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All change at Investors in People as the UK Commission for Employment and Skills takes charge


This month Investors in People moves to a new home - the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. But it's the changes behind the scenes that matter most.

It is the biggest change in its history, but if all goes to plan no-one should notice the difference. On 1 April, responsibility for the Investors In People (IiP) standard transferred to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the skills body for scrutinising government.

But while applying for the mark should be no different, the move - ending 19 years of it being run by what is now the Department for Innovation, UK and Skills - represents a significant change in mindset behind the scenes, as its CEO Chris Humphries, explains: "The standard was still seen as good, but its focus was being eroded by a department whose remit was not on business development. This is what IiP is all about."

Rather than risk putting the standard into the public sector (like ISO/BSI), Humphries says he "reluctantly became convinced" of the fit with UKCES, as long as it remains the protector of the standard, rather than its delivery agent.

"In England, there are nine regional centres delivering IiP. What we'll be able to do is ensure they deliver the same standards nationally - which hasn't always been the case. We'll also be inviting new suppliers to pitch for delivering the IiP - the first of which should come online by this time next year. It's been a monopolistic system since regional centres were first introduced in 2000 and we do not think this serves the best interests of IiP."

IiP (once named as one of the UK's ninth worst quangos), was bolstered last year, with its bronze, silver and gold classifications - seen by some as evidence of needing a reboot. But the re-licensing of the centres also fits with the UKCES's re-licensing the sector skills councils (SSCs).

"SSCs are tasked with driving business improvement through skills, so the arrival of IiP comes just at the right time," says Simon Perryman, UKCES director of employee engagement, who will head the UKCES-run IiP. "We see an alignment in how IiP and SSCs can work together, particularly in SSCs promoting the mark.We may even see how we can create networks of sector-specific IiP champions."

"But one thing we're not doing," reassures Humphries, "is chasing sign-up. We want business improvement and IiP is a route to this. That said, if only an extra 5% of firms took IiP, it would have a huge impact on UK competitiveness."

Timeline: IiP

1991: Investors in People (IiP) is launched as a standard 'designed ... in the interests of business'

1992: 42 businesses achieve the standard in IiP's first year

1996: The 500th Investor in People target is reached

2000: Regional quality centres set up to be responsible for assessment and recognition of standard 2002: IiP organisations total 25,000; 10,000 SMEs in England meet the standard 2004: Awareness of IiP reaches 97%; and 92% in SMEs

2009: Launches bronze, silver and gold standards

2010: IiP is absorbed into the UK Commission for Employment and Skills

Figure it out

94% of IiP-holding companies claim it has made a positive difference to their bottom line

45% of the workforce was the target for 2007 of staff being covered by companies either holding, or working towards, the standard

30% is the actual figure of UK staff covered by companies holding the Investors in People badge (and this figure has stayed constant for some time)

3.7% of FTSE 350 companies had full IiP-accreditation in 2005.