My Column

Looking after your workers is just the job

  • Date: Monday 22nd April 2019
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Bad news is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to our job market in the current climate, so any positives really should be embraced and celebrated.

I was therefore delighted when it was revealed last week that Scotland’s unemployment rate has fallen again.

While such figures can too often be misleading and fail to tell the whole story of a very nuanced national picture, they’re still a good indicator of job fortunes and wider economic performance.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the total number of people employed in Scotland rose to a record 2,688,000 between December last year and February 2019, up from 2,671,000 in the previous period.

That represents an employment rate of 75.6 per cent. Better still, the number of people out of work has hit a record low of 3.3 per cent.

Put in context, that’s the lowest it has been since 1992 and lower than the UK average of 3.9 per cent.

I’ve done business all over the world, and often communicate across multiple continents, but I choose to work from Scotland as I believe it’s a great place to realise my ambitions. I’m therefore proud to say that there seems to be a real drive in the workforce of this country, which is clearly reflected in these new statistics.

As well as high rates of employment, UK figures have revealed that Brits work on average two-and-a-half weeks more than their EU counterparts. Full-time workers averaged a dedicated 42 hours per week last year - almost two hours more per week than our neighbouring countries.

I must say, I’m not sure if I’d agree that longer working hours necessarily equate to increased productivity. In my experience, if staff are happy, there will be more productivity and better results for the employer.

I’ve actually heard of a few companies in Scotland switching to a four-day working week in an attempt to encourage greater efficiency and focused hard work during office hours.

The idea is that staff will give more to their jobs as they will have more free time to spend with family, playing sports, and feeling refreshed when they return to the office. They believe that a more content workforce produces better results for their employers.

One of the early adopters was Pursuit Marketing, a Glasgow-based employer that switched 120 people to four days in late 2016. Since then they have claimed an incremental 30 per cent increase in productivity.

This employer is also widely regarded as being innovative for the health and wellbeing of its staff, offering mental health support as well as fitness classes. Perhaps companies should be taking a leaf out of their book, as clearly they must be doing something right?

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now when it comes to EU trade and the job market, but I’m looking at it as a challenge that can be overcome.

Let’s hope that Scotland defies the doom and gloom and the employment rate continues to rise next year, as it has done in recent times. I’m sure it will take more than a precarious Brexit deal to keep the Scottish workforce down.

But we also need to undertake meaningful preparations now in order to make the most of the extension that’s been granted by the EU.

Only through careful and rigorous planning can we weather the Brexit storm and ensure that jobs are secured.

 

SIDE

Everyone now recognises that Scotland needs to urgently turn over a new leaf and harness greener technologies in the fight against climate change.

It was encouraging then to hear that the amount of green power generated north of the border reached record levels last year.

Data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed that 26,708 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity was produced north of the border in 2018 – a 6.1 per cent increase on 2017.

The output means nearly three quarters of the country’s annual gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources.

Much of the increase was due to offshore wind farms, with capacity and generation both more than doubling in the past 12 months.

The Scottish Government has also recognised the importance of energy diversity. Last week the Scottish Investment Bank made a sizable contribution to the £3.46 million investment secured by renewables company Sustainable Marine Energy to develop its PLAT-I tidal energy platform system.

The deal will enable the company to develop its tidal energy technologies and further cement Scotland’s place as a pioneer in the global transition to a low carbon economy.

Businesses have also taken notice of the role they play in achieving the nation’s green targets.

Scottish favourite, Mackie’s of Scotland, announced it is to invest £4 million in a low carbon refrigeration system that will chill its ice cream using sustainable biomass energy.

The company plans to replace its existing freezing equipment using global-warning HCFC gases with power efficient units run on natural refrigerant gas ammonia. The result will be a reduction in CO2 emissions by 90% and no doubt a fantastic ice cream.

It’s fantastic to hear that industry is embracing new ideas. These moves are vital steps in conserving the nation's natural resources, lowering our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing energy security.

 

LAUGH

Today many will still be enjoying what’s left of the weekend’s Easter eggs and facing the dilemma of whether chocolate is acceptable before noon.

Then there are the truly hardcore choc lovers who will be scouring the shelves looking for discounted leftovers. You know who you are.

Plenty of retailers and brands have jumped on the Easter bandwagon to score some publicity. Marks & Spencer capitalised on the current wellness trend with its tongue-in-cheek Yoga Bunny.

Meanwhile, Whyte & Mackay teamed up with chef Rory Macdonald to create the ‘world’s first’ whisky-glazed hot cross buns.

A yoga bunny may just be a ‘stretch’ too far, but The Scotch Cross Bun could become an enduring Easter treat.

My idea? Go hopping mad and combine the two to make a Scotch cross bunny.

 

WEEP

It’s fair to say that turbulence is being experienced across Scotland’s travel industry as it faces uncertain times.

Last week, many were on cloud nine with the news that the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, the ‘Superjumbo’, had landed in Glasgow for the first time.

However, it was back down to earth with a thud after Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, raised concerns over the future of the industry. He cited tax levied on passengers, as well as continuing uncertainty over Brexit, as the lead balloons threatening to ground the industry.

With the Jet2 boss warning of price hikes, it looks like we all ought to get booking and make the most of relatively cheap flights this summer before prices are expected to soar after Brexit come October time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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