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Dale Edwards discusses UK productivity

Dale Edwards, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

According to official figures, the UK’s productivity lags 18% behind the average of its G7 competitors and a staggering 35% behind Germany. When you also factor into the equation that Somerset lags the UK average by 17%, it is clear to see that we must address this productivity black hole.

Improving productivity through people is an obvious place to start. In the South West, it is absolutely fantastic that we have record numbers of people in work. However, on the flip side, Somerset business owners continue to face staff shortages across all sectors, skills and experience levels, with health, social care, engineering and construction highlighted as particular challenges.

The skills and labour shortage in Somerset is affecting business growth and productivity, and it is essential the county retains and develops as much of its home grown talent as possible whilst also attracting new workers to the area. This is the time, like no other, we all need to address leadership and management issues in Somerset. Poor people management and development has been calculated to cost the UK economy by £84billion per year and in my view it is imperative that we focus on the ‘accidental and unskilled manager’, often left to fend for themselves instead of being nurtured and mentored. Training will enable them to become competent, confident and qualified. 

In addition to upskilling current and future leaders, there is increasing evidence that having inclusive leadership through diversity does deliver results. A report by consultancy firm McKinsey & Company indicated that diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform competitors, which could add £150billion to the economy on an annual basis. I would love to see more women in senior positions in businesses across Somerset and will be looking to work with the Chamber’s Board to encourage more Somerset business women who are members of the Chamber onto the Board when posts become available.

With the backdrop of Brexit, many companies fear the end of free movement of talent from the EU. I will continue to influence and campaign for employers across Somerset to have access to the best from Europe – those currently here and in the future – as outlined in our three year manifesto. I have been holding meetings with all the constituency MPs of Somerset to drive home this message, along with other important challenges the business community is facing. Without a vibrant Somerset economy, the public sector will continue to be under pressure. 

Whilst there are challenges to address, there are also successes to celebrate and I am delighted that we have already had a good number of entries for the 2017 Somerset Business Awards. I encourage those businesses that have not entered so far to do so before the deadline of 21 August. I am already looking forward to the Awards ceremony on 20 October, which promises to be another highlight of the Somerset business calendar. We hope to see you there! 

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