Initiative launched to combat UK’s productivity puzzle

By Will Howell

A new initiative has been launched to combat the UK’s productivity problem. Productivity is the measure of how efficiently inputs, such as labour and capital, are transformed into outputs such as manufactured goods. The U.K. has long had a problem with stagnating productivity, often performing far worse than similar economies.

However, a new research hub has been launched to fight this issue. Two Cardiff University researchers, Professor Alan Felstead and Rhys Davies have joined the Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) Hub, led by the University of Strathclyde. 

PrOPEL Hub, which also includes five other universities – Aston University, Ulster University and the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham, and East Anglia – is also supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and five separate ESRC research projects, such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The Hub is a £1.95 million, three-year program dedicated to combating the U.K.’s poor productivity. Higher productivity should result in benefits such as lower production costs that can be passed on to consumers, improved international competitiveness, economic growth and higher wages.

PrOPEL Hub will be a multidisciplinary forum for policy makers, employers and employee organisations such as trade unions to come together to provide input that with the aid of the newest research, will help shape decisions that could be a crucial boost to productivity. The Hub will also organize research into spheres such as innovation, job design and employee management, in the hopes of developing practical steps to boost U.K. productivity.

Principal Investigator Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde Business School said: “Boosting productivity is one of the greatest economic challenges facing the UK.

“Through the PrOPEL Hub we will be able to take cutting edge academic research directly into the day-to-day operations of businesses – large and small – across the UK. Our work will also help inform policy making, both at the UK level and within the devolved nations.”

Professor Alan Felstead, who is based in Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, said: “It is difficult to underestimate the scale of the economic challenge facing the U.K. at the moment.”

Rhys Davies, from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD), added “Across a variety of measures of economic strength, Wales remains a relatively poor part of the U.K.  The persistence of the Welsh productivity gap needs to be addressed so that the people of Wales can enjoy the same chances in life as those that exist elsewhere. This project will explore how businesses in Wales can improve their performance by enhancing the quality of employment so that both employers and workers can reap the benefits of more fulfilling and satisfying work.”

The CIPD will also co-fund a leading position within PrOPEL Hub, giving an opportunity for businesses to provide input on management and employee engagement. The CIPD will also help convert evidence and research produced by The Hub into content for HR and management professionals.


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