How to improve skills and boost productivity

skills and productivity

While some firms undertake workforce planning and development in an effective and sophisticated way, there are many others which don’t, according to the head of Australia’s peak skills advisory body.

“All of our forecasting shows that we will need more skills and higher level skills,” said Robin Shreeve, CEO of the Australian Workplace and Productivity Agency (AWPA), an independent statutory body which provides advice to the government on current, emerging and future skills and workforce development needs.

“If Australia is to fully reap future economic benefits it will need to invest in skills development in the workplace.”

AWPA’s report, In Future Focus: National Workforce Development Strategy, noted that just over one-third of employers report that existing skills are underutilised.

Shreeve also noted that Australia’s overall productivity growth has been relatively weak over the past decade, and he said much work needs to be done in the workplace to ensure Australia is well-equipped to prosper in the Asian Century.

“The business benefits of improved skills utilisation include improvements to profitability, innovation, productivity and retention”

To help address the productivity issue in enterprises, Shreeve said a strategic approach to workforce planning is required to help ensure existing skills are used effectively, skills are constantly developed on and off the job, and learnings are shared across the organisation.

“It involves a cultural shift to seeing skills development and utilisation as an investment rather than a cost,” he said.

Senior leaders and frontline managers must be supportive, and Shreeve said the organisational culture needs to support an environment where ideas can be shared while open communication and consultation is also important.

Strategies need to be underpinned by good HR practices, such as flexible working arrangements in certain environments, and Shreeve said employees also need to feel motivated and valued.

“Managers, including HR managers, have an important role to play in effective skills utilisation and development in the workforce,” he said.

“HR leaders are in a powerful position to present the factual case for investment in workforce development and for the collating the data to show how such investment can have transformational effects.

“There is significant local and international material showing the organisational benefits flowing from different approaches to skills development.”

Shreeve said HR professionals occupy an important place in developing and implementing these initiatives.

“The business benefits of improved skills utilisation include improvements to profitability, innovation, productivity and retention,” he said.

“There is also a positive impact on employee motivation and job satisfaction. Improving skills utilisation is among the management practices most likely to be found in high-performing workplaces.”