Lack of well-eductated staff ‘endangering UK brands’
Former CBI boss hits out at poor standards
The reputations of UK brands are being put in danger by the lack of well–educated and trained staff, according to business guru Lord Digby Jones. The former head of the Confederation of British Industry told a conference that in a globalised economy the only way for the UK to win is to have a skilled and well-educated workforce.
“We can’t undercut Vietnam or Brazil in terms of price – we must sell goods on the basis of quality and brand,” he said.
He added that this ability to compete was being held back by poor levels of education. Citing Microsoft’s recent prediction that 75% of future jobs will require strong numerical skills, he was critical of the fact that less than 50% of UK students achieved above Grade C in GCSE Mathematics this year.
“Twenty per cent of UK adults are functionally illiterate. All this means we are not going to win in a globalised race,” he added. “We must have people who are properly equipped to deal with the outside world and with business. They must be properly educated, trained and happy about the environment they work in.
“Business must stand up and demand we are given the reservoir of talent that can be trained up. We need well-trained employees to get customers onside and wanting to spend their money with you.”
He champions a back to basics approach to improving education and says teaching of the ‘three Rs’ (reading, writing and arithmetic) should remain central to the curriculum at later age groups if basic standards of numeracy and literacy have not been met by the age of 11.
He also advocates getting less academic teenagers out of school and into work at 14 to learn a trade or skill, and to cut University courses from three years to two with shorter holidays.
“The world has changed and we have to change,” he says.
His comments at the Call Centre Expo event in Birmingham came just hours before details emerged of Government Business Secretary Vince Cable’s planned speech at the Liberal Democrat conference, which is heavily critical of business and particularly banking malpractice, calling bankers “spivs and gamblers in the City.”
It’s fair to say that the Lord and the Minister are not singing from the same hymnsheet.
While conceding that banks’ “arrogance and greed” caused the recession, he says the fallout has hurt the private more than the public sector.
Digby Jones, also a former government crossbench trade minister, says of the current economic situation: “For every £4 we spend in this country £1 has been borrowed. If we are going to get out of this mess, only business will do it. Lots of other parts of society will tell you how to spend money, but only business earns it. The tax funding for public services comes from business profits, investment and employment – all that tax had its origins in business profits.”
The Digby-Jones guide to customer care
When asked to out line two simple but effective things that bosses can do every day to improve their company’s customer care culture, Digby-Jones highlighted:
– Say “please” and “thank you”: Politeness to staff such as the receptionist, man on the gate and tea lady. These are all people who have first contacts with your customers, and bosses not being arrogant has a big effect on staff.
– Say “sorry” for mistakes and mean it: This will save a lot of management time, avoids long arguments and means you can work together to solve the problem your mistake has caused.