Great British Productivity – a matter of pride

This is GDP week. On Thursday we will get the latest snapshot of the immediate state of our nation’s economy. If you are reading this outside the UK, please forgive my parochialism! From the vox pops I am hearing this week @radiofivelive this sounds like a recovery driven by the UK’s capacity to deliver to overseas markets.

I joined the UK workforce in 1983, it was a profoundly depressing time when you did not hear phrases such as “we do this better than anyone else in the world”, certainly not with conviction, certainly not from manufacturing folk.

“we are doing alright at the moment- we are doing good”.

and that was from the shop floor.

OK so we now have a “value add” not a “volume” manufacturing sector, but it compliments a thriving services sector which is good news for our Great British Productivity.

This sense of pride in the performance of someone’s company is profoundly uplifting. In the way it was uplifting sharing in the nation’s recent sporting success.

It is that pride in being ahead of the curve, producing medal-winning performance, that produces the momentum for change. Conversely, if we know we are under-performing and have no pride in what we do, then the job is no more than a fulfillment of the contractual hours. Here there is no sense of common purpose and the net result is failure.

In UK financial services, we have for many years a very easy ride. Targets have been based on simple metrics turnover and margin. Metrics around “doing a good job” have been few and far between. This is especially the case in pensions when the results of our efforts can be thirty years away. Many of the people I sold pensions to when I started out in the early 80s are now retiring and I still know them! I see the poor outcomes (relative to expectation) and I am truly sad. These outcomes are the product of a flabby financial services that feathered its own nest before its customers.

While there are still people who perpetuate this “carry-on”, they are fewer than they were. Just as in manufacturing industry, we are beginning to benchmark ourselves against the best in the world and asking how we can “do good”.

I have said before that we need our financial services leaders to lead ; yes I am talking to you Tim Jones at NEST, Lawrence Churchill at the PPF, Andrew Warwick-Thompson at tPR and Steve Webb and Gregg McClymont in Westminster. And lead they have. I give this lot and many more ten out of ten for vision and effort.

But if this restoration of Great British Productivity is to stretch into the way we organise our savings and pensions industry, then it needs to be bottom up as well. People , such as myself and the thousands of people in the Pension Play Pen linked in group who are reading stuff like this, need to make sure that the hours they spend at work are productive. We need to redefine what “productive” means and recognise that whatever we regards as good in our local targeted way, must also be good for British Productivity.

I had the great good fortune to run into Paul Boscott last week. Paul is one of the architects of the success of British financial services. Paul and his colleagues at http://www.fairlife.org.uk/FLForecast.cshtml?id=104 are just starting on a mission to restore confidence and pride in what we do in financial services. Like http://www.pensionplaypen.com his website recognises until people have pride not just in providing but in purchasing uk financial services, then we cannot say we have succeeded.

Great British Productivity is driven from a platform of pride and a recognition that we are ultimately judged by the experience of our customers and not by the artificial measures of success surrounding short-term sales targets.

This is the Olympic legacy and it is one we can all share in.

This blog was first published at https://www.pensionplaypen.com/top-thinking/show/96/great-british-productivity-a-matter-of-pride.html

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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