Amid the razzmatazz and controversy of the recent National Skills Conference, 55 companies were rewarded for commencing a journey that is sure to have an impact on South African business development when they were recognised for achieving the internationally recognised Investors in People standard.
Joining the likes of Standard Bank, SAB Miller and other huge corporations was a small Cape Town-based training institution that sailed through an assessment process that often leaves more sophisticated organisations quaking.
"Some people think it?s easier for a small company to achieve Investors in People status than a large one,' says Margaret Nicol, executive director at In Tuition. "That?s wrong because there?s nowhere you can hide your failings.'
The two-year-old company lists Old Mutual, Pam Golding Properties, Eskom, the University of Cape Town, Intercape and several of the sector education and training authorities (Setas) among its clients.
Investors in People (IIP) originates in Britain and is based on 12 indicators of organisational excellence:
There are clear synergies between IIP and the newly announced second phase of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), one of the principles of which is the advancement of the culture of excellence in skills development and lifelong learning. The NSDS objective of "promoting and accelerating quality training for all in the workplace' stipulates that "by March 2010, at least 500 enterprises achieve a national standard of good practice in skills development approved by the Minister of Labour'.
At present this standard is Investors in People, which indicates that the local companies that have already achieved recognition are breaking new ground.
"Modern training and skills development entails lifelong learning,' asserts Nicol, "not only for learners but also for those who create the system and infrastructure, and providing the training.'
Nicol was exposed to Investors in People at a previous employer. "When I started this business, the Department of Labour was starting to promote the programme through the Setas.
"I decided to put some energy into benchmarking In Tuition against the best organisational development companies in the world.'
Nicol asked for a pre-assessment and was astounded when Investors in People SA?s Heather de Beer determined the company already met the 12 indicators.
"Although people knock the NSDS and the Seta system for its bureaucracy and complexity, having a quality assurance system for vocational education and training is essential.
"All I did was aspire to meet the IIP requirements, not as a superficial exercise as some companies are inclined to do but because I?m genuinely passionate about skills development'.
The best thing about Investors in People, she believes, is that it is "a self-regulating corporate culture that is based on continuous professional development.
"It was said over and over at the National Skills Conference that the initial focus of the NSDS was on the number of people who could be engaged in learnerships and skills programmes. Quantity means nothing, however, if it is not accompanied by quality and substance.
"Being recognised as a training organisation that practices what it preaches justifies the ongoing effort.'
By JIM FREEMAN - email@example.com