Investors in People

Primary purpose
Potential benefits
Who can use the tool?
What resources are needed?
Development, ownership and support
Third sector examples
Further sources of information

Primary purpose

The Investors in People Standard is a business improvement tool designed to advance an organisation’s performance through its employees. It helps organisations to improve performance and realise objectives through the management and development of their people.1 It has three principles to which an organisation must subscribe and key indicators to work towards. An external assessor will look for evidence that these principles and indicators have been implemented throughout the organisation.


Investors in People (IIP) provides a flexible framework, which any organisation can use. It mirrors the business planning cycle (plan, do, review) making it clear for organisations to follow and implement in their own planning cycle.

The framework is based on three main principles:

  1. Plan – developing strategies to improve the performance of the organisation.
  2. Do – taking action to improve the performance of the organisation.
  3. Review – evaluating the impact of its investment in people on the performance of the organisation. Each principle has clear indicators underpinning them.


  1. A strategy for improving the performance of the organisation is clearly defined and understood.
  2. Learning and development is planned to achieve the organisation’ objectives.
  3. Strategies for managing people are designed to promote equality of opportunity in the development of the organisation’s people.
  4. The capabilities managers need to lead, manage and develop people effectively are clearly defined and understood.


  1. Managers are effective in leading, managing and developing people.
  2. People’s contributions to the organisation are recognised and valued.
  3. People are encouraged to take ownership and responsibility by being involved in decision-making.
  4. People learn and develop effectively.


  1. Investment in people improves the performance of the organisation.
  2. Improvements are continually made to the way people are managed and developed.

Organisations pursuing the Standard then prepare their work against these criteria with support from a recognised Investors in People Adviser and guidance from detailed evidence requirements.2 External assessment is subsequently carried out to ensure the organisation has met these principles and underpinning criteria. The organisation can request an assessment at any time once it has decided to work towards the Standard.

Supporting evidence for the assessment is gathered from a range of sources and is not necessarily paper based. Evidence may include verbal and observed feedback, for example, through one-to-one interviews with employees or staff appraisal. As long as the criteria are adhered to, there is complete flexibility in how the organisation seeks to improve its staff development.

Once the organisation has been recognised as an ‘Investor in People’ it is subject to regular reviews no more than three years apart. An organisation can be assessed on a more regular basis if it so wishes.

IIP also offers a free online business support tool called IIP Interactive. 3 It is designed to guide the user through development activities and help transform the performance of their organisation. Built into the tool is a diagnostic that provides a snapshot of the organisation’s current performance in relation to achieving the Investors in People Standard.

Potential benefits

  • Investors in People is externally validated. It is widely recognised and the Standard acts as an independent stamp of approval for both prospective staff and potential customers.
  • The Standard offers an organisation a method for improving its staff management, employee satisfaction, motivation and access to training and development.
  • The focus on linking employees’ development and skills with an organisation’s overall strategies has the potential to result in gains in overall organisational performance.
  • It can be part of an organisation’s process of improvement over a flexible time frame
  • It dovetails well with other tools for measuring impact and assessing quality such as Social Accounting, the Business Excellence Model and PQASSO.
  • The Investors in People Standard is inclusive, involving all people who work for an organisation in any capacity (for example, paid full-time, part-time staff, consultants and volunteers), particularly relevant to the diverse employment structures of many voluntary and socially enterprising organisations.
  • The Investors in People Standard offers a recognised benchmark of an organisation’s employee management to external bodies as well as making an internal commitment to its staff to continually improve its standards over a long period of time.
  • The Investors in People Standard is awarded indefinitely, subject to regular reviews no more than three years apart. Within this timeframe, organisations can choose how frequently they wish to be reviewed and informed on what progress has made since the last visit.

