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NOCN and WAPS webinar: Economic Growth through Improving Productivity Skills

NOCN Group in partnership with WAPS (World Academy of Productivity Science) hosted an Economic Growth through Productivity and Skills webinar on Tuesday 30th April 2024, featuring expert voices from organisations across the globe.

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything” - Paul Krugman

NOCN Group in partnership with WAPS (World Academy of Productivity Science) hosted an Economic Growth through Productivity and Skills webinar on Tuesday 30th April 2024, featuring expert voices from organisations across the globe, including NOCN Group, Amity University, Mitie and Alliance Manchester Business Schools. The experts each delivered inspiring and informative insights and the webinar concluded with an engaging panel session discussion.

The discussion highlighted that sustainable and fair economic growth cannot be achieved without improvements in productivity. It tackles the key questions:

  • What are productivity skills?
  • What can we learn from emerging economies about productivity?
  • What is the role of the ‘circular economy’?
  • How can the UK ‘level-up’ sustainably?
  • How can industry maximise the benefits of digitisation and AI without ‘replacing people’?

The full session can be watched here and the below provides a ‘snapshot’ of some of the key points raised:

Graham Hasting-Evans, Chief Executive of NOCN Group introduced the session, highlighting the global productivity challenge we face.

The world’s economy remains in a pandemic recovery phase whilst also facing the challenges of economic shock resulting from two major conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, as well as the impact of climate change.

Supporting these challenges are the opportunities that arise from a new phase of technological change through increased digitisation and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

Around the world, countries are realising that skills are the key to addressing the big issues and driving domestic economic growth at the macro level and commercial success in individual businesses.

Graham went on to explain that when we talk about ‘productivity skills’ in this context there are a wide range of skills across strategic, managerial and operational levels, including everything from leadership, communication, people management and self-awareness. He also highlighted the huge opportunity that digitisation and AI brings, as well as moving towards a more sustainable world and Net Zero, and how these skills are imperative to driving those opportunities.

Professor P B Sharma, Vice Chancellor, Amity University spoke about the sustained and excellent growth in India and the approach there on the “circular economy”.

He provided historical perspectives on the ‘wealth of nations’ and the role that productivity has and does play within this, exploring the world’s rapidly emerging economies. While the advanced economies have witnessed slowing productivity growth, some emerging economies such as India and China have managed to make remarkable progress over the past 25 years.

The development paths of China, India and other high productivity nations have some common threads including boosting capital investment, accelerated urbanisation, making service and construction sectors more productive, modernising manufacturing, and structural reforms for productive economic growth.

Professor Sharma focussed on the productivity growth rates in India and the factors influencing this and concluded with a focus on the key principles and economic/ productivity benefits of adopting a circular economy. He cited that adopting a circular economy could benefit India to the extent of ?40lakh crore (US$ 624 billion) annual value created by 2050, amounting to 30% of India's current GDP (as per The Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2016.)

Philip McCann, Chair of Urban and Regional Economics, Alliance Manchester Business Schools provided the UK context, including the negative implications for skills of the centralising policy over the last decade or so.

Philip focussed on the low productivity trend in the UK, a challenge faced over the past 15 years, and key factors affecting this including the geographical picture. He then went on to discuss where the skills and work agenda fits into this.

He explored the complexities around geography, globalisation and governance and provided fascinating insights into the differential regional impacts of globalisation and the idea that internally the UK is inter-regionally “decoupling, dislocating and disconnecting”.

Philip concluded with a focus on the future for work and skills, comparing global education systems, the UK’s skills pipeline, and the role of developing pathways for skills enhancement and re-training. He talked about the UK’s focus on “levelling up” and the negative implications of the political push for this to be done in a “rushed” manner:

“We need a more structured way of thinking about the architecture of governance in the UK and the skills related pathways – how can that be articulated in a manner that allows skills training policies to be tailored to localities?”

Finally, Philip Hendrikx, Business Operations Director, Mitie brought the senior leadership experience and industry perspective of a major company employing 65,000 people. He talked about how to improve AI/technology and productivity while achieving a quality service for customers.

He began by explaining that he started his career working in manufacturing in India where increasing productivity was a key driver and has gone on to work in various countries so brings the latest thinking from across his global experience to the conversation.

Philip introduced Mitie, a £4.2 billion facilities transformation business, and how its approach to increasing productivity is not about “replacing humans with technology” and taking people out of the equation, but about being clear on what the business utilises different capabilities and resources for. He said that, for Mitie, it’s less about cutting costs at the year end and more about thinking “slightly differently” to land at a better, consistent and sustainable level of productivity.

He shared research evidencing that, when organisations ‘do the right thing’, (which in Mitie’s case includes its aim to be carbon zero and its use of electric vehicles) it has a positive impact on productivity. He also explored the importance of focusing on output and achieving the ‘best outcomes’ consistently across its teams.

Philip concluded by highlighting that productivity in the UK has risen by 0.9% in large part due to a limit of resources and accelerating consumer demand. He recommended a look at our structures with a focus on embracing technology, investing in skills, broadening talent pools and, importantly, offering development opportunities: “If we don’t offer development, we will stagnate.”

Watch the full webinar HERE.

NOCN Group provides regulated qualifications in Management & Productivity for operational managers, senior managers and strategic leaders – find out more HERE.