Antique and modern

Roger Trapp reports on an old saleroom's innovative approach to staff training

As one might expect, even as the sale business becomes increasingly commercial, training for a career in an auction house can be somewhat haphazard. Phillips, which claims to be the world's largest privately owned auction house, says that its staff have always received a lot of training in the technical area, through an apprentice system, under which trainees start as porters and move through such departments as furniture, ceramics and jewellery, and "osmosis". But, perhaps mindful of the scandals that periodically dog this sector and reared their head again earlier this year, its management thinks that is no longer enough.

Roger Hollest, who became managing director of the organisation, based in New Bond Street, London, earlier this decade after nearly 20 years with it, instigated a strategic review which made him and his colleagues realise that if Phillips was to expand it needed to introduce a forward- thinking human resources programme as well as set up a support structure that would ensure all its 20-odd salerooms around the country could deliver the same high standards.

After considering various options, the company decided to seek accreditation under Investors in People, a government-backed national standard for training and development which aims to spread best practice throughout business and other organisations. Among other organisations that have recently successfully gone through the two-year programme are NatWest bank and the Labour Party.

Yola Melnik, the human resources manager, was put in charge, but Mr Hollest played a clear part in demonstrating to staff the importance attached to the project.

Consultants helping implement the programme said that the company, which last year celebrated its centenary, used more on-the-job training than they had ever seen. But Mr Hollest acknowledged that there were still gaps in the more general business skills area. With the company enjoying a turnover of more than pounds 110m and operating two overseas offices as well as preparing to move into France, this could not continue.

As an organisation where most of the 450 UK employees have a lot of contact with the public - whether they are clients or buyers - a focus on service was clearly important.

Mr Hollest added: "Our core business has relatively little capital asset or wealth creation capacity. It made sense to us that nearly all the added value required to meet our ambitious business goals and profit targets had to come from the quality of service we provided, that is, from a trained, informed and client-conscious staff."

After clearing a great many hurdles of the sort described in Developing Your Business Through Investors in People, by Norrie Gilliland published today, the company received the sought-after accreditation just before the end of its bicentenary year.

Managers lost no time after receiving the award last December in telling the staff that it was "just a stepping stone" and that they could not relax. "We'd be mad to let the lessons learned slip back," he saidn

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible