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The Investors in People trilogy – review

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The Investors in People trilogy:
Investors in People Explained (0-7494-3460-0; pp208; £16.99)Buy this book from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.
Managing for Investors in people (0-7494-3462-7; pp138; £16.99)Buy this book
Investors in People Maintained (0-7494- 3461-9; pp218; £16.99)Buy this book

Peter Taylor and Bob Thackwray
Kogan Page

In reviewing these three books I first have to admit to knowing one of the authors: Peter Taylor has been in Investors in People (IiP) since its early days in the DE Group and then Investors in People UK, and has had wide experience as both a hands-on trainer and as an IiP assessor, advisor and consultant, helping employers gain the IiP award. Whilst not known to me, co-author Bob Thackwray also offers practical experience of IiP, in his case within the higher education sector and is also an IiP registered assessor and advisor. As such, they offer impeccable credentials for writing this series of books on the standard: how to get it, how to benefit from it, and how to keep it.

The first title, Investors in People Explained, is now in its fourth edition. Fully revised and updated in 2001, it aims to offer a comprehensive guide to achieving the IiP standard. Aimed at trainers, managers, and indeed anyone involved in gaining IiP, the book offers both practical tips and guidance on preparing a bid for IiP as well as offering an insight into its origins and the underlying philosophy behind it (expressed by IiP UK as "... the top management of whole organisations integrating their business strategy, business planning and development of people to achieve improvements in their business performance"). Divided into thirteen chapters, within four main sections, the book offers: advice and information on the IiP process; an explanation of the IiP indicators; the practical experiences of twelve different organisations and brief guidance on building and maintaining IiP (more fully explored in the subsequent titles). In doing so it makes a virtue of a non-jargonistic style to clarify the issues and offer practical guidance. It also includes appendices covering the standard itself plus three useful staff survey questionnaires. Overall, the book offers an ideal introduction to IiP and a route map of the procedures involved in achieving it.

The second book, Managing for Investors in People, is in its second edition and aims to build on the first volume by explaining the vital role to be played by all managers in achieving and maintaining the IiP standard. Again promising a step-by-step practical guide, the book offers ten chapters within three parts. An introductory chapter sets the scene, then the first main part discusses the role to be played by all managers in developing staff, then focuses on their role in developing a people development culture and closes with consideration of the role of senior managers. The two subsequent parts cover "delivering the outcomes", guidance on aspects such as communication, identifying training needs and identifying, implementing then reviewing the solutions and "following recognition" which offers guidance on what to do if you are one of the 24000 plus organisations who face an IiP review.

The final part of the trilogy, Investors in People Maintained, is also in its second edition. This follows on from the last chapter of the foregoing volume in that it expands on the guidance on the review process and procedures. It follows the same, by now well-established format, with three main sections, one each on maintaining and retaining recognition, case study experiences of IiP organisations and strategic development and evaluation. As with the other texts, the authors attempt to de-mystify the jargon, offer pragmatic advice and liberally use examples and illustrations from their own experience. The case studies cover organisations as diverse as Airdale Springs (manufacturing), Queen Elizabeth Boys School (education), the Renaissance Hotel (services) and Barnsley NHS Trust (public/health). A particularly useful chapter offers a modification to the Donald Kirkpatrick Four-level Review Model, adding return on investment to trainee reaction, learning outcomes, on-the-job application and business results. A further chapter on evaluation offers alternative approaches to evaluating the impact of IiP, including some fairly hard-nosed cost-benefit and return on investment methods. However, little is said about exactly how you identify and attribute the business gains directly resulting from IiP (a problem I shared when working on the cost:benefit case for using National Occupational Standards and S/NVQs).

Overall, three titles which complement each other and aim to provide practical guidance. Do they succeed? Largely the answer must be yes. Whilst there are inevitable overlaps between the titles, these are not too great and I suppose a brief explanation of IiP and an appendix showing the standard in each volume is inevitable. One solution may be to edit the three into one volume (probably offering a price saving as well).

But, as they are separate, deciding which to buy is largely down to where you are in the IiP process. For those just starting or partway down the road the first two volumes are useful (the first probably more so); if you are have already been awarded the standard then the last is more appropriate... just one tip, buy it now rather than a month before the assessor calls!

Neil Wellman, NetWork Associates, [email protected]

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