We are told that we are in the fourth Industrial Revolution – the digital age.
In the construction industry, concepts such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Flying Factories are part of the revolution and need vision and investment – in a sector where there has been seismic shockwaves through the supply chains with the collapse of Carillion and talk of how this could happen.
At a recent meeting at the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Leeds, we considered the challenges around increasing productivity, exploring Communication, Employee Engagement, Workloads and Wellbeing strategies.
There are a real mix of factors affecting us and regional differences are just as relevant here as in any other business subject. We are told London has almost twice the productivity levels of some of the regions and that affects us overall.
My business Airmaster does a lot of work in the south and we don’t feel we would have survived if that was not the case. In my view, we have major issues around infrastructure investment. I can get to London on a train and see customers in two hours from Sheffield, less from Doncaster or Chesterfield, while going anywhere across the country can take the same time for half the distance – what is that all about?! Investing more cash in regional transport projects is a step forward and even small improvements on local projects would be great too.
Similarly, the digital infrastructure needs support. The Superfast South Yorkshire (SFSY) project is good where it can support SMEs but the whole area needs to have great broadband. When we moved our offices to Swallownest, we didn’t have the best. We now have great fibre connections and it does make a difference, especially when a lot of our designs are done across virtual project teams and our job sheets from engineers are uploaded via the internet. I am told that there is a massive skills gap in the telecoms area and we are really running to catch up! I know that there are people working on this, but there lots of skilled people are needed now.
Any upskilling is often cited as a key area for improvement, particularly management training. Many SMEs are started by people passionate about doing what they do but before long, they are employing staff, having to motivate teams – not why they started out! It is hard and we all need help when it comes to motivation and productivity.
I have had loads of management training but productivity demands that it is an ongoing process. I have just been told by a key member of our team that I demotivated him in one quick review – it wasn’t meant that way, but it was all in the delivery.
Motivation is a direct link to productivity. Happy teams will work hard, work smarter and enjoy doing it. It is not all about being at work many hours, it is about doing the right things in the time you are there.
This past year has been a real challenge for us and we are looking to refocus at the moment. We have struggled to recruit into key roles and it has caused a few headaches. We are told that UK Plc’s best future is a high skill, knowledge-based economy. We are also told that flexible working and Focused Quality Management, looking at outputs rather than hours worked – will be key, which are all management challenges.
Finally, we have spent some time with Westfield Health looking at wellness in the workplace and they have supported us with strategies across a number of different topics including resilience, sleep seminars and wellness assessments. I struggle with poor sleep and it is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the UK 200,000 lost working days – which is a massive drain on productivity. Productivity gains are made by workers getting a little more sleep and being a little fresher at work.
In the words of Vincent Van Gogh: ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.’
So let’s keep going – onwards and upwards!