Unlock your organisation’s growth potential

Steve Macaulay offers some ways to ensure your organisation stays ahead of the game by investing in the people factors

As businesses gear up for the future, HR and L&D have the expertise to play an important part in realising significant opportunities for growth. Low productivity has been a persistent issue, especially in the UK, so a renewed focus on HR and L&D holds a valuable key to unlocking the organisation’s untapped potential.

“There is an untapped potential to boost productivity by raising the quality of people management”

With improvements in management processes and practices, credible sources suggest that organisations could experience a noteworthy 15-20% boost in productivity over a decade. A 2022 NIESR study suggested a 15% productivity increase in the UK over a decade is possible by closing the G7 gap. While a McKinsey report envisaged a 20% boost through new tech and best practices adoption.

The CIPD underscores the transformative potential of HR and L&D in elevating business growth: “There is an untapped potential to boost productivity by raising the quality of people management”.

How people factors boost performance

Consider how components of HR and L&D have an impact on organisations. Big financial numbers are involved: for example, Gallup estimates that low employee engagement costs the global economy US$8.8 trillion annually in lost production.

New technology and skills investment: If an organisation does not invest in new technology and the skills to match, it is highly likely to undermine its competitive ability. Within HR and L&D itself, technology will streamline processes and offer more tailored and accessible learning experiences that have a potentially powerful effect.

Engagement and fulfilling work: In a thriving environment, engaged employees are more motivated and productive, therefore employee attention to engagement is essential for sustainable business progress.

Organisations that understand the place of fulfilling work recognise it’s a strategic imperative for long-term success and high levels of competitive performance improvement. The current climate of skill shortages acutely demonstrates the value of attention to motivation from various sources, whether intrinsic motivation from the job itself or extrinsic motivation, such as financial rewards and incentives.

Communications: Effective and regular communication is key to fostering efficiency, but is often neglected. To support raising standards, an HR L&D strategy that works should aim for effective skills and structures to foster a culture emphasising the value of improvement. A cultural message of transparency and solution-focused discussions will be valuable messages to promote effective effort and change.

Data management: If an organisation does not have access to the information they need for analysis and decision-making, or if the data is inaccurate or difficult to use, it can lead to frustrations and wasted time and effort. Instilling confidence in making decisions based on sound information requires investment and skill development.

Management styles and approach: The style of management and its approach can also directly impact productivity. For example, today’s more collaborative and inclusive approach favours open boundaries, so erecting artificial or outdated silos or boundaries is a blockage to free-flowing communications, which needs attention to avoid holding up progress.

Technology and AI
Technology offers many opportunities, like smoother processes and meeting employee needs more closely. This means consideration in HR and L&D of implementing HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems) and advanced LMS (Learning Management Systems). AI should be seriously considered for HR and L&D to test its potential. If adopted, it is important to regularly update employees about the role and purpose of AI in the organisation, ensuring transparency and reducing fears such as job loss.

AI is a game-changer
AI is poised to be a productive game-changer, though specifics are still in the rapid testing and development stage. Forecasts suggest it will play a substantial role in every aspect of the organisation and has the potential to enhance the overall employee experience: it can automate repetitive HR tasks, such as recruitment screening, interview scheduling, and onboarding and, importantly, free up time for looking ahead. For example, AI can be used to predict employee trends and patterns, identify skill gaps, and assess employee feedback.

Not only HR and L&D, but every level and every part of the organisation can expect change. Levels of management will need to reassess their roles, especially at the middle management level, as AI takes up project management and performance tracking roles. The routine in many jobs will disappear and allow more time and space for critical thinking and to undertake tasks requiring greater human discretion.

Choosing the right focus

To get the most out of HR and L&D, ceaselessly align your strategies with your organisation’s goals. Tune in to your organisation’s decision process. Often this means using surveys and performance data as a guide to pinpoint where to focus and prioritise initiatives based on their potential impact, feasibility, and return. The key is to choose measures, qualitative and quantitative, in line with your organisation’s objectives and regularly monitor them.

In most cases, it is advisable to set clear, measurable goals, to stay flexible as an initiative progresses, and start by collecting information to identify the best places to begin.

Communication – collect feedback from employees to identify communication bottlenecks or issues.

Technology and skills development – identify the technological tools and skills required to enhance productivity. Allocate budget for tech upgrades and tools.

Engagement and fulfilling work
– conduct regular engagement surveys and listening sessions. HR Data Management Identify where data resides, how it’s used, and who has access. Review how technology could improve matters.

Management style and approach – instigate employee surveys to understand perceptions about current management styles. Develop and refine a performance management system against defined criteria, for example, transparency, consistency, and alignment with company goals.


HR and L&D could be a springboard to the future with proactive policies which combine new technology and an engaged workforce. Committed leadership from HR and L&D can significantly improve productivity by addressing key areas effectively.

Steve Macaulay is an associate development specialist at Cranfield Executive Development, focusing on the management of change and development. He can be contacted at s.macaulay@cranfield.ac.uk

Steve Macaulay

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