Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What questions are asked in an Investors in People Assessment?

Recently Ten Percent Legal Recruitment was assessed for the investor in people accreditation. We worked very hard on this and spent some time as a company ensuring that all our procedures and policies were in place and that our staff were aware of the various requirements of the Investor in People process.

We wondered how the assessment would go and also what the questions were likely to be during the interviews.

The assessor was very friendly and explained from the outset what she was wanting to do and we were already aware that we would have thirty minute interviews with the directors and managers and twenty minute interviews with the staff. We also had the Investors in People programme so we were able to look and see what the actual questions would be based on, but there was nowhere to indicate what questions would be asked in the investor in people assessments.

So if this helps anyone else, here are the questions we were asked in our investors in people accreditation:

The assessor asked us what the division of the company was and spent some time querying this with us. She also asked us what evidence there was from when we set up, of how well we had achieved this and our vision and whether we were still on course to achieve the vision that we had in the first instance.

She asked a lot of questions about the background of the company and targeted them towards the general question of whether we had achieved what we set out to achieve or whether we were still working towards it.

Obviously we were careful to identify issues that related to the staffing side of things as we had we were aware that the Investors in People process meant it was to do with the people, but generally we answered the questions according to the company’s aims from the outset.

We also got asked a lot of questions about our training plans and policies and it was evident from the outset that although we had a staff handbook, the information contained within it did not give any information at all about our training policy which was an oversight on our part.

We also had no evaluation of our training policy which was another question that we were asked particularly closely about.

We set out details of our training which in our case is mostly in-house as our Managing Director (i.e., me) does a lot of training and study and is recognised in the industry as an expert on our sector.

I also had to explain all the different paths that the company went down which included alternative business ideas and entrepreneurial developments which for us are very important as we aim to move very quickly into other areas, as and when work drops off or when we identify a niche to go into.

Questions were also asked about how we identified our training needs, which seemed to be a fairly central focus to the interview and something that we found fairly hard to explain, being a very small company.

Our business development plan and training development plan which had been put together by our locally funded business adviser were not deemed satisfactory and a lot of further explanation was required on top.

As well as this, quite a lot of questions were asked about our equal opportunities and the enablement of every member of staff to have the same access to training.

We had been advised to be very careful that everyone in the company knew what attributes made a capable manager and everyone had been instructed to have a think about this and based on information provided to us by our business adviser.

The assessor took careful notes in this particular part and I got the impression that this was fairly important in terms of whether we reached the standard required.

The attributes that our company gave were in recognition of performance, the ability to provide constructive feedback, the ability to build teams, the ability to lead a team, good communication skills and recognition of good performance.

Interestingly during our feedback the assessor did indicate that as a manager in our company, some of these were not really applicable and she would have preferred it if we had thought of our own definitions and given these. We have taken that point on board and she probably was quite right.

Questions were also raised about evaluating training, and one thing we had not thought about doing was setting out the cost or time of our training and assessing whether it was any use to the company. In fact I got sent away during our assessment to have a think about this further so I was in a position to either give concrete evidence or to arrange for the assessment to take place again so we could discuss it. This would be something beneficial for any company to do before the IIP assessments, and it was certainly interesting to do it as it was an eye opener to see what training time I had spent in the previous week, which was over nine hours (without realising it!).

The investors in people assessments took considerably longer than I thought, and I think I was in for my interview for about an hour as opposed to thirty minutes. The difficulty for small companies appears to be that to gather the evidence together to pass the standards is difficult for the assessors, and they have to really think about examples to fit into their reports as there are much lower levels of staff to draw examples from.

Our staff found the interviews very interesting and thought the assessor was very friendly towards them and did not ask them any awkward questions which they were relieved about but also it was interesting to see the interesting questions were saved for the managers and that time was spent on the managers, concentrating on particularly awkward questions that the staff were not asked about.

There were also questions where the staff were asked about examples of training that they had undertaken and how useful this had been for them, whether they thought the managers did a good job and how the managers did a good job and what they thought about the company in general and the structure. The assessor also probed them for information on the company’s aims and values and the direction the company was taking and discussed issues with them on these points in more detail. They did also get asked their understanding of the definition of a capable manager and they were able to give these, but this was again interesting because it does mean that if you are trying to get a large business through the IIP, you would probably need to make sure your staff are fully aware of what their managers ought to be doing, which I guess is fair enough and something I had not really thought about before going through the IIP standard.

Once the assessment had finished I was called back in for further questioning before being asked to leave the room so the assessor could marshal her thoughts. We were informed that we had been recommended to receive the award and the company had met the standard. The next step is for the assessor to submit her report for this to be approved by a board, although it was indicated to us that the overwhelming majority of reports go straight through without any further issues and this is applicable to pretty much everybody.

So what does this mean for our company? Well, the fact that we will be investors in people accredited means that there are some companies and governmental bodies who will now take us more seriously, and recognise that we are a company they can do business with. The anecdotal evidence from business friends and acquaintances is that the investors in people standard can be very beneficial as it indicates a, that you have staff, b, that you recognise them and c, that your company has met an internationally regarded standard and has policies and procedures in place across the company.

I am pleased with everyone’s efforts within the company to achieve this status and I’m glad that we have managed to put it in to place (presuming the board let us through).

If anyone has any ideas or suggestion on how to recognise and reward staff for their efforts in going through the investors in people, I would be glad to know about them. A company our size flying to Florida for two weeks would be slightly excessive!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent legal recruitment who are now investors in people accredited, I’m very proud of all my colleagues. You can contact Jonathan at www.ten-percent.co.uk or e-mail at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 02071274343.