Roundtable: Britain’s Future Board on productivity in the workplace


On the May 17th at PageGroup’s London office, Britain's Future Board members explored the best ways to increase and measure productivity within the workplace through a set of specially selected questions.
They discussed the importance of helping employees to achieve their career goals, and what the workplace of the future might look like.

How does increased productivity help you to achieve your career goals?

Claire Canty –I think it’s really important to find ways to manage the day-to-day tasks to allow you to focus on the key things. In every organisation there is a huge amount of admin and internal processes that is completely necessary but which isn't going to make us develop our careers, or challenge ourselves. To combat this I try to “own” my diary and not accept every meeting that comes along. Instead, I schedule meetings and tasks including checking my email so that I leave myself enough time to work on my objectives. By focusing attention on my diary and not my emails, I make sure that I’m not always getting distracted by what other people want me to do.
Tracy Bolton –For me productivity is all about time management and sharing best practice. We know what time of day we tend to make the most sales, so by scheduling my emails and other tasks around this time period, I can make the most of my day. We also have a team meeting each morning where we share what is and what isn't working, which helps us to learn from each other so that we can continue to achieve, and even surpass our objectives.
Stephanie Greenland – I work with global teams in different time zones, so when I come in first thing in the morning, I have a lot of email communications from my Australian and American colleagues and it can sometimes make you feel like your work is driven by your email. On top of this, we also use a cloud collaboration tool, Lync, WhatsApp, and text messaging, etc. If you’re not strict with yourself during the day it is easy to become distracted by them, leaving you with no time to actually get things done. To combat this, I block out time in my diary to work on my projects and during this time I do not take calls or attend meetings. 
Panayiota Koshias – I tackle my emails in the morning, then block out time in my diary for specific work just like Claire and Stephanie. I want to be results driven rather than tasks driven so I tailor my work around what results I want to achieve. I also try and keep to my rule of “no mobile phone on the desk” as it’s easy to get distracted by it each time you receive a new text or email; that is when mistakes start to happen and you can start to become inefficient.

What are the best methods to continually increase productivity, for now and also for the next generation of people coming into the workplace?  

Claire Canty –I think that more needs to be done to equip the next generation of professionals for the workplace. Looking at the new talent coming through, quite often they are strong enough when it comes to the functional areas of the job, but they don’t necessarily have the work experience to take on all the other challenges of working in an office environment. I think it’s important to teach students not just about the theory, principles and practice of marketing but also teach them things like time management and how to be productive.
Tracy Bolton – We have recently implemented a team of around eight performance coaches whose role is solely focused on coaching and who spend time working with people who might be experiencing a dip in their performance. The coach will work with them to develop a three-month plan to help them get back on track. Incentives are also a big part of our sales culture at Virgin Media and the competitive atmosphere that they create drives us to be more productive so that we can achieve more.  
Stephanie Greenland – I agree with Claire, from what I have seen coming into the organisation, and also given our current challenges around giving the induction and on-boarding training in a more consistent way, there is definitely a gap. I also recognise the enthusiasm of those people who are coming into their first job and I think they could often feel let down by companies because they’re not quite set up to give them a good start in an organisation. For most jobs you can have on-job training so it’s about how do you capture their energy, enthusiasm and passion, and then give them the knowledge and skills that they need so that they can move forward.
Panayiota Koshias – It is important that you are keeping on top of training for everyone in your team and being able to share your tips, and experiences with those around you. Sharing best practice and providing support to those just entering the workforce is very important for us at Nordens and every new starter is assigned a mentor in the business. This provides them with someone they can go to with any questions they might have, on not only the how, but also the why we do this, and what effect it has on the business.

How do you align these increases in productivity to the customer experience?

Claire Canty – Product and customer knowledge is extremely important to Weetabix, we spend a lot of time researching our consumer’s behaviour. Everyone is constantly encouraged to get close to customers and Weetabix provide a lot of platforms to enable us to do this. Keeping on top of that and being close to any changes in behaviour is really key internally, in order for us to stay aligned with what our customers need. I also think that the customer experience is linked to how we measure productivity and the way that we define productivity needs to be aligned to the way that our customers define the value of the product or service.
Stephanie Greenland – This is actually one of the main objectives of our current transformation project; how do we become more efficient and organised internally so that we are free to innovate and identify what our clients really want and need, in order for us to create services that fulfil this.
Tracy Bolton –You need to be passionate, understand and believe in what it is you’re offering them. To really engage with a customer, find out what they need and to be able to offer the right product with the right insight you need more than just product knowledge. You need to know about your competitors, share best practice and keep abreast of new technologies and products. I could make 300 calls in a day but only actually speak to three people so I have to make the most out of those conversations and build a rapport. Knowing your product and being passionate about it comes across in the conversation which makes the customer feel valued and your job easier. 
Panayiota Koshias – A big part of customer experience is to set a clear objective at the beginning of a task or project, brief the customer on the agreed outcome and time scales and ensure you keep to it. This manages expectations and helps to keep you focused, all of which links back to the importance of time management and being aware of your priorities.

What do you think the workplace of the future will look like?

Stephanie Greenland – I think there will be new, more flexible ways of working. We will see different ways of doing things that’s based on what works for individuals rather than being dictated by set processes. Five years on from now will we need an office space? I’m not sure. 
Claire Canty – It’s been reported a lot that the UK is very much behind the other economic powers in terms of productivity and we are going to have to evolve to catch up with those other countries by finding ways to work smarter and not harder. I also agree with Stephanie on there being more flexibility. We are already seeing this at Weetabix with the introduction of less core hours in the office, now 10 till 4, and more ability to work from home.
Tracy Bolton – I agree with Claire and Stephanie, At Virgin we are always encouraged to work smart, own your own day and plan your own schedule.
For more insights from the roundtable click here to watch the key insights video.