Is Investors in People recognition worth all the hard work?
For the last four years, the training and enterprise councils (TECs) have been pushing a major scheme - Investors in People (IIP) - to improve training in the workplace. More than 4,000 organisations of all sizes have been accredited, and almost 20,000 more are committed to attaining the necessary standard. But what does this offer, besides another cipher to stick on the letterhead? Corporate culture change means strife and expense for employers, so the commercial benefits had better be clearly demonstrable.
Computer facilities company Electronic Data Systems, which employs 9,500 people in Britain, is not persuaded. 'We looked at IIP some time ago and decided it wasn't relevant to us,' says its UK director of education, Keith Evans. 'The quality of our training programmes is recognised by our staff and customers, and we think that's sufficient.' At least one EDS employee, however, admits to feeling undervalued. 'EDS is very good at telling you how much it cares about its staff,' he complains. 'If it was, you wouldn't need to be told.'
On the other hand, Alan Jones, managing director of the express delivery company TNT, has no regrets about signing up with IIP. 'It's a bloody good idea. We get more value for the money spent on payroll, which produces better P&Ls. Simple.' TNT, with 8,000 employees, inhabits a vastly different industrial sector from EDS, and in this case it's difficult to find a dissenting voice. Gary Billingham, a line manager at the firm's Ramsbottom depot, is a typical enthusiast. 'The company has moved a long way forward with training,' he says. 'The management style is very different from what it used to be. Managers are much more open and staff get lots of support.'
Some see IIP as a stamp of approval which could have a value beyond the company itself. In the early 1990s Rolls-Royce Cars was contracting painfully and morale was at an all-time low. Since then, even though shrinkage continued while the management struggled to bring about a radical change in culture, the business has settled down. 'IIP wasn't what the business needed a few years ago.' says IIP co-ordinator Gary Lunt. 'Now we feel it will act as an external accreditation of what we're already doing.'
Lunt admits there have been problems in pursuing IIP. 'Staff get initiative fatigue,' he points out. 'We have to convince managers to lead by example - saying the right words isn't enough.' But no one seems to think that obtaining IIP recognition is a walk-over. Few companies breeze through the process, says Terry Morgan, managing director of the Royal Ordnance division of British Aerospace and a board director of IIP UK, which administers the scheme. 'It's not a costly exercise but it takes longer than most companies realise.'
Whether it's worth the time and effort may depend largely on the condition of the company at the outset. IIP UK claims that as companies demonstrate the benefits of the standard it becomes easier to sell. But maybe what's needed is some objective measure of its success, like the number of industrial tribunal claims lodged by employees. IIP UK and the Equal Opportunities Commission might compare notes.