However, encouraging the adoption of the Standard among smaller businesses could also have certain negative unintended consequences. In my view particularly, the Standard may come to be devalued in the eyes of large, prestigious organisations. Bell et al. , (2001), mentioned that a manager in one research study said, ‘if the hairdresser down the road can get IiP as well, then it starts to lose some of its shine’. For IiP to remain fashionable and prestigious as a badge, one possible solution would be for several levels of award to be incorporated into the Standard.
This could include the development of some kind of advanced or ‘gold’ Standard to enable the highest performers to differentiate themselves from the growing mass of organisations with accreditation, while the lowest performers could be encouraged at the very least to cross some kind of performance threshold, evidenced perhaps through an initial award. This would prevent the badge from losing its shininess as indicating membership of an exclusive club, while at the same time encouraging a wider range of companies to engage with the Standard.
In concluding this essay, I will agree to the facts that evidence suggests that rates are uneven; the Standard is certainly not being adopted across all industrial sectors with equal enthusiasm. This suggests that if the Standard is to make a contribution to improving access to work-based training and improving UK-wide economic performance, then greater effort needs to be placed on raising accreditation rates within certain sectors of the economy, perhaps by introducing flexibility into both the language and requirements of the Standard to better reflect the diversity of workplaces across the economy as a whole.
Significant proportions of accredited workplaces are failing to engage in a basic minimum of good training practice. One explanation for this relates to the fact that, organisations goes through the re-accreditation process only once every three years. There was therefore plenty of scope for them to revert to usual business (Douglas et al. , 1999) once accreditation was secured. Similarly, it has been argued that some organisations have become engaged in a cycle of ‘badge collecting’, to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Within such organisations, IiP and other various quality standards ‘come and go’ in terms of organisational importance, depending on how close re-assessment is. Also, the ‘badge collecting’ mentality is likely to lead to only a superficial engagement with the Standard, attention is only being paid to it when the organisation is just about to go through the re-accreditation process. The badge will only lose its shininess, however, if the proportion of organizations applying for accreditation can be significantly increased.
This, in itself, may prove difficult to achieve. As argued earlier, the initial TEC policy was to deliberately promote IiP to large, prestigious companies that already satisfied many of the requirements, in order to reach government-set targets and raise the prestige of the Standard. Such a policy meant that the companies with the most to gain from the Standard which are the smaller companies engaging in little training and development activity, they are also the ones that received the least attention.
Encouraging these companies to engage with the Standard could prove to be extremely difficult. Those responsible for the present delivery structure will have to overcome the image of IiP as a business improvement tool for larger businesses. Encouraging organisations that for over a decade have dismissed the Standard as irrelevant to their needs is likely to prove a considerable challenge.