Want to boost your business? Invest in People

Government training schemes come and go, but Roger Trapp has found one that could run and run
Over the years, government training initiatives have come and gone with great regularity. But one that is showing signs of staying power is Investors in People. Not only are increasing numbers of companies able to boast that they are an "Investor in People" on all their communications, they are also claiming that it is helping to improve performance.

Employers are overwhelmingly positive about the initiative's impact - on both the quality of the workforce and on the business itself, according to a report just published by the Institute for Employment Studies. Employers involved with it are more likely to have mission statements and business plans than those that are not; employers that have completed the process are more likely to have formal workforce planning documents, such as human resource strategy papers; and are almost twice as likely to have formal training plans and a training budget.

So what exactly is this apparent catalyst? Launched in 1991, Investors in People is the Government's national standard to help employers improve training and development practices by linking them with business needs. By this spring, 1,200 employers had achieved the standard, while another 12,400 had made a public commitment to do so.

The study, carried out last autumn among more than 1,700 companies in England and Wales, also found that the vast majority of employers already involved intended to continue with it, although some have put the initiative on hold. All those that have already attained the standard intend to maintain it and re-apply when their three-year licences expire.

Fans of the programme believed that Investors - increasingly viewed as the Government's principal tool for improving workforce training and development - had made an impact on working practices in three key areas:

Training. More than two-thirds of employers had changed their training practices and more than 90 per cent believe the initiative has contributed to this change or that it will do so in the future.

Quality of the workforce. Employers believe that Investors has helped to improve employee commitment and increase understanding of wider business aims and objectives.

Business benefits. Two-thirds of organisations believed that Investors had contributed to an improvement in business performance.

The researchers say that a final link between involvement with the scheme and improved business performance has yet to be made, but they are confident that Investors is having an impact.

There is one potential problem. The study says staff believe that their employers' commitment to training has improved. However, it also finds some employees who do not feel well-informed about the initiative, and resistance to the idea from managers and employees at about one in four organisations.