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Businesses are crucial to solving
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Businesses are crucial to solving
the UK’s productivity problems.

What makes firms productive? Productivity Podcast blog

This edition of the Productivity Puzzles Podcast looks at the world of business productivity, where data-driven insights and expert opinions converge to shed light on what makes firms truly productive. Professor Bart van Ark is joined by Anthony Impey, CEO of Be the Business, and two accomplished business leaders, Hannah Barlow from Dunsters Farm and Barry Leahey from Playdale, who explore key themes that are impacting the productivity landscape across G7 economies.

Be The Business, Productivity Business Index: results for the UK

The first section of the podcast takes a closer look at the Be The Business Productive Business Index (PBI). Anthony Impey explains the uniqueness of this index, which serves as a barometer of how business leaders perceive their firms’ productivity. It assesses five critical areas: Management and Leadership; Technology Adoption; Innovation and Ideas; Training, Development, and HR; and Operational Efficiency. The data provides valuable insights into current business performance, capabilities, and future expectations.

Hannah and Barry offer their perspectives on the current state of their businesses, industry, and the economy. They discuss the challenges they face, aligning their experiences with the index, and share their strategies for strengthening their firms’ capabilities to weather challenges.

Why are we behind our peers and what can we learn from them?

Moving beyond the UK, the episode expands its scope to the G7 Index, comparing the UK’s performance with that of other G7 nations. The UK currently ranks sixth overall, reflecting a long-standing trajectory of lagging behind its peers. Key factors contributing to this position include a lack of investment and improvement across the five critical areas identified in the PBI. Despite ranking fourth in confidence, the UK lags in performance, emphasising the need for investment and improvement measures among UK firms.

The guests ponder the gap between confidence and actual performance, discussing potential causes such as uncertainty, government policies, and investment levels. This exploration highlights the importance of looking to learn from examples abroad, as well as those in the UK, such as improved access to finance and greater collaboration between large and small businesses.

What should businesses do?

The podcast then turns to what businesses can do to enhance productivity. The discussion centres on the five key drivers from the capabilities index and Hannah Barlow shares her insights from her experience, with emphasis on upskilling of senior management and working with mentors, both for professional and personal development.

Barry discusses operational efficiency, with reference to how Playdale recognised its deficiencies and started to measure its performance more closely. These data-driven insights allowed analysis of where they need to improve.

How can government help?

The final segment explores the role of government in supporting business productivity. How can government support businesses to get on their way? Are there times when they simply need to get out of the way?

Barry Leahey leads the discussion on how government initiatives can benefit businesses, highlighting successful programmes and addressing key needs, stressing the need for effective government intervention by backing firms beginning to export, where competition leads to innovation and investment in critical areas, such as digitalisation. Hannah suggests that government needs a better understanding of businesses to provide easier access to support programmes and access to training for managers and leaders, which is often hidden away behind government bodies.

To find out more, listen to the full episode on our website and read Be The Business’ Productive Business Index and the G7 Index, which provide a comprehensive understanding of current challenges and opportunities. For further practical advice into how senior business leaders can work more closely across functions to improve productivity, you can also read Strategic Productivity for the Leadership Team.

To stay updated on the latest insights and discussions in the world of productivity, be sure to follow the Productivity Puzzles series wherever you get your podcasts.