For those of you having to run ever faster just to stand still, the notion of going through the process of seeking Investor in People accreditation might be an unthinkable extra burden.
So why do firms take on a process that is often regarded as adding layers of administration to already overworked businesses? Perhaps it’s a cynical marketing ploy – is having that IIP logo on your letterhead a shrewd tool to please clients and assist recruitment? Or maybe it really does help streamline business, making it more profitable and getting the best from staff.
Mowat Dean in Edinburgh have recently been awarded IIP reaccreditation and partner Hugh Mackay is clear about their reasons for embarking on IIP.
“Management is more important than anything else because that’s what determines if people are happy within a firm. If they’re not happy it always has a detrimental impact on performance.”
“IIP was one way to ensure the office was run better than it had been – not on the basis of management consultancy and looking to the bottom line to make the business more profitable, but making sure that all the people employed here felt they had a part to play and were listened to.”
At Peddie Smith Maloco in Dunfermline, the business rationale for pursuing IIP status was slightly different, according to partner Michael Maloco.
“We had a number of business opportunities available to us. There was a general squeeze on the margins and locally people were fighting tooth and nail for business. To grasp the opportunities we had to work more profitably.
“IIP will mean many things to many people, but we realised that what we’re doing, domestic conveyancing, isn’t rocket science, and that we could reap the benefits of doing a larger volume of work.
“Senior secretarial people know a lot about the bones and practicalities of how to go about doing domestic conveyancing and we were looking to build upon that.
“We realised that giving them full training would free up the partners to go out and work less in the business but on the business. Essentially if we could be substantially freed from the coalface, we could get our heads up and go out and win new business.”
For the firm, it required a change of mindset about how to train staff – but, from Maloco’s perspective, all the indications are that the process has fostered greater job satisfaction among staff.
Similarly at Mowat Dean, IIP meant revisiting some processes they had taken for granted and implementing an overall culture change in the office.
Solicitor Elspeth Williamson, who facilitated the firm’s accreditation and reaccreditation process, said that going through IIP “helped people appreciate that their views were listened to and that they were important members of the team who had a significant role to play in the running of the firm.
“In IIP the focus is on training. With CPD that’s easier for lawyers, but hasn’t always been so easy to focus on training for support staff”.
For staff, some aspects of the culture change took a bit of getting used to, explained Hugh Mackay.
“It did take some time for them to get used to the idea that they can express their opinions without negative consequences. As a result, we now have a reasonably good idea at any given time of what the office thinks.”
Staff were encouraged to produce their own agenda for changing the office and regular personal development meetings – kept apart from salary reviews – have focused on getting employees to set their own standards.
“They are often more self critical than we would be. A major element of IIP is to define goals and to relate training to the goals of the firm and the overall objectives of the office,” said Hugh Mackay.
Michael Maloco suggests that the very fact that a practice is thinking about IIP “suggests you are of the mindset of what is required anyway.
“Once the consultancy explained the ethos behind what was required to evidence it, we found that many of the procedures were in place already.
“We have embraced the ethos and people in the practice know what is expected of them. It’s far better to invest the time and effort in existing staff as opposed to constantly looking outside the practice for other people who perhaps come with a different set of ideas and working culture.”
But what of the administrative burden that is often quoted as a major drawback to any business considering seeking IIP accreditation?
Both firms report having to produce what amounted to fairly thick manuals of evidence, particularly for the original accreditation – but that once the structures are in place, the administration for reaccreditation is reduced.
In fact, it’s the flexibility of Investors in People that both firms point to.
Elspeth Williamson said: “Once you accept that IIP is something you can tailor to what you do, it’s not something to be scared of. There’s no longer a them and us attitude, because everyone gets involved. With things running more smoothly, it’s evident that we can also offer a better service to clients.”
Her colleague Hugh Mackay added: “People in the office are happier, less frustrated and operate better together as a group than before we went through IIP.”
IIP might not be for every firm – it’s unlikely to work where existing processes are far removed from the standard or if firms expect it to work as a magic formula to transform an ailing business.
Michael Maloco said: “Since IIP accreditation, our turnover and profit has risen and that’s not by chance.
“It’s not for every firm and some wouldn’t benefit from it, but IIP can underpin your business strategy by focusing the mind and introducing a discipline.
“You have to take staff along with your vision – it can’t just be imposed and if they don’t buy into it and you don’t take their thoughts and suggestions into account, it won’t work.”
Hugh Mackay said: “Claims are made that because the office is running more efficiently, it will be more profitable. There may be a theoretical link, but it’s misleading to go into it because you think there’s money to be made by attracting clients.
“IIP is a useful tool to manage the business and act as a point of reference and it has helped engender more loyalty and enthusiasm. It’s capable of being adapted by all firms, but at the moment the importance of management is still grossly undervalued and underrated by solicitors.”
IS IIP RIGHT FOR YOUR FIRM?
The Scottish Enterprise website identifies ten key benefits that companies report from going through the IIP process:
IMPROVED EARNINGS, PRODUCTIVITY AND PROFITABILITY
The books don’t lie. With everyone working towards the same goals, profitability rises.
INCREASED MOTIVATION AND MORALE OF STAFF
They don’t mind Mondays. Contented staff work harder and better, increasing productivity.
REDUCTION OF STAFF TURNOVER
Staying power. Happy people are less likely to move to another job, so you save time and effort on recruitment.
It’s good to talk. With Investors in People everyone should be included in the ethos of the business.
GREATER CAPACITY FOR INNOVATION AND RISK TAKING
There are no boundaries. In the open and confident environment created by Investors in People, staff can push back the boundaries, to develop new concepts and ideas.
IMPROVED CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
The customer’s always right. Thanks to Investors in People, staff are more focused on customers’ needs, so satisfaction levels increase.
Get an edge. With Investors in People you develop a real competitive edge, through improved performance.
GREATER STAFF FLEXIBILITY
Your flexible friends. Under Investors in People, your staff are willing to adapt their roles to meet changing business needs.
DRIVE FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
There is no end. With Investors in People you keep raising your game.
CHANGE IN MINDSET
Change for the better. Through Investors in People everyone in the company is involved as Champions of Change, working together to improve customer service and drive the business forward.
In this issue
- Marketing through the ages
- Making the most of marketing
- Firms embrace merits of marketing
- Marketing methods for smaller firms
- Investing in people brings rewards
- Time to learn from enlightened English courts?
- Distinction between threatened and completed wrong
- Make it policy to know about policy cover
- In practice
- Plain speaking
- Book reviews