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Being an Investors in People ambassador – interview of the month


Harold Russell, Investors in People programme director at Lloyds TSB has recently been enrolled as an Investors in People Ambassador, promoting the Investors in People Standard through personal experience and recommendation. He talked to TrainingZONE about working with the Standard, and about the role of Ambassador.

TrainingZONE What does being Investors in People programme director for Lloyds TSB involve?

I am responsible for leading the whole organisation through the Investors in People process from start to finish. This involves gaining the backing of senior management in all our business units by promoting the benefits of Investors in People for their business. I am also involved in building action plans to raise all of our business units’ people development practices to the Investors in People Standard. I help to develop local Investors in People expertise amongst these people, to spread good practice around the organization and to coach senior management. Last but not least, I see all of the units successfully through the external assessment, right through to organising a celebration when the process is completed.

TrainingZONE How long have you personally been involved with Investors in People?

I took on this role in 1998 with responsibility for our largest business unit covering some 40,000 people. At the start of 2000 my role grew to encompass the whole of the Lloyds TSB Group. I have also been actively involved in Investors in People UK’s working group, overseeing the design of the current version of the Standard.

TrainingZONE How has the Investors in People Standard changed?

The Investors in People Standard has changed dramatically, and for the better. It has moved away from focusing on process, to looking at the outcomes and results of good people development practices. The new standard is based on the views of very many organisations up and down the UK following an extensive consultation process over several months. It is simpler, avoids jargon, and has the credibility of being based on proven good practice.

TrainingZONE And what does being an Investors in People Ambassador involve?

It's exciting. If you have a passion, you want to share it, to help spread the message. Being an Ambassador is a great opportunity to share one’s passion for, and belief in, Investors in People. The Standard not only makes a fundamental difference to the success of an organization but it also has a direct impact on the satisfaction of its people. When you are very close to a process you can take it for granted. Being an ambassador has given me a chance to think about it again, and to make other people think about their businesses again. It's rewarding to see the expressions change, the dawning realisation that there is something in it for them.

This year I have spoken at conferences in Cairo and Istanbul. I have been surprised at the similarity of concerns and issues that exist around the world: especially concerns over change in society and how to live through it, and the treatment of people at work.

TrainingZONE Where do you think Investors in People will go now in the UK? Do you expect any major developments to the way it operates?

There are many organisations that have yet to start benefiting from the Investors in People Standard. Priority must continue to be given to that group - particularly in the small business arena.

In order to encourage take up of the Standard, Investor in People organizations can contribute by communicating the benefits of the Standard to their suppliers, customers and partners.

We must also ensure that Investors in People offers and ongoing challenge and ‘stretch’ for organizations, so that it creates cumulative, ongoing benefits - and doesn’t simply become an ‘annual chore’. Those organisations that have successfully created and maintained a people development culture through working with the Standard will benefit from the new add-on modules, such as ‘Recruitment and Selection’, which was launched last summer.

Putting development above training is a feature of the new Standard, and we can look for that to continue. There are other issues: e-learning and its impact, for instance, need to be assessed.

TrainingZONE And any ideas on how Investors in People can get more small businesses involved?

Although the Business Links and Learning Skills Councils are already working hard to promote the Standard to their local business community; financial service providers, accountants and lawyers can all play an important part in promoting the Investors in People Standard, by pointing out to clients the advantages of the process. The more of these organisations that can themselves work with, and benefit from, the Investors in People Standard, the better.

TrainingZONE What other developments (in government policy say) would get companies to spend more on training?

This is a good question because I believe that it encapsulates a key myth that we need to dispel.

I think of it as two questions: (a) how should we encourage people to learn? and (b) what should organisations be doing to get more value from the time, money and effort they spend on training their people?

I’m not sure that simply spending more money on training will achieve great results in all cases. This is because the emphasis rests on the training and not the learning: the process rather than the result. I truly believe that it’s the learning, and the application of the learning that makes the real difference.

If organisations are concerned about how well they and their people are performing, I would like to see them put as much effort into those other questions that can materially affect them: how clear are their people about what’s expected of them? What do their people understand the organisation’s aims to be? Do their people want to put their energies into creating and maintaining a successful organisation?

The Investors in People Standard quite deliberately makes organisations ask these critical questions of themselves – and act upon it.

Personally, speaking for myself rather than Investors in People, I look at all of the organisations in the sector, the Business Links, LSCs, the National Training Awards, IiP and all of the others, and I think they could do more to work together as a team. They need to have (and to present) greater clarity. I don't think they always achieve coherence at the moment, and there can be issues over territory.


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