Investors in People Special Report: Trade unions and senior executives work in tandem

`The trade unions recognise the link between lifelong learning and economic success'

Workplace initiatives welcomed with equal enthusiasm by trade unions and senior executives are few and far between. It is particularly rare when such initiatives encourage increased communications and even partnerships between the two groups. In some areas, however, Investors in People has produced such a reaction.

The phenomenon is made more remarkable by two other incidents: First, the TUC set its sights on becoming Investors in People employers 12 months ahead of the CBI - despite the latter organisation being involved in IIP's creation. Second, the Labour Party have recently become the first political party to gain the national standard backed enthusiastically by the Conservative government.

While the Department for Education and Employment have described the scheme as crucial for all companies who want to keep one step ahead of the competition, IIP is equally attractive for the benefits it brings to individuals in the organisation.

One could argue that unions are bound to be in favour of an initiative which obliges employers to acknowledge and inform employees in a way which has not happened since de-recognition but it is the scheme's training focus that strikes a chord with union thinking on how to support their members in the short-term job market.

Training not only benefits the current employer but automatically raises the overall skill level of the national workforce - a point highlighted by John Monks, TUC general secretary: "The trade union movement recognises the link between lifelong learning and economic success," he wrote in the IIP's own magazine. But training was confirmed as a union priority last year when the TUC published `Training In the Workplace: A Negotiator's Guide' which urged officials to make training an element of any bargaining process.

The guide included information on many initiatives including IIP - making union officials better informed in this area than some company training officers.

It is interesting to note that training guarantees were an essential element to the resolution of the Royal Mail and Communication Worker's Union dispute last summer.

Tom Sibley at the Institute of Employment Rights points out that company derived training initiatives are rarely designed to benefit the employee: "Employers are unlikely to train people in anything other than what they need," he comments. "Altruism does not come very high in a company's priorities." IIP not only promotes investment in employee's skills but gives sound business reasons to do so. The credibility this affords could prove embarrassing to companies keen on keeping their training costs down.

Organisations who have included unions in establishing and managing IIP have reported a number of benefits. The scheme was originally introduced at KP's Rotherham plant as a means of evaluating training but it became clear that the management-only steering group was not making significant progress.

Including union representatives reduced the `them and us' attitude which surrounded the scheme and used the union infrastructure to facilitate communications.

The TGWU covers around 90 per cent of the company's employees but the union has no more representation or influence than the other two smaller unions. James Warriner, Training Officer at KP notes: "The unions are simply one way in which we communicate and involve our workforce. It's not about how many representatives you have at the end of the day, it's about them getting the information to their members."

IIP has been a two way process, with members of the AEEU approaching management at the end of 1995 with proposals for dual-skilling engineers and electricians. The employees are now working towards gaining NVQs in a new skill while at the same time the company gains through greater flexibility and commitment from their workforce.

"The process by which Investors in People is achieved is more important than getting the award," notes James Warriner. "It puts systems in place that gear everything towards benefiting both the business and the employees."

Braintree District Council have long believed in achieving results through people, indeed, according to head of training and development Stewart Beamont, the Council was one of the organisations used as a model for developing the award.

Including Unison in attaining the standard was simply another aspect of the council/union partnership and Beamont is keen to emphasise the way in which IIP aligns both parties' interests: "Our employees gain in terms of greater skills, greater job satisfaction and attaining long term career goals," he explains. "At the same time the organisation gains by becoming more effective."

In October, the TUC post-poned its target date for IIP assessment by six months because, while great improvements had been made, there was still much work to be done.

A survey within the organisation identified a major problem in line manager support of staff and development.

In response to this, staff development manager Philippa Childs pointed out that some of the organisation's managers came from a traditional union background and have had no previous experience of the new management skills required.

If this is a common experience then it would appear that while the principles of IIP satisfy union demands for training, the on-going maintenance of a scheme offers officials a new understanding of how today's companies work.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup