Investing in People and Productivity?

Investors in People (IIP) has been the standard for people management for nearly 30 years, but is it still a relevant accreditation for your organisation? Fiona Irvine investigates.

There was a time when being able to slap the Investors in People laurel wreath next to your company logo seemed like a huge step into the brave new world of management best practice. It signaled that you took people management seriously, valued your employees, and were a good organisation to work with and work for.
Of course, good management is a positive in itself, but is working towards an Investors in People accreditation an efficient way to help boost your productivity and profitability?

Investors in People has become so widespread that it’s hard to imagine a time without it. In fact, IIP was formed in 1991 as a joint venture between business and government. Organisations must develop and implement strategies to improve performance, then evaluate and build on any progress made to gain one of the various levels of IIP accreditation.

It has proved to be a popular initiative. Currently over 17,000 businesses in the UK (6,000 in Scotland) have achieved or are working towards the Investors in People Standard.

Deeper than the stats

So those are the headline stats. But what do companies actually get out of Investors in People terms of productivity? Research from the University of Glasgow shows that 78% of the employer respondents find that engaging with Investors in People has a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive impact’ on their organisation.

And more specifically, 73% are able to attribute a positive impact on productivity to Investors in People. Accreditation continues to be a popular, with the standard now being adopted in 58 countries around the world.

But we have to ask; in what way does Investors in People drive productivity? To be frank, there are as many answers as there are accreditations. However, there are a number of ways of working that are fostered by IIP that transcend organisational differences.

Two of the most visible areas where Investors in People make a marked difference are internal communication, and the design and building of management structures that allow for future growth.

What helps the bottom line?

Improved employee communication is the Holy Grail of people management and one of the main reasons companies turn to Investors in People.  Giving employees a voice can protect against the wide-ranging impact of negative emotions and stop problems escalating. Resentment and anger can build when employees feel unable to speak out, which in turn can erode motivation, productivity and performance.

Employees are also a great source of information and insight when it comes to improving productivity on a more personal scale. The Investors in People pathways can encourage employees to give feedback on the design and scope of their jobs. In other words, asking the people who actually do the work how they would improve their jobs, targets and functions can drive productivity.

However, communication is not a one-way street. Organisations should foster an environment when management can speak to employees in a constructive manner. Giving employees a clear idea of what is and what is not acceptable is also a way to drive productivity. Having well defined and effective goals, and indeed ensuring that all employees know where the goalposts are, can be key in developing a positive and productive working environment.

Organisations must also prioritise future planning. And this is where another strand of the Investors in People model can prove useful. It is a frustrating truth that as organisations grow, they can become hamstrung by outmoded structures and procedures. By taking the time to plan and implement changes, you can ensure that you remain productive and successful going forward.

Is it worth it?

So is Investors in People still relevant? And can it sustain or improve your productivity?  The short answer is yes.
Investors in People allows organisations to examine their people management structures and aim for best practice. Of course, some may claim that they will strive for best practice without a formal initiative like IIP, but in reality most organisations need outside help and recognisable goals to help them achieve the greatest results.
Organisations also need the time and space to consider their future plans and the accreditation process positively encourages these discussions at all levels. And research has shown that effective people management has a tangible positive effect on the bottom line.

Make no mistake, undertaking an Investors in People accreditation takes time, money and effort. However, the benefits that it can bring can more than justify your investment. We are facing a challenging economic landscape, and ensuring that your management structure and employee relations are in the best possible shape is a key element in giving yourself the best chance of success.

  • 68% of IIP accredited organisations report an improved quality of leadership skills and 62% an improved quality of management policies.
  • 47% of IIP organisations see an improvement in staff’s ability to do their jobs.
  • 54% of IIP organisations report an increased level of staff commitment.
  • If all UK businesses adopted an improved approach to people management, the UK economy could benefit from an efficiency gain of £77bn.
  • 60% of Investors in People accredited firms predict business growth, compared to the UK establishment average of 47%.

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