Potential limitations

  • Whilst implementing the Investors in People Standard can lead to improved relationships with customers, service users and other stakeholders, its primary focus is internal quality. It doesn’t seek to directly address an organisation’s wider economic, social and environmental impacts.
  • The Investors in People Standard focuses only on staff improvement and quality.
  • It requires commitment from all employees including senior management and cannot be implemented without their involvement.
  • As with some other tools, the Investors in People Standard has the potential to be costly for some third sector organisations, particularly if substantial changes need to be made following assessment.
  • For an orgaisation to maintain the IIP mark, a re-accreditation process must be undertaken every three years.

Who can use the Investors in People Standard?

Any organisation with two or more employees that wants to improve the skills of its workforce and encourage their commitment to become part of its vision can undertake the Investors in People Standard. Over 37,000 organisations have achieved it, many in the voluntary and third sector. Although co-operative organisations have successfully implemented the Investors in People Standard, they will need to be aware of its management approach to an organisation’s employees.

What resources are needed?


An individual or team can lead with the Investors in People Standard, though it will need support from management and all staff involved.

Proficiencies or skills

No specialist skills are required to pursue the Investors in People Standard. An assessor will gather evidence, mainly through confidential one-to-one interviews with a staff sample. The organisation may choose to conduct a self-assessment in order to plan what it needs to do. This might involve social research methods such as surveys and interviews. An adviser may be able to help with self-assessment as part of the support package.

Assessment for organisations with up to 20 people usually takes 1.75 days. Larger organisations are assessed based on a percentage or sample of people. As a guide, an organisation with 50–100 people should need between three and four assessor days, depending on the number of locations.

Staff time

The amount of time taken to become an Investor in People will depend upon what kinds of changes need to be made and the degree of management commitment. It is realistic to suggest that an organisation could achieve the Investors in People Standard within a year, but it may take up to two years. Timeframes are fairly flexible as the organisation itself determines when it is ready to be assessed. Whilst it is management led, it will require all staff to be involved in some capacity, for example in staff appraisals. For an organisation to maintain the IIP mark , the Standard is reviewed every three years.

Courses, support, and information

Initial support in the form of workshops and training is available to organisations through the Learning and Skills Councils and Business Links in England, Education and Learning in Wales, Local Enterprise Company in Scotland or the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland and is usually free.

The IIP UK website – is comprehensive and includes case studies of organisations working with IIP.

IIP UK has awarded ‘Champion’ status to a number of exemplar organisations that have been ‘outstanding’ in promoting its values and principles and who have led by example in the way they manage and develop people. 4 These organisations provide a mentoring service and host site visits to learn more about getting the most from the Investors in People Standard.

Development, ownership and support

The Investors in People Standard was developed in 1990 by the UK National Training Task Force in partnership with leading national, business, personnel, professional and employee organisations such as The Confederation of British Industry and The Trade Union Congress. The Investors in People Standard is promoted, developed and quality assured by IIP UK – a non-departmental public body (NDPB) led by the UK Government’s Department for Education and Skills. From its inception the Investors in People Standard has been reviewed every three years.

A non-printable pdf of the Investors in People Standard is available at Guidance is available to run through it yourself, but advisers are available and external assessment is needed to obtain the Investors in People Standard.

Third sector examples

Third sector organisations that have used Investors in People:

  • Action Mental Health (Northern Ireland)
  • Central Scotland Forest Trust
  • Emmaus Projects
  • GISDA (Wales)
  • Pack-It
  • OS & G Co-op
  • Step by Step
  • Suma Wholefoods Co-op

Further sources of information

1 For Investors in People, this is anyone who helps the organisation to achieve its objectives – whatever role they play, including part-time workers and voluntary workers. It would also include self-employed people who do a lot of work for the organisation or people on renewable short-term contracts and regular casual employees.

2 An Adviser helps organisations put in place the practices and processes they need in order to gain the maximum benefit from the Standard in a cost-effective way. The Adviser provides client-focused feedback on an on-going basis and works with the Assessor to help customers plan their assessments and reviews. Advisers are licensed practitioners and have to keep up to date with good practice. They must follow a programme of continuous professional development.


4 For further details visit


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