Why is productivity so important? The usual explanation often revolves around widgets – the more widgets we produce per person, per hour, the better for individuals, business and the UK economy. But what if you do not work in, or run a widget factory? 

Getting people to work together more harmoniously and more effectively is about more than inputs and outputs (although these are, of course, very important). It is also about the often neglected field of employment relations.   

Acas has looked at all the available research linking key employment relations issues like trust, voice and fairness, with job satisfaction and business outcomes. We then analysed this data in the light of forty years of interactions with businesses of every size and from every sector, and came up with a plan. 

Our plan contains ‘seven levers of productivity’: seven ways in which a typical employer can better align their people issues with their business goals in a way that benefits everyone. It is our firm belief that higher well-being and satisfaction scores can go hand in hand with higher performance and engagement scores. The seven levers are: well-designed work; skilled line managers; managing conflict effectively; clarity around rights and responsibilities; fairness; employee Voice; and trust. 

Every year hundreds of thousands of businesses contact Acas for assistance, but for many self-diagnosis is a useful first step. So we have developed an interactive tool that they can complete in their own office at a time that suits them. It doesn’t have to be very onerous a job. Even looking at just one of the levers can trigger an invaluable period of reflection. The self-evaluation process can be done in one, two or three steps: 

Step one: answering some questions. The tool asks a customer to consider 4 statements about their workplace, using one or more of the levers, and decide how strongly they agree or disagree with each one. The tool uses this information to make an assessment of where the customer is and identify resources for them to use. It is quick and easy stage because it is just a snapshot of how well they feel things are going. 

Step two: getting a report. The customer can then complete their session and have a report emailed to them, or repeat the process with more levers, and generate a combined report in the same way.  

Step three: getting more tailored help and guidance. The customer also has an opportunity to request a contact from Acas if they would like to discuss ways in which a member of our team of advisers and trainers can help further.

Just as an example, take the issue of trust. An employer may feel that they share information well, consider people’s needs when making decisions, agree that maintaining trust is important, but feel they do not have the same vision of what success looks like across the organisation.  Establishing this is in itself a positive step, but the report from the tool identifies useful resources, such as guidance on communication and consultation, details about Acas training on setting up HR systems, Acas’s employee feedback survey, and the offer of direct assistance to build an action plan for improvement.

In February and March, the tool has been used over 4,300 times, and the most popular areas that customers have focussed on are Skilled Line Managers, Well Designed Work and Conflict Management.  During the same time customers requested over 1,250 reports, and used the tool to ask Acas for more direct help on 26 occasions, leading on to detailed telephone advice and meetings to discuss ways in which customers can use Acas services to improve their productivity.

The intention for the new tool is very much to allow customers to help themselves, and facilitate them getting more in-depth assistance where they need it.  Over the first year of operation, we hope that around 10,000 customers will make use of the tool, and are therefore able to access Acas resources that will help them most, and that in the region of 100-200 will request more in-depth assistance.


To try the tool, please use the following link: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5609

Stewart Gee is Head of Information at Acas. 

The IPA recently published a report looking at employee involvement and its role in boosting UK's productivity. The report can be downloaded on our website: http://www.ipa-involve.com/resources/publications/