Leading British companies were urged this week to launch a high-profile charm offensive to get firms committed to training.
Kim Howells, the Minister for lifelong learning, told senior executives from firms such as British Aerospace, the Rank Group, Vauxhall Motors, Barclays Bank and London Transport: "Go out and champion the Investors in People standard. "
He said: "As some of Britain's most successful companies, you have already proved the business benefits of training and developing your own employees. The Government wants to inject a new impetus into IIP . . . Large employers like you can help."
He said the Government was considering using public-sector buying power as a lever to encourage training. There was evidence from a number of large organisations who had already introduced their suppliers to the standard that both sides benefited significantly from the arrangement, he said.
The training standard, introduced under the Conservatives, helped to forge stronger relationships with suppliers, promote higher quality and delivery standards and make suppliers' staff as "super-competitive" as the company's own people.
Firms with fewer than 100 employees accounted for almost 11 per cent of companies, he said, but they employed nearly 30 per cent of the British workforce. "We know that these small firms often face problems in relation to skills and training, and a key priority for us all has to be to help them raise their skill levels." He urged employers: "Tell the small firms you deal with that IIP is just as relevant to them. They will be following the trail blazed by 70 per cent of all UK organisations employing 200 or more, and 38 per cent employing 50 or over, who are now committed or recognised Investors in People.
"From your own experience you can give them tangible proof of how working towards the IIP standard boosts business performance and financial results; and motivates employees, by raising their morale and commitment through greater job satisfaction."
In recognition of the skills shortage and to encourage small firms to work towards the standard, the Government is to launch several development projects next month. They will be specifically aimed at firms with up to 50 employees where Investors in People penetration is low. Dr Howells added that there had been considerable interest in the IIPstandard abroad. A company could use the standard to signpost its status overseas as a quality organisation.