Employer collaboration, the key to unlocking business potential?

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In business competing is the name of the game, but a new UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) report highlights why effective cooperation rather than competition can improve companies' productivity.

The report draws lessons from UKCES' UK Futures Programme, which, through a series of 'productivity challenges', helps employers to pilot innovative solutions to address specific workforce development problems.

It demonstrates, across sectors such as construction, manufacturing and legal services, that with good project management and communication, businesses who would otherwise be competing can work together to solve challenges they share.

Alex Lubbock, BIM Development Manager at Carillion, who took part in the project said: "Having this opportunity to work with other companies in our industry allowed us to identify those partners that really want to move forward with us and to share innovations. The advantages came from knowledge sharing and networking as much as anything else. By harnessing the power of collaboration everyone involved was able to gain more benefits than if we had tackled these issues alone."

The report, Employer leadership and collaboration to address workforce development challenges, outlines several benefits of businesses sharing information, learning and resources. UKCES found that cooperation between employers and education providers can help to produce educational outputs aligned to the requirements of business; and products that have greater credibility with a broader range of businesses.

The publication also cites research which shows small businesses are half as likely to have collaborated in the last year as large businesses, but small businesses in particular benefitted from the new opportunities afforded through networking and the pooling of resources offered by the UK Futures Programme. Many employers from the projects plan to continue working together in order to explore these opportunities.

Carol Stanfield, Assistant Director at UKCES, said: "This report shows that there are clear, tangible benefits to collaboration; especially for those smaller businesses who can share resources to deliver the sort of professional development big business can provide more economically. We are really pleased to see that some of the collaborations started as a part of our UK Futures Programme are going to continue and we're confident that these will be beneficial for all involved."

The report also finds that:

  • Employers identify a common goal, good project management and strong communications as the most important factors in a successful collaboration
  • The main barriers to companies teaming up are the financial and time requirements, particularly during the initial stages of collaboration
  • The most common motivation for employers to collaborate is 'to share best practice from previous experience'

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