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SMEs must be the new focus to solve the UK’s productivity problems 

11 July 2016 00:32:00

The Open University says technology can come together with training to help smaller firms boost productivity

The UK has received a chance to assess progress in tackling the country’s productivity crisis. New government figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), detailing output per hour since January, show that with a growth of only 0.5 per cent from the last quarter, productivity is trailing 17 per cent behind an extrapolation based on pre-downturn trends. This latest report indicates that nationwide measures being taken to solve the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’ are failing to make the wholesale improvements that will reset the UK’s productivity levels.

Boosting productivity amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must become a priority, but it requires a bespoke approach to meet the specific needs of these companies. Research from Albion Ventures has shown that 50 per cent of SMEs believe that their productivity will increase. Among these companies, the most influential factor on output is expected to be the level of skills within the organisation.
However, SMEs, which employ 60 per cent of the private sector workforce, face continuing barriers to developing their human resources, and embark on up to 50 per cent less training than larger firms. Skills development can be a resource intensive activity for SMEs, but The Open University’s Trends in Learning Report 2016 highlights how technology is enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of training for smaller enterprises.

Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at The Open University, comments: “Most leaders would easily agree that employees are the biggest asset their company has, with the most potential to transform their business outcomes. Yet it’s often the case that larger businesses are relying on technology to improve their output levels. Instead it’s Britain’s smaller companies who are aware that people will always be key to productivity.

“Despite their recognition of its value, I hear from a lot of smaller firms who express that investing in training can still represent a difficult path. What’s most important moving forward is that these businesses understand how to access the training they need in a form that will contribute to their overall productivity.
“Advancements in educational technologies have transformed the value of training for small businesses. These firms often find the time commitment involved in traditional forms of training simply does not fit with their business set-up. The flexibility of online and mobile learning has already significantly altered the structure of training so that it can fit with different organisational needs.

“Now, the opportunity to apply data analytics to these programmes promises to deliver greater returns on learning and development than ever before.”

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.
 
The OU regularly supports over 2,400 organisations, including KMPG, Hay Group and the NHS, delivering flexible learning solutions at scale to address skills shortages and develop high performing workforces. Four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
With a global reach and as the UK’s leader in part time education, with 76 per cent of OU’s current students studying whilst working full or part time, the OU is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces.
 
In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent.  The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.
 
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads. For further information please visit: www.open.ac.uk

 

Michelle WinnyMichelle Winny

With a combination of news, products and feature articles, Michelle provides up-to-wire commentary on new technology and legislation. Coupled with in depth coverage for specifiers and purchasers of electronic components and equipment, Michelle brings everything within the electronics market directly to her readers.