As I listened to the news earlier this week I felt that the time has come to change the commentary about the UK and its economy. All the talk was about how the UK economy had only grown by 1.75% compared to other countries’ growth (1.9% in France; 2.2% in Germany and 2.3% in the USA) and how we were in danger of becoming the slowest growing economy of the G20 countries. So what? The key word in the commentary is that our economy is growing. When are we going to acknowledge that growing is good? Ok, so it is slow growth, but it’s still growth. Growth is good.

Having lived through two recessions in my working life, both of which have taken a toll on my finances, personally I would much rather have slow and steady growth than a constant boom and bust approach to life. Manufacturing is enjoying its best period for a long time and all the companies in our client base that are being dynamic and taking a modern approach to life are doing well. The only ones that aren’t are those that have either become complacent or are not modernising their practices, particularly with regard to people management practices.

What is important though is to make sure that we maintain a slow and steady growth going forward. Just imagine how much more secure everyone would feel if they could count on slow and steady growth in their organisations. Everyone would have certainty and could make spending plans that were realistic and that they knew they could honour. That would have a significant knock-on effect for the economy.

So what do we need to do as organisations to enable that slow and steady growth? There are lots of things that will impact on this, including in some cases a move to more automation, but where you need human beings to do the work for you, there are some specific things you can do.

  1. Make sure all individuals are working to their full potential and are efficient and effective in their roles. There are a number of aspects to this that include
    • Clear job descriptions that are useful and ‘live’ documents against which performance can be measured
    • Effective management of conflict and bad-behaviour
    • Effective management of things like absence (one of our HR students has realised this week how bad her organisation is at managing absence and how much it is costing them)
    • Simple and regular performance discussions to make sure everyone is delivering what is required of them.
  2. Make sure that managers are effective at managing their people. This includes having early stage informal conversations when people aren’t doing what they are supposed to. Don’t leave things to fester as they will never improve that way.
  3. Involve and engage your staff in your vision and plans for the future. Every employee has a stake in the business they work for. Their employer makes it possible for them to pay their mortgage; car loans and to have holidays so get them engaged in making things better – for every stakeholder in the business.

Employee engagement is poor apparently, with one-third of employees disengaged from their organisation and a quarter saying how negatively their managers impact on their performance. How much steady growth could we achieve if that changed? There is a clear correlation between staff engagement and the capability of their managers and business leaders. Poor leaders and managers lead to low engagement and poor business performance - fact. If we act to address those two things we can change the commentary and ensure future economic growth (slow and steady though!).