The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) published its Growth Through People report recently. It’s a wide-ranging review of the UK labour market which brings together lot of useful information in one place and highlights the trends we have seen over the past few years.
The UK now has one of the largest graduate workforces in the EU, and one of the largest shares of high-skilled jobs in employment.
We can continue to improve the skills of the UK workforce, but unless we can be sure that workplaces are going to use them, the impact on productivity will be muted.
Where once we feared becoming a low skill, low productivity, low pay economy, instead we have become a high skill, low productivity, low pay economy. Some of this must, says UKCES, be due to the way those skills are deployed and managed in the workplace.
One big part of TFP is the ‘black box’ of the workplace, and how employers turn skilled workers and tools into products and services which customers value. We may have a more qualified and – if qualifications are of good quality – a more skilled workforce, but are those skills being used effectively? It seems that as world markets have become more difficult in the past decade, many of our workplaces have struggled to adapt.
UKCES stops short of directly criticising anyone, this is a government report after all, but by implication, it amounts to a pretty damning assessment of Britain’s bosses. With relatively light regulation, a highly educated workforce and, thanks to our language, access to a vast pool of talent from around the world, our employers still can’t increase the country’s overall productivity. We already seem to be on what CIPD chief Peter Cheese called the low road.
I have a longer piece on all this over at the UKCES site, complete with the usual charts.
Something struck me as odd though. The Growth Through People report sets out a good case for improving the way people are managed in organisations. Unless the UK’s management, development and deployment of its people gets a lot better, productivity growth will be hampered. And as Paul Krugman said:
Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.
I would have thought, therefore, that the CIPD would have been waving this report around and shouting about it. Here is a government body effectively saying what HR people have been banging on about for years; that better people management is essential if the UK is to return to growth. Yet the organisation representing the HR profession has hardly said a word.
Have I missed something?