Soft Skills Are Crucial to Boosting Productivity

When it comes to unlocking the UK’s potential productivity, soft skills are crucial. Leaders from a range of sectors, including retail, hospitality, care and the consultancy sector, say bosses should improve their communication and engagement skills if they want to start boosting their productivity.

boosting productivity

Speaking at an expert panel on productivity hosted by performance consultancy Notion, who were unveiling new research into productivity conducted by London School of Economics into the benefits of ‘Operational Coaching™’, Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, the body representing the adult social care sector in England, said:

“Productivity has become a dirty word in our sector” as he warned against focusing too heavily on processes and not enough on people.

“Processes become ends in themselves. We need to fight that so we can unleash the talents of everybody, from colleagues to residents to families.”

Professor Green said he believed leaders in the care sector needed to foster innovation and creative thinking at all levels.

“The moment someone has a creative idea, the kickback starts. We never acknowledge that people are trying to improve the way we do things.”

(Left to right: Matthew Syed, journalist; Laura Ashley-Timms, of STAR® Manager; Jillian MacLean of Drake & Morgan; Martin Green, CEO of Care England; Stuart Comer of Sainsbury’s

Jillian MacLean, founder of bar and restaurant group Drake & Morgan, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2013 for services to the hospitality industry, was also part of the panel and said she believes her sector is at the dawn of a new era.

Referencing the impressive number of actors and musicians that supplement their incomes by working in hospitality, she urged fellow leaders to be prepared to learn from others.

“People with an arts background working in hospitality have a great mindset, they’re so flexible.”

“People imagine productivity as labour scheduling. We can learn a lot from other sectors about how to approach productivity.

“The best ideas come from teams and customers. For managers, it’s about having the space and time to listen.”

Stuart Comer of Sainsbury’s gave examples e of how soft skills emerged as drivers of productivity when organisations face large challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Productivity isn’t about systems and processes, it’s about human beings.”

“Working through the pandemic forced business to think very differently and in many cases have led to new levels of productivity as a result.”

“Sometimes a major destabilising event can unearth latent potential that has yet to be tapped into. By working differently, businesses were often surprised by how much could be achieved in such a short period of time”

Mr. Comer was also keen to advance the idea of coaching as a driver of productivity and growth.

“Managers increasingly need the ability to coach and give good quality feedback. Feedback in the moment is what drives personal growth.”

His comments are supported by the findings of a government-funded study by the London School of Economics, the largest ever undertaken to assess the impact of applying coaching-related behaviours in the workplace. The study showed that a management transformation programme developed in the UK – STAR® Manager – helped managers to adopt an Operational Coaching™ style of management.

This in turn led to a 70% increase in the time that they spent coaching team members and less time doing tasks that could be done by others. The study also found that the programme delivered statistically significant improvements in workforce engagement, productivity and capability in as little as six months.

On the study, Dominic Ashley-Timms, CEO of performance consultancy Notion, who developed the programme, said:

“Typically, traditional coaching models don’t lend themselves easily to being applied in the workplace as they are designed to support a coachee working on their own goals in line with their development needs. Within the day-to-day bustle of the workplace, the stark reality is that managers just don’t have the time to have multiple off-line ‘coaching sessions’.

However, by learning how to use an Operational Coaching™ approach, the manager can provide effective coaching in a split second, in every interaction, on the fly.”