Investors in People Special Report:Investors In People UK realises that time is precious

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The Independent Online
Not all hard-pushed firms are convinced it is worth sparing precious working time on the meetings, paperwork, internal marketing, questionnaires and trailing sessions needed to achieve the Investors in People standard.

Latest research from training institute The Industrial Society confirms lack of time is the biggest reason why firms turn their backs on IIP, with 40 per cent of those surveyed saying so.

The biggest problems for organisations signed up to IIP is that it takes too long, is too bureaucratic and too expensive, according to recent research by the Institute of Employment Studies.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of Investors In People UK, says her organisation is ironing out problems. It has spent two years reviewing the standard and launches a revised version next month. The 24 criteria by which companies are assessed, or "indicators" to use IIP jargon, have been put into plainer language.

The revised version also pushes the standard as a broad-based business programme, realising that some firms have dismissed it as yet another government training initiative.

The IES report found that some firms were taking a lot longer than the average 18 months to achieve the standard and some were dropping out altogether. Chapman acknowledges the problem. "I'm confident we'll start to see a speeding up of the time taken between commitment and recognition but the battle isn't won yet," she says.

Research shows firms are finding the IIP process harder than they expected. Investors In People UK is now providing better materials on how to pull together evidence for assessment and offering training for internal staff. "Often what slows it down is if an organisation doesn't have a well briefed internal team," says Ms Chapman.

Poor advice from external advisers has also held up companies. The IES report found that training and enterprise councils were sometimes imposing unrealistic targets and timescales.

Investors In People UK is addressing this through providing more training for advisors. "We have looked at the quality and calibre of advisers at local level and invested a considerable amount in their training and development," says Ms Chapman.

But this will not solve the problem of the horde of independent consultants who have jumped on the IIP bandwagon, says business manager of Heart of England Tec Debbie Dore. "It's always going to be a problem. Investors In People UK can't influence the independent consultants and there are some awful ones out there."

Ms Debbie Dore says some employers have lost momentum when advisors have forced them to stick too closely to the IIP process without linking this to real business issues. "As soon as you lead the whole process by the standard for the company it becomes too bureaucratic," says Dore. "You should tackle the issues that are important to them and use IIP as a guidebook. The best advice is to go about solving the problems that are important for the business rather than worrying about the standard." Dore says she does not mention IIP to organisations until they reach the assessment.

The uneven take-up of IIP among different industry sectors has been another barrier to its success. Help could come from industry Training organisations, another piece in the increasingly complicated jigsaw of Britain's national training infrastructure.

These organisations are working on 11 pilots of training targets for particular sectors, including IIP.

Ms Dore agrees that employers are confused by the number of bodies offering advice. "They don't know whom to go to. It's a bit of a minefield," Dore says. There is also a lack of consistency in practice between training and enterprise councils.

Dore adds: "Some Tecs are very good at dishing out money - we believe in giving time to people." Dore says larger employers want the approach to be more standardised. For a start they would like to see more consistency about the fees demanded by Tecs in different regions. More serious still, is concern about consistency in the level of assessment among by organisations accrediting IIP.

"Investors In People UK has taken enormous steps to develop consistency," says Dore. "Making the assessment credible is the biggest challenge at the moment."