Business urged to speak up on training

17th January 1997 at 00:00
Companies should spell out their cash commitment to staff training in all annual reports and prospectuses for investors, says a report from City University.

But the long-awaited research commissioned by the Institute of Personnel and Development disappointed Labour and the Liberal Democrats and many in education and training for failing to call for it to be a statutory requirement.

Nor does it say whether it should apply only to the private sector or be extended to public bodies such as the growing number of non-governmental organisations which are replacing the civil service and local and regional government services.

The report is out of kilter with Labour demands for statutory disclosure of information relating to cash spent on training and the range of skills and experience of the workforce in both sectors.

Training and enterprise councils, which control most public- sector training cash, are soon to make their position clear on statutory disclosure, in the run-up to the general election, by publishing a series of policy papers.

If Labour wins, TECs will survive for at least two years within a regional framework of planners including a devolved Further Education Funding Council and local education authorities. Their long-term survival would depend on their willingness to back more statutory measures.

However, the IPD report gives a much tougher line than current Tory policy which merely extolls the virtue of publication as "good practice". The study report, Investors' view of people management, says companies should be "encouraged" to publish annual statements showing the link between their people management and business objectives.

While this is closer to current policy, ministers will be concerned - and the Opposition delighted - at the failure of their continued voluntarist policies to have any significant impact on the publication of training figures.

Only 15 of the top 50 companies' annual reports and accounts analysed for the study mentioned training and development. Companies seemed more concerned about their public image.

"Far more attention was devoted to good works in the community and care for the environment than to the essential nature of human resource practice, " the report says.

The evidence showed "the public face" of organisations. "The fact that they projected no great concern or real appreciation of the worth of their employees sends a clear message to the reader - people in these organisations appeared to be a minor consideration," it concludes.

John Stevens, IPD policy director, agreed that the value of a company's staff management strategies was not always easy to measure. But, he insisted, it was possible and investors ought to know about such policies. "To be successful, businesses need flexible, motivated and efficient people."

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