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Productivity is key to the future growth of the Northern Powerhouse 26 July 2017

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A massive northern economy, strong business growth and a wealth of new skills and talent migrating to the region have all served to make the Northern Powerhouse one of the most exciting prospects for future growth in the UK over the last few years.

With an economy estimated to be worth nearly £300 billion across the three main regions it covers, the Northern Powerhouse has the potential to create thousands of jobs and spawn thousands of new companies in exciting sectors in the years ahead, placing it as one of the most important parts of the country's future plans.

In order for the region to succeed, there have been numerous plans made over the course of the last few years. Improvements in transport links from an HS2 project planned to be at least partially completed by 2031, and an increase in collaboration through the Northern Powerhouse Partnership are just a couple of the visions that are seen as having the ability to help the region grow.

However, when it comes to long-term improvements, one aspect that is repeatedly highlighted as more important than almost anything else is productivity. If the Powerhouse can steadily improve its productivity over the years, then it should be able to realise its true potential. It's a thought process that has been in place for a number of years, and one that was reinforced by Vodafone's head of North West regional business, Rob Mukherjee, speaking at Insider's Redefining Productivity for the Northern Powerhouse 2017 recently.

Calls for more productivity as a driver for growth of the northern economy have a basis in how companies in similar areas around the world perform. According to the Centre for Cities, Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad region cities such as Amsterdam, Bonn, Leverkusen, Harlemmermeer and Düsseldorf - which are often seen as equivalent to the Powerhouse - are 40 per cent more productive than their British counterparts.

Improving productivity

Improving productivity in any city or region comes down to making sure that individuals are performing better, as a way to make sure larger targets and goals can be achieved. For example, a higher quality of life in a city is vital to making it more productive on the whole.

This is something that was discussed by Centre for Cities, which said that the HS2 links are all well and good, but more needs to be done to improve inner city transport. This directly affects people living and working there, and is a more effective driver for growth. For example, Leeds is known as the biggest European city without a tram network.

Improving transport in the city makes people who live there happier, and this in turn, helps to improve productivity. After all, productivity is all about people, and when people are well catered for, they work and perform better.

This is something Mr Mukherjee also touched on when highlighting the three pillars he believes are key to unleashing the potential of the Northern Powerhouse. He said, for example, that in companies with a good management style as part of their culture, productivity can be up by as much as ten per cent.

His organisation's study also discovered that when good management policies are combined with strong technology use, productivity can rise by as much as 20 per cent, while flexible working practices can also improve profits and productivity in nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of companies.

These points of focus all have one thing in common; people. They all centre around ensuring that anyone who works in the Northern Powerhouse has a good experience of doing so, and becomes happier and more productive as a result, helping to improve the region as a whole.

It's a belief that has long been the cornerstone of the Northern Powerhouse's growth. When George Osborne launched the Northern Powerhouse Partnership in early 2017, the former chancellor's report recommended four key focal points for the city's growth.

These included a focus on skills and investment therein, transport connections between all northern hubs, collaboration to drive investment to business sectors, and leadership and spending from organisations to further grow the region and make it a force on a global scale. Again, these are all points that centre around people, their experience and the availability of good jobs and options around where they live.

In the modern world, productivity can also be driven within companies on a more granular level. As well as providing flexible working possibilities and improving management style, companies can seek to focus on the experience people have of their workplace. For example, how does their office perform for them?

In order for people to be productive at work, they need an office that makes them feel comfortable and ready to work. This can involve having plenty of open spaces to move around and feel flexible in, the ability to hot desk and work collaboratively with colleagues, and having access to natural light and high air quality, both of which have been proven to impact health, and by extension, productivity.

Modern offices that focus on people and their experience at work can help to drive productivity forward, which can, in turn, make the Northern Powerhouse as a whole a force to be reckoned with.

To find out more about the productivity benefits of a modern, well designed office space, visit our website for more information.


Manchester cityscape
Manchester cityscape