Investors in People Special Report: Putting people first is a capital idea

Noel O'Reilly charts the rise of Investors in People UK and finds chief executive, Mary Chapman, defending its record

If the words Investors in People mean nothing to you the chances are they will do in the next few months, provided you work for a medium- or large-sized firm. In the last year there has been a rapid rise in the number of organisations signing up to the government-backed standard, which is designed to make employers take investment in people as seriously as they take investment in plant and equipment.

Established in 1991, IIP got off to a slow start and meeting the government targets for companies achieving the standard by 2000 seemed a pipe dream as recently as a year ago.

But the latest figures from Investors In People UK, show the standard is likely to meet the target of 70 per cent of firms with more than 200 employees and 35 per cent of firms with between 50 and 200 achieving IIP recognition by the millennium.

Independent research just launched by training institute the Industrial Society confirms that there has been a rapid rise in take-up in the last year.

Yet a question mark hangs over IIP's role in bringing about a skills revolution in British industry. Although there are now just under six million people in companies working towards the standard, the vast majority of workers, almost three quarters, remain outside the net. Cash-strapped small employers have been slow to come on board and the biggest British firms have failed to take an effective lead. Does this mean IIP will become a kite mark for an elite band of organisations? Not according to the CBI, which came up with the idea for IIP in the first place.

Margaret Murray, CBI head of learning skills says, "That view is very old fashioned. What is unusual about IIP is its pick-up in a very short time - it goes against the whole Zeitgeist. What I can't understand is the blindness and reluctance to celebrate that."

Ms Murray argues that if you take into account workers in organisations with up to 49 staff there are more involved in IIP than the official figure of 28 per cent suggests. She also argues that the standard will never be relevant to huge numbers of workers because a third of the workforce is employed in very small firms and there are large numbers of self-employed individuals. "IIP is an organisational standard - if you're running a window cleaning company and there's only two of you it's not relevant," says Murray.

Murray also attacks the stereotype of the hard-nosed small employer. "We need some fresh thinking here. We know from our most recent research from the Department for Education and Employment how relatively easy it was for small firms to get IIP recognition. And the benefits to a smaller firm are more keenly felt." Nevertheless the CBI has proposed a voucher system to help small to medium-sized enterprises buy training needs analysis from consultants. The cost of IIP is an issue for employers. Even among the relatively enlightened membership of The Industrial society more than one in 10 survey respondents who decided against committing to IIP felt it was too expensive. Last year the Society found it cost the average organisation about pounds 127 per employee annually on training materials and just more than pounds 200 per head on external training facilities.

One employers' group, the Engineering Employers' Federation, asked the Government to offer a tax incentive in the last Budget for firms that win IIP recognition.

The move followed a survey of 5,200 engineering firms. Murray says EEF members were enthusiastic about it but, "There was a strong feeling among members, particularly among small and medium sized enterprises that an incentive to support Investors in People would encourage more companies to take it up."

The EEF's submission to the Treasury proposed that employers who achieve recognition should get pounds 100 per employee deducted from national insurance contributions.

Investors In People UK hopes firms will be persuaded to sign up by the business benefits of IIP which are endorsed by a series of reports. The latest Industrial Society survey finds that a third of IIP recognised firms found the biggest benefits of gaining IIP are that it more clearly links operational plans and human resource strategy, makes training more focused on business needs and improves training evaluation.

There is also evidence that IIP makes firms more competitive and profitable. A report by Cranfield School of Management in 1995, for example, found that IIP-recognised firms performed better in productivity, profitability and exports than other organisations. IIP has proved easier to get off the ground in some industry sectors than others.

The financial sector has been slow to get on board with few City firms committed to IIP. The construction industry is hampered by the fact that firms employ large numbers of temporary staff.

Take-up has also been uneven among business divisions of large firms. And Investors In People UK is currently attempting to get large firms to support their suppliers in gaining the standard.

There have also been doubts about whether IIP is penetrating the crucial parts of British industry. Last year a report from the Hambleden Group found that only 20 per cent of organisations recognised were fully fledged trading companies.

This is a statistic that annoys chief executive of Investors In People UK Mary Chapman. Chapman says the report was compiled from published financial reports and the findings were "totally misleading" because large corporations publish one set of results for the whole group.

The latest figures from Investors In People UK show that 70 per cent of staff in organisations working towards IIP are in the private sector. Despite these quibbles, the future of IIP seems secure although there remains the challenge of attracting small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Labour Party is considering, if elected, offering time-limited tax incentives for organisations achieving the standard, possibly national insurance reductions to both employers and employees.

The TUC is also strongly behind IIP but Bert Clough, senior education and training advisor, questions whether tax incentives for recognised firms will be enough. He suggests a grant to buy in training advice from Tecs or consultants at the beginning of the process, along the lines of proposals from the CBI may be more appropriate.

"Given restricted public expenditure you really have to target small and medium sized companies," says Mr Clough. "The issue is whether you give them a tax break at the end - probably they need more financial breaks when they're preparing to go down the IIP route."

Ms Chapman is not dismissing cash incentives out of hand. "I think that one has to be careful in considering any sort of incentive because the real incentive ought to be the benefits for the organisation," she says.

"But there is a view that says smaller organisations - because there are so many of them and more of them need to be encouraged - might well benefit from some additional kind of incentive."

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition