New economy needs to learn old tricks

Tried and trusted approaches such as the Investors in People
Standard have plenty to offer some of the new industries, says the managing
director of specialist manufacturer Pocklington Coach Works

Pocklington Coach Works employs around 90 people and has a turnover of just
under £6m, with approximately 50 per cent of its business exported to European
and US markets.

Back in the nineties, during the initial internet boom, Pocklington had
around 19 employees and was beginning to expand rapidly. But it was
experiencing a skills shortage. The sensible option was to train and develop
its own in-house team.

It contacted its local Business Link who introduced the concept of Investors
in People. It needed to manage rapid growth while ensuring the culture of the
business remained intact. The Investor in People Standard helped everyone in
the company concentrate on strategic goals, and provided it with a framework to
develop its people.

The Standard provides guidelines to help initiate and consolidate change – a
process that the few successful, surviving internet companies must have
experienced in order to sustain their growth. Those that did not allow time to
take stock at this stage, ultimately failed.

For Pocklington, the Investors in People Standard provided a flexible
framework of support. New media companies were successful at innovating, but,
perhaps, they lacked the experience to follow through.

Maybe older heads would have advised these organisations to look around for
real life stories of business success. Many business tools, ISO or the
Investors in People Standard, for example, have been largely left unexploited
by new media companies who have overlooked the basic tools for their

The Standard helped address Pocklington’s skills shortage. Like many new
economy start-ups, its skills base was niche. It found the best way to recruit
people was to identify the correct attitude and train them to gain the required
skills. It used a combination of external and in-house training, and an
apprenticeship scheme implemented under its Investors in People programme.

Through improved communications and regular appraisals, Pocklington has been
able to identify leadership skills in people it would never have recognised
otherwise, simply by finding out more about its employees. It found that people
from the shop floor who blend into the background by day, were actually running
sports centres or were senior members in the Territorial Army during their
spare time: roles with transferable skills applicable to its working

In some ways it was like the dotcoms. In a traditionally hierarchical
industry, even Pocklington’s management structure was different – reverting to
a circular structure where information was passed around, not cascaded
downwards – keeping staff involved with decision-making.

Regardless of the industry, the key to success is the ability to step back
and take stock. Those who can do this, reap great success. Since going through
the Investors in People recognition process, Pocklington’s profits have
increased, productivity improved, and morale and commitment have been second to
none. For those new companies which add these traditional business and change
management tools to their ability to innovate, success will surely follow.

The results are plain to see. Its skills shortage is no longer a problem.
Some of its best employees come from its apprenticeship scheme providing it
with the expertise to run a successful business.

Through appraisals and communication it has unearthed a wealth of skills –
leadership among them – which it didn’t realise existed. And as internet
companies enter new, increasingly niche markets, the Investors in People
Standard will help identify, develop and train people with the skills and
expertise required.

What do you think?

Has the IIP standard helped develop your employees or can you manage without
it? Write to the editor Stephanie Sparrow at or at
Reed Business Information, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2
5AS. If you are happy for your letter to be published on our letters page,
please mark it ‘for publication’.

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