Budget boost must benefit businesses

There is no clearer sign of this Government’s backing for Investors in People than the extra funds announced by the Chancellor during his Budget statement.

He said: “I can today respond to joint work by the CBI and TUC by announcing an additional £30m so more businesses can reach Investors in People standards.”

This new money the Government is pumping in will be used to encourage take-up of the Standard within small firms and should answer critics in the business community who may have doubted its commitment to the Investors in People Standard.

The money in the Budget is on top of the £2.5m already allocated this year to raise the profile and boost the delivery of Investors in People in the shorter term (News, 9 April). And the number of companies committing to working towards the Standard is on the up again – nearly 2,100 organisations in the four months to January this year, almost back to the levels of the same period in the previous year (2,400). And we can expect Investors in People recognitions to rise accordingly.

However, I want to put a special emphasis on increasing the number of small businesses achieving the Investors in People Standard. They employ 44 per cent of the country’s workforce but less than 1 per cent are working towards IIP status. I realise that the smaller the company, the harder it often is to find the time, money and expertise to invest in your workforce.

But the Standard can bring benefits to any size of firm and must be made available to all. The new money will directly benefit firms employing less than 50 people through measures such as the development of beacon status businesses.

These beacons will spur other businesses to follow in their footsteps and achieve Investors in People recognition through a mentoring and support programme. Clear targets will also be set so that the improvement in uptake is transparent and reflects the size of the investment.

Why am I such a strong supporter of the Standard? Because the bottom line is that it works. Investors in People is the best workforce and business development standard we have. Employers with Investors in People status recognise that success in businesses comes from a motivated and well-trained workforce – as the 25,000 who have received the standard during its first decade will testify.

In a recent study, 73 per cent of IIP companies surveyed said that it helped them to meet their business objectives. Half reported a positive impact on business growth or performance. More than half said they had seen customer satisfaction improve.

By the end of this year we want 45 per cent of organisations in England with more than 50 employees recognised as Investors in People, and an additional 10,000 smaller organisations. We must meet these targets and move well beyond them in future years.

More than a third of UK employees now work for a company that either has or is working towards the standard. But if we want to raise the skills levels of our workforce to match the best in the world by 2010, mobilising more employers – large and small – must be our priority.

Raising skills levels is essential to our economic growth. Firms with higher levels of training have higher productivity. The challenge we face is to embed workforce training and development in all businesses large and small – and Investors in People has a central role to play in this.

John Healey is Education and Skills Minister


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