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Overconfidence on productivity is hampering British performance

New research from Be the Business, the new organisation created to improve the performance of UK firms, has found that the vast majority of British bosses rate their skills highly relative to their peers. In turn, they invest little time in making their business run better. Be the Business is encouraging bosses not to rest on their laurels, and introduce improvements to boost their performance.

The survey of over 1,000 SME business owners and managers found that:

  • Four in five (79 per cent) believed their business was as productive or more productive than their peers. This shows a similar result to previous research by the CIPD which shows almost 95 per cent of UK employees believe they are as or more productive than their peers
  • Businesses across the UK rated their performance highly. In the Midlands, 83 per cent of those surveyed rated their productivity as equal to or better than peers, and 78 per cent of Londoners felt the same
  • More than a quarter (28 per cent) of businesses surveyed have never evaluated their business practices to identify areas of improvement
  • Lack of time was cited as the biggest reason for not adopting best practices in their business (25 per cent agreed), while 12 per cent struggle to find what best practices look like for their firm, and a further ten per cent don’t know where to go for advice on boosting performance
  • Small business owners (fewer than 50 employees) are more humble than their larger competition. While three quarters (77 per cent) of small business leaders rate their performance as equal to or better than their peers, 87 per cent of medium size business (50-249 employees) feel the same
  • Productivity in the UK grew by 0.9 and 0.7 per cent in the final two quarters of 2017, the strongest growth since 2011. However, the UK’s output per hour remains around 25 per cent behind European competitors like France and Germany

Be the Business is urging bosses to use Brexit as a spur to take stock and asses how good their business really is compared to their peers. It has developed a benchmarking tool to enable business leaders to compare their firms with the competition and find practical advice on what they can do to improve their performance.

Tony Danker, chief executive at Be the Business, said: “Evidence shows that business leaders consistently overestimate the performance of their businesses, and Brexit will only increase the demand for our firms to be more competitive. Bosses must raise the performance of their businesses to put themselves in the best place to manage the challenges and opportunities life outside the EU will bring.

“The UK has a long way to go in order to catch up with our European neighbours who are able to produce in four days, what it takes five to produce in the UK. With less than a year to go before we leave the EU, bosses must start now to make the most of the opportunities it presents and make Britain’s economy the most competitive in Europe.

“If bosses commit to improving their firms’ performance, British business will thrive whatever our post Brexit landscape looks like.”

Notes to editors

YouGov surveyed 1,067 GB business owners and managers for Be the Business between 5 and 13 March 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

CIPD (2015), Autumn Employee Outlook

Q: Thinking about the overall productivity of your business (i.e. the amount your business produces/ sell per staff member) compared to other businesses in your industry… Generally speaking, would you say your business is more or less productive than other businesses in your industry, or is it about the same?

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