Agape Workplace Initiative

5th Jun 2013

Is the Investors in People award worth having?

Is the Investors in People award worth having?
Is the Investors in People award worth having? IIP has been under fire in recent years over whether they can objectively substantiate the claim that meeting their standards genuinely enhances business performance. But the problem I have is more fundamental than that. To get the IIP badge, you have to be able to demonstrate the link between people investment and performance. And my beef is that the very process of tracking that link has a dehumanising effect.

It's often said that whatever you measure is what you value. That's fine if we measure what we already value, but dangerous because if that's not so, we will come to value what we measure. In the case of IIP, that could mean coming to value people for their productivity alone. And although we will never say out loud "alone", that is still the direction that IIP takes us. The more focused and passionate we are about the measurement, the more dehumanised we will become.

It's ironic that in the public world of business we focus heavily on how to use people to make profit, then go to our homes where we turn this value on its head and use the profit we have made to help people - particularly our immediate family. For IIP to make any sense at all we must rigidly maintain the public-private divide, and any sense of holistic thinking in the workplace will become a threat. One of the defining factors is the language we use. The IIP world is all about "Return on Investment", "Human Resources", "Star Performers" and the like. And the language rules the show. IIP only tightens the circle and magnifies the effect.

So am I against the award or against the concept itself? In truth I'm cool with the idea of investing in people (small letters). On one level, it's almost the only thing I do. But we need to shift our accounting focus. Most businesses still review their accounts quarterly. That's OK for some purposes, but where people are concerned we need to do them intergenerationally, though even a single lifetime is a good place to start.

Tracking that becomes a whole lot less precise, but it also becomes a whole lot more real. Try reading the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew bible. Thinking this way is not so hard as you might imagine.

Phil Jackman