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Boosting productivity starts with better information about the competitiveness of Canadian business investments

Deloitte study finds more than a third of companies are unaware they’re underinvesting

Toronto, June 13, 2013 – Canadian businesses that think they’re investing enough in their own growth, but are actually underinvesting compared to their peers, are a significant cause of Canada’s persistent and growing productivity gap with the rest of the world, according to the latest in Deloitte’s series of studies on the future of productivity, released today.

The report, The future of productivity: A wake-up call for Canadian companies, overturns a long-held assumption about the cause of Canada’s lagging productivity. While it has been suggested that many companies are complacent and don’t want to grow, Deloitte found that these “static” companies make up just 14 percent of Canadian firms. The rest are eager to grow and willing to take risks, but 36 percent of them are “overconfident” — they are completely unaware that they are investing significantly less than their counterparts. As a result, they have failed to take advantage of the many productivity improvement policies and incentives put in place by governments in recent decades to grow their businesses. The report suggests that changing the behaviour of these companies through better competitive intelligence offers the best opportunity to start reversing the decline in relative productivity performance that has seen Canada fall to 13th among 16 peer countries.

“This is not a case of governments in Canada failing to do enough to help companies innovate and boost productivity, nor are these companies reluctant to invest,” said Bill Currie, Deloitte’s Managing Director for the Americas and co-author of The Future of Productivity series. “These overconfident firms need to realize that they aren’t investing enough in research and development, machinery and equipment, and information and communication technology compared to their competitors. For most of them, it’s a case of solving a problem they aren’t even aware exists.”

The report praised Canadian businesses that invest above the median for their size and sector and are helping to drive growth through their productivity-enhancing investments. It also noted that overconfident firms share many traits with these dynamic, growth-oriented companies. Deloitte believes that if overconfident firms had a better understanding of how their investments compare with those of their competitors, they would change their behaviour and live up to how they see themselves – as risk-taking, highly competitive innovators.

“With better information, overconfident firms could be motivated to increase their investment levels, which could decrease Canada’s spending disparity with the United States by 29 per cent,” said Mr. Currie. “Many businesses are still unaware of how such information could help benchmark their investment and strategic decisions, or the importance of understanding how their investment levels compare to their peers.”

Today’s report is the third in Deloitte’s ongoing series of studies into the future of productivity. The first report, An eight-step game plan for Canada, was published in 2011 and showed that Canadian business leaders are more risk averse than those in the United States and are much more likely to avoid investment in research and development, relying instead on government support to pursue innovation. The second, Clear Choices for a Competitive Canada, was published in 2012 and demonstrated that rapidly growing companies are the greatest contributors to productivity growth but that few Canadian companies are able to maintain high levels of growth and most Canadian start-ups slow down or disappear, because they have not yet mastered the art of sustaining high levels of growth, which includes appropriate levels of R&D, M&E and ICT investments that drive productivity and help to deliver a competitive edge.

Download a copy of The future of productivity: A wake-up call for Canadian companies or previous reports in the series.

About Deloitte Canada
Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services.  Deloitte LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. Deloitte operates in Quebec as Deloitte s.e.n.c.r.l., a Quebec limited liability partnership.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

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