Training – Quality control

Investors in People (IIP) is the ideal vehicle for a firm of accountants to get the maximum benefit from its training budget. It is especially relevant for a firm that believes its future success is dependent on the skills, commitment and active participation of its team.

IIP is a national standard, initiated by the Department for Education and Employment in collaboration with industry in 1990. It is administered through the national network of Training and Enterprise Councils.

The IIP standard is based on four principles. The first is commitment.

An investor in people must make a public commitment from the top to develop all employees to achieve its business objectives. The second principle involves planning. The firm must regularly review the training and development needs of all employees.

Both of these would be useless without the third principle; putting the theory into action. An investor in people must take action to train and develop individuals on recruitment and throughout their employment.

The final principle is bread and butter for accountants – evaluation.

An investor in people evaluates the investment in training and development to assess achievement and improve future effectiveness. These four key principles are then divided into 23 indicators, against which organisations are assessed.

As an expanding firm we already had a commitment to training and developing the team. On the planning and action front we took the decision to make the firm’s business plan available to all employees.

We added a section on each team member’s development, which was completed in partnership with the team member. This set out the areas each team member needed to develop over the next year.

On the basis of this, we drew up a training program for each team member, which we review and update in the six monthly appraisals.

We met the evaluation criteria by giving each team member a training form for each course. The form sets out the objective of the course and they return it with an evaluation of the course and an action plan to demonstrate how the benefits will be put into practice at work. In addition, CPE/CPD reading is reviewed in a weekly meeting with the partner using a standard record form.

As the person responsible for the process, the program took 20 days of my time over a 10-month period. The partner put in six hours, and each of the team put in half a day.

Proving the storyboard

The firm, while working towards achieving IIP, will put together a portfolio of evidence to back up its storyboard, which is a document detailing the structure of the firm, what it does, and how it meets the standard.

An appointed assessor from the assessment centre is allocated to the firm and collects the document and evidence, and explains the process and arranges dates.

The assessor checks the storyboard and supporting evidence, and draws up a list of queries or points arising from it, mentioning any additional evidence required.

The assessor will visit the firm and will interview a sample of employees and management to gather further evidence and discuss any points with the project manager that came out of the storyboard. The date of the site visit and who the assessor will want to interview will be agreed on the initial meeting date.

If the assessor considers the firm is meeting the standard it will put forward its own presentation, on behalf of the firm, to a panel of members selected by IIP UK Ltd. The panel will make the final decision on whether or not the firm is to be awarded the standard.

If the assessor does not find that the firm is quite ready, it will draw up a report and detail those areas that need to be addressed, with the result that the firm will be in a deferment period. Once the points in the report are addressed the firm can be reassessed. The firm has to pay the assessor’s costs and the further costs when being reassessed.

If the panel does not feel the firm is achieving the required standard, the assessor will once again make out a report of specific areas that need attention and these have to be dealt with by the firm and its IIP consultant. Once the points have been addressed, the firm can apply for assessment once again.

The IIP Standard involves continuous improvement and achievement of the set indicators and the firm is reappraised every three years.

The most obvious benefit to us has been an increase in team commitment and pride in the firm. The investors in people logo is an advantage in marketing the firm to quality organisations, particularly those that have achieved IIP themselves.

We have halved our training budget and more than doubled the benefit from training. Team members now have to feed back the main points of any course to their colleagues and unnecessary training has been eliminated.

Other benefits include making contact with some high-quality organisations at the IIP workshops that we hope will join us as clients. We have also found it easier to recruit high-quality staff who are attracted to a firm with proven commitment to people development.

Any firm of registered auditors will have many of the systems required by the IIP standard in place. If you believe in the future described in the institutes’ 2005 report on the future of the accounting profession, then investors in people is for you.

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