Developing a ‘people’ culture

Simon Turner believes that working for the Investor in People Standard can benefit any design group if it plans carefully to start with

Many people will have heard of the Investor in People Standard, but how many design consultancy bosses know how to apply for the accreditation, and just how it can benefit them directly?

We found that working towards the Investor in People status was an enlightening experience for the whole group. However, it was certainly challenging, and there are important issues to consider before committing yourself to work towards it.

At the beginning it helps to contact an Investor in People advisor, who will be on hand throughout to ensure that you focus on key areas. He or she will point out particular areas of development and will have the drive to ensure that the process does improve your organisation.

Consider the time investment required

The actual time invested on a day-to-day basis isn’t extreme, as long as you work out your plan of action at the start. The beauty of the scheme is its flexibility. It is structured to allow each business to assess its own needs and capabilities, and then set its own realistic, but challenging targets for improvement.

Once your plan is in place, you can work on it over a period of months. It should be seen as a long-term development project for your consultancy. It is all about creating a culture of learning and involvement for your staff.

How will you report?

An important thing to remember is that evidence for the assessment is gathered from a range of sources, and does not have to be paper based. Sources for evidence include verbal and observed evidence, such as one-to-one interviews with employees.

As long as you and your people are achieving the results and benefits that the assessors are looking for, it doesn’t matter how you do it. For example, we found that regular, informal staff appraisals were a very effective contribution to our overall culture, but there are alternative ways to go about developing your people. It’s the results that count.

Are you eligible, and how will you apply?

Any design organisation can use the Investor in People framework to develop its business performance. The first stage in doing this is to obtain a copy of the information pack. You can request this using an on-line form on the Investors in People website as we did, or by using the contact information above.

What are the benefits of working towards and eventually achieving the standard?

Working for the standard helped us to develop our people and business, but it also had the unexpected benefit of greatly improving our internal communication.

Working towards personal targets helped our employees become even more client-focused, enabling us to surpass client needs and expectations. Our designers also enjoyed the greater levels of involvement in the overall goals of the group. Recognition of individual achievement was motivating for all of us. We all felt like we were working together for the good of the group, as well as for our own personal development.

Being an Investor in People helps us to attract the best quality job applicants. It may also provide a reason for potential clients to choose us over our competitors. Our quality standards and training methods also got a good overhaul in the process.

With proper planning and advice even the smallest of design groups can achieve the standard without too many problems.

By Simon Turner, creative director of TWA Design, Guildford

Investors in Peoplewww.iipuk.co.ukinformation@iipuk.co.uktelephone 020 7467 1946.

Essential points for success

• Plan carefully how and when you will achieve your specific goals. This will enable you to spread essential tasks out over a realistic period.

• Make use of an Investor in People Advisor via your Regional Quality Centre.

• Come forward for your initial assessment earlier rather than later. Coming forward for your assessment early will provide your consultancy with an opportunity to see what progress it has made, and what else you need to do to meet the Standard.

• Communicate with each other. Everyone will be important in your group getting accredited with the standard. Make sure everyone knows what is going on and how their individual development plans contribute to the whole group’s goals.

• Make your targets challenging, but realistic. It may be tempting to go all out and set unrealistic development targets for the group and your people. While everybody knows that it is essential to aim high, make sure your targets match workloads and address real areas of need.

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