On Wedesday (13 June), Sharing in Growth showcased its 2018 finalists. CEO, Andy Page, gave an outline of SiG's progress to date and underlined the importance of employee engagement to achieve sustainable business growth.
Andy Page opened the event with an overview of how Sharing in Growth – the government-backed competitiveness improvement programme – had created a positive impact and managed to support more than 60 aerospace-focused businesses to boost their productivity over the past five years.
The most powerful part of the programme, Page said, is creating a formal and informal network among the delegates who represent more than 11,000 people working within UK aerospace.
Since 2013, SiG support has seen annual capital investment more than double and secured 4,300 jobs. Furthermore, its members are on track to secure more than £60 of contract value for every £1 of government investment.
Page commented: “We have a commitment to the government which defines exactly the value of the contracts the SiG members have to secure. Up to now, they have contributed over £2.4bn of contract values.”
But what is even more important is that 21% of SiG members are ahead of what they themselves wanted to achieve in terms of the proposal, held up as proof that the SiG model is performing well.
Managers and engineers have a sound understanding of two of SiG’s business growth pillars – investment and technologies; but, when it comes to strengthening the third – people capabilities (or the promotion of so-called ‘soft skills’), things aren’t as clear cut.
Page warned: “Unless we create the capability within our staff, investment and technology won’t bear as much fruit as we want it to.”
When Page was working as an engineer, he believed there were no problems that time and money couldn’t fix, because in engineering everything is predictable and forces behave according to the laws of nature.
“Later I understood that it is people who are not predictable or rational at all. They do things which they don’t communicate, and they say things which they don’t put into action,” he explained.
From human ‘doing’ to human ‘being’
Most leaders would agree that engaging people plays a crucial role in running a successful business, yet, the problem, according to Page, is that our inherent ‘Britishness’ can lead to involving and engaging with people in the workplace becoming slightly abstract and impersonal. “We are talking about ‘companies’ because the word ‘company’ is a social term,” he said.
The SiG business transformation scheme is fundamentally about engaging people, creating new challenges and helping staff to rise to them. However, this new way of thinking requires people to move away from the mechanical process of doing things to engage the being.
The crucial question to answer, Page continued, was ‘Is engagement an attitude, a behaviour or an outcome?’. According to the CEO, it’s all three. What is even more important, is that engagement is measurable and a self-fulfilling, virtuous circle – performance creates engagement, and engagement fuels further performance (so as long as the engagement is addressable and not manipulated).
Productivity puzzle & people capability
A recent government productivity report compared the UK against its G7 peers, and revealed that the UK’s ability to collaborate, experiment and access information is world-class. Furthermore, the UK also performs above average in regards to implementing training strategies and inventing skills processes.
However, with respect to driving adoption of new technologies and new ways of thinking, it is evident that the UK underperforms – particularly its industrial sectors. “In a conference, we like to see good ideas, then we go back and send our people on training courses. But we forget to tell people why we are sending them, we don’t communicate the long-term vision,” Page noted.
The report aims to get to the heart of the UK’s productivity puzzle, and poses the crucial question is: ‘How can the UK better profit from the great ideas the people in this country have?’ The answer may lie in improving people capabilities through regular constructive feedback, the creation of a challenging work environment and targeted coaching strategies.
What can be done by the government?
Over the years, there have been a myriad of government-driven initiatives all aiming to make the UK one of the world’s most innovative economies. The recent Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, highlighted ‘people’ as a core pillar and set out an intent to establish a more technically-focused education system, to help employees to learn new skills (particularly digital capabilities), and to help business create effective employee engagement strategies.
However, many SMEs still find it challenging to attract and secure investment to help them develop people capabilities, Page said. “We need to emphasise this barrier and get the right systems and procedures in place to overcome it,” he concluded.
The RLC Group, a privately-owned company that has been working within the aerospace industry since 1956, is one example of a SiG member which has successfully completed the ‘growth phase’.
So far, it has seen:
- 33% increased throughput on aerospace textiles with no additional headcount (£8m to £10.6m)
- 70% reduction in supply chain arrears, 22% reduction in inventory
- 120% increase in throughput on MOOG
- 15% reduction in product cost