Thursday 26 March 2015

Investors in People VI: Outperformance

I posted earlier that I'd previously worked for a Training & Enterprise Council where my role was mainly focused on Investors in People - being an advisor, assessor, internal verifier and centre manager.

After leaving the TEC I became an independent consultant, still working on IIP as well as other HR areas, and doing this for two years before joining EY.  I traded as Strategic Dynamics (a company which I restarted again ten years later, ten years ago, and still work within today.)

As HR Director at EY amongst a variety of other things I led the firm's IIP project.

Then at Penna (previously Crane Davies) I led our support for IIP which involved redeveloping the standard and designing one of the new modules.  We looked at outsourcing workforce development support from some of the Learning & Skills Council offices which had taken over from the TECs and when I left were in the process of setting up a new National IIP Centre.

Last year, I bid to the IIP team now at UKCES, as part of a team from IES, to develop the sixth generation of the IIP standard.  However, although we were interviewed we lost out to PA Consulting.

Still, I know quite a bit about and am a longstanding, fairly loyal supporter the standard and if you're interested, here are my thoughts about Framework VI:

Firstly, the main issue about IIP as a best practice benchmarking tool is to balance something which will stretch leading organisations, eg those that have been accredited for 25 year now, and a large proportion or more average and often smaller companies.  I think the chosen tagline of 'outperformance' is suitably vague enough to achieve both these objectives.  It'll help with the marketing and on this, I'm also glad the team managed to avoid any temptation to call the new generation framework IIP 6.0!

I've not seen all the detail on the standard so I can't comment on how well it models what is important today.  A lot of it is obviously based upon Andre de Waal's ideas about high performing organisations, which I find a bit odd, but probably does give the update a more robust basis than would have been possible to research from scratch within the project budget.

Linked to this is a need to balance being tight enough to be meaningful and useful, and loose enough to be appropriate to a very broad range of organisations and approaches. However the general move within business and society has been towards increased flexibility and the reduction from 28 to 24 to 10 and now to 9 indicators have all been part of this movement.  9 indicators should help organisations work with the standard but may prove to be one step too far?  On the other hand, there are three themes for each indicator (which almost takes us back up to 27 indicators again.)

The integration of bronze, silver and gold level into the main standard to form a maturity model is a bit more of a worry.  I'm not actually a fan of maturity models in any context but particularly in one like this seems to be to impose quite a bit of potentially unhelpful structure.  Do leaders really need to be passionate about delivering the organisation’s objectives and motivating people to deliver against them (stage 3 - advanced) before they can motivate and inspire people to achieve results above and beyond what is expected of them (stage 4 - high performing)?  I'm not sure.  However this probably does help the standard meet the need to support both high and lower levels of outperformance which I noted above.

Linked to the above point on flexibility, I think it's good that IIP is continuing to present itself as a flexible tool where "it’s important to conduct the assessment your way.  With online, offline and options that integrate with your existing staff survey: it’s simpler than you think to start measuring the impact of your investment in people... and achieving Investors in People."  That's a lot better than all the palaver which existed when I worked for the TEC.

It's a big change in the standard and only time will tell how well it takes on.  But this change is probably less risk than no change at all, and even if framework VI doesn't take organisations in quite the direction I'd have pointed them in, I'm sure it'll be close.  More organisations need to start and continue on this journey.  I hope the new framework helps.

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