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Interview of the month: Peter Russian, business development director of Investors in People

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This autumn, Investors in People have been celebrating ten years of the Standard, under the theme “10 years – our past, your future”. So far, the events have included a major anniversary conference where the NOP Business research report “People and Productivity” was unveiled, a birthday celebration coinciding with the CIPD conference, regional meetings, and an international conference in Amsterdam. TrainingZONE caught up with Peter Russian, IiP Business Development Director, to find out what the organisation has to celebrate, and what lies ahead.
Peter Russian Investors In People


TrainingZONE Looking back over ten years of helping companies progress towards becoming Investors in People, what are the major successes?

Peter Russian: Creating and sustaining momentum. 25,000 organisations have been through the experience of working towards the Standard, and they employ 24% of the UK’s workforce. But the Standard’s not just about getting an award, we’ve been successful at keeping them on board, we have over 90% retention. And this is unique, it’s the only organisation of its kind in the world. International interest is growing, overseas there are 5 full-time IiP organisations, and 11 pilot schemes. Our primary target is a European standard in 5 years, and we are building up across Europe, so that’s in range soon.

TrainingZONE: Has your organisation changed over the ten years?

Peter Russian: We are continually learning, refining our approach, and looking at how organisations use us, so there’s progressive change all of the time. And we have had very rapid growth in the last four years. One constant through this is that we have always been employer-driven.

TrainingZONE: And where do you see the organisation going in the near future?

Peter Russian: Growth will go on. Investors in People is central to government policy, and we are also backed by the TUC and the CBI. The important development in the near future will be working with even more small organisations.

TrainingZONE: Has the status of work-based training changed over ten years?

Peter Russian: There has been a wider change, an acknowledgement of people management and development. HR has become much more important. Investors in People has had some part in this, but it’s a wider movement. There has been talk for a long time that people are a business’s most important asset, but there’s been a change towards treating that as a reality.

TrainingZONE: There has been a lot of research in the news lately saying that SMEs are failing to keep up with training. How can Investors in People achieve greater penetration in that area?

Peter Russian: Part of the problem with SMEs in the UK is sheer weight of numbers, there are far more here than in most other countries. But of the 25,000 companies working to the Standard, 11,000 of them have less than 50 employees, so we are already working well with SMEs, though we need to with more. One development is to make sure the Standard is accessible, to use more plain English, so it can reach everyone in organisations. Many SMEs don’t have HR people and don’t use HR language, and Investors in People can become an HR function for them.

More incentives will help, tax incentives and support from the CBI and the TUC. But we need to reach out to companies that are isolated, that don’t even have connections with their local Business Link. We need to present Investors in People as a business development tool that makes a demonstrable difference to recruitment, retention and internal communication, to reposition it as a support tool.

TrainingZONE: The government keeps telling us that business needs to get more involved at a planning level in skills training provision. How do you think this can be realised?

Peter Russian: What they need as a starting point is a “golden link” between real business needs and skills. They have to demonstrate how businesses and people are held back by a broad lack of literacy and numeracy. They need businesses to make that connection, because it’s difficult to encourage a general altruism for the good of UK plc. The Performance and Innovation Unit’s report has a good approach, looking at all three areas: business demand, individual demand and supply. And we need to keep asking that question “how do you stimulate demand among employers and individuals?”.

TrainingZONE: What are the major current developments you’re working on with the Investors in People Standard?

Peter Russian: We’ve carried on a major consultation on continuing to provide value to companies who have achieved the standard, and that came up with a number of specific proposals. In particular developing a beacon programme, through where organisations are recognised for their excellence both at people management and at advocating it. And we have two new optional modules, Management and Leadership, and Work/Life Balance.

TrainingZONE: How does technological change affect your work?

Peter Russian: We keep looking at how necessary it is for companies to make the most of IT and IT training. In our Standard in the Netherlands there’s a specific requirement to demonstrate how IT training is handled, and we are looking at doing more with that here.

TrainingZONE: And how do new technological opportunities affect how you deliver your services?

Peter Russian: Investors in People in Kent have developed Laurel Online, an advisory facility which delivers some of our services online. So yes, online services will become another element in the delivery network.

TrainingZONE: To round off, you’ve just celebrated ten years of the Standard, how did the events go this autumn?

Peter Russian: It was fantastic to have Estelle Morris’s first major speech on workforce development at our tenth anniversary conference, and we were delighted to have John Monks of the TUC and Digby Jones of the CBI together there. And at our conference in Amsterdam, we had representatives from 19 countries involved.

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