Productivity. Sit at any board table and you’ll hear this word uttered on numerous occasions. A word that many company owners love to hate. However, it’s something we can’t get away from, and to coincide with emergency budget day, Radio 5 live recently took a more in-depth look into differences in productivity between British and German manufacturing businesses. Yours truly was invited to join BBC journalist Fiona Trott on a visit to a German company based near Karlsruhe to see if, as CEO of Octink, there was anything I could learn about British and German mentalities, and by extension the reason that they are often more productive as a country than we are. The findings were not surprising: the integration between our respective educational systems and business, alongside a permanent programme of research and development. Listen to the full interview here.
At Octink I am pleased to say that we really are very engaged with our community, working closely with local students as well as our employees and involved in different community initiatives, and this has benefitted our company in many ways. But we are continually looking for ways to learn and to improve, as staff support is such an important aspect for us. When this opportunity to join Radio 5 Live came along I jumped at the chance to compare what we do with another country’s methodologies.
Something that struck me immediately from the visit, was how German companies take a longer term view of things than perhaps small to mid-sized businesses are able to do in the UK. Being an apprentice in Germany is completely different from over here and is much better structured. At Aluplast (where our visit took place) approximately 10% of staff are still involved in education but have guaranteed jobs once their studies come to an end. Fortunately at Octink we actively encourage apprenticeships (in fact we’ve two starting towards the end of this month) but that isn’t necessarily the norm for a company of our size. Interaction and education via the school and university systems ultimately leads on to employer engagement, and working with students allows a business to get to know potential future members of staff and where they may fit.
So, my key takeaway for improving productivity over the medium to longer term? With a bit more government assistance, then perhaps it would be possible for a larger proportion of businesses to work with local colleges and universities and encourage a two way channel between business and education. This can only lead to good things for future generations. And let’s not forget the R and D, surely we all understand that one…..