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Launch of new initiative to tackle UK productivity puzzle

2 March 2020

Office workers

Two Cardiff University researchers have joined a network which aims to improve productivity in the UK.

Professor Alan Felstead and Rhys Davies are part of the Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) Hub, a £1.95 million project, which is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  The three-year initiative, which is led by the University of Strathclyde, comprises of researchers from seven institutions along with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Higher productivity makes employers more competitive, provides the foundation for wage increases and increases the government’s tax revenues. But productivity in the UK has stagnated since the recession and is one of the reasons why pay growth over the last decade has been so low.

The new PrOPEL hub will coordinate a range of research themes – from management and leadership, innovation, job design, leadership within small and micro-enterprises, and lessons from workplace practice and employee engagement – with the aim of identifying practical steps to boost productivity within businesses and the UK economy at large.

The Hub will also act as a focal point for engagement with policymakers, businesses and employee organisations across the UK, with the aim of informing future decision making with the latest cutting-edge research. Crucially, the focus of the Hub will be on finding out what works and supporting the transfer of these lessons into day-to-day business activities.

Additionally, the CIPD will co-fund a senior post within the Hub. This will provide an opportunity to gain insights from businesses themselves on management practice and employee engagement. At the same time, the CIPD will play a key role in helping to translate the evidence base and research into practical and insightful content for HR and people management professionals.

Professor Alan Felstead, who is based in Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, said: “It is difficult to underestimate the scale of the economic challenge facing the UK at the moment."

On top of the continued uncertainty over Brexit, the UK’s recent productivity performance has been dire and needs urgent attention. This project will allow researchers from across the UK and beyond to liaise with representative bodies and employers to learn what works best and develop strategies to raise the UK’s lacklustre productivity record.

Professor Alan Felstead Research Professor

Co-Investigator Rhys Davies, of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD), said: “Across a variety of measures of economic strength, Wales remains a relatively poor part of the UK.  The persistence of the Welsh productivity gap needs to be addressed so that the people of Wales can enjoy the same chances in life as those that exist elsewhere. This project will explore how businesses in Wales can improve their performance by enhancing the quality of employment so that both employers and workers can reap the benefits of more fulfilling and satisfying work.”

The PrOPEL Hub is being supported by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding of more than £1.5 million as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund. Further funding is being provided by partner universities.

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