Developing the Management Training & Skills needed to improve our national productivity

“A key to achieving success is to assemble a strong and stable management team.” – Vivek Wadhwa


Throughout the 20th century, national productivity, measured by output per hour worked, rose consistently. From this we were able to pay ourselves higher wages and generally increase our standard of living. There were ‘blips’ where for short periods in time productivity didn’t rise, but these coincided with recessions, following which productivity rose again.

However, ever since 2007 something dramatic has happened in that productivity has basically failed to improve and has stagnated.

So why is this?

We could argue that the financial crisis and subsequent lack of capital investment or the introduction of either Windows Vista or the iPhone are to blame, but seriously we have to look elsewhere.

There is a clear correlation bizarrely between the rise in self-employment and real output per hour. It would appear that the more entrepreneurs we have the less entrepreneurial we become! But this can’t really explain the productivity conundrum.

It’s true that the vast majority of start-ups fail to (or don’t wish to) turn into high-growth enterprises and are contributing to the decline in productivity, but we also can see that large enterprises are failing to improve too. They seem to have lost the ability to innovate and grow, if they really had it in the first place.

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In fact, we could argue that the decline in productivity started much earlier and that the period prior to 2007 was actually an illusion created by an overzealous, asset inflating financial sector.

What is clear though is that there is a clear connection between an ongoing and worsening skills shortage and the provision and take-up of appropriate management training, particularly in leadership and entrepreneurship.

Recently, the Government launched its Industrial Strategy which is seen as a key element in driving productivity improvements. There are five elements to it: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places.

In terms of People and rectifying the skills shortage, the critical element is the commencement of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and funded through the Apprenticeship Levy. Given also the damning announcement last week that the take up of apprenticeships has plummeted by over 50% since the introduction of the levy system, we might as well suggest putting an astronaut on Mars by the same date, as it’s an equally unrealistic target!

If apprenticeships are the Government’s answer to rectifying the skills shortage and will be effectively funded, then what is available from a strategic leadership and entrepreneurial perspective?

Searching the Government’s Institute for Apprenticeships database yields only one result for courses currently available for delivery, namely the four year Chartered Manager Degree. This effectively means our only current option for driving innovation and productivity from a strategic perspective in both start-up and established organisations is a heavily assessed, four-year programme undertaken one day per week albeit with direct practical application.

So, what are the practical alternatives suitable for enterprises following suggestions from the Yorkshire Powerhouse?

Sadly, there is no easy and obvious answer! The first step is to realise that there is virtually no and very limited funded support. You are going to be funding this development either directly yourself or through your organisation. However, the key point to remember is that appropriate training is well proven to deliver the fastest and greatest return on investment you can undertake – so it should be money well spent.

Secondly there are many excellent local niche training providers offering innovate, time and cost-effective solutions that can often be tailored to your specific needs – so do your research and ask around your networks for recommendations.

Then last but not least, contact the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership for advice on the latest niche funding and support programmes as there might just be a solution currently, or in the very near future, that will help you to make that difference we desperately need at both a local, regional and national level.

As a footnote, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the projected £2bn annual apprenticeship levy fund actually being used as well to support the shorter more focussed skills development initiatives needed, that just might deliver immediate productivity improvement results?

If you’re serious about developing your own management skills, or those of your team, then seek a professional training provider who can support your ambitions.

Blunt advice on Management Training from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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