they could tailor their hours to their lifestyles;
- Make sure you practice what you preach - low productivity is just as much a problem for managers as it is for their employees. Set an example by having an organised desk, after all it is claimed that managers waste up to half an hour a day simply looking for documents and files.
Ruther Spellman added: "Bosses can use the New Year as an opportunity to re-evaluate their approach to issues such as motivation, work-life balance, and training, all of which can have can have a real impact on their organisation's bottom line, given the right level of managerial commitment."