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Three reasons why your people can put you ahead of the competition

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Skills and training

When you’re busy trying to beat the competition, it can be easy to lose sight of the potential your individual employees can have in taking your business from good to great.    That is why I've spent my career encouraging leaders to develop their people, nurture their skills, and communicate the role they play in achieving, even exceeding, business goals.

Take a tip from one of the most competitive leaders of our time – Virgin’s Richard Branson:

“Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

He says of Virgin: “We have believed in giving people opportunities – to be creative, innovative, independent and open-minded.”

There is a solid business case for making people development a top business priority.

Shifting your company from being a collection of individuals, to a skilled team with shared goals and ambitions, is one of the most effective steps you can take to gain competitive advantage. Here are three reasons why, along with three companies who are living proof:

  • 1.       Your people improve your customer service.

People who have been developed and trained are usually more engaged at work, which improves their customer service capability. A recent survey showed how getting employees engaged in a company can have a vast impact on their customer focus: 70% of engaged employees said they have a good understanding of customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees said the same.  Engaged employees can keep your customers closer to your business, and further from your competitors.

In 2010, motor finance company Carlyle used Investors in People to benchmark themselves against some of the best employers in the UK. They wanted to be seen by their customers as having the best managed and best trained people. The IiP process aligned training to tangible goals, reduced staff turnover and improved employee engagement. In 2011, their customers rated Carlyle’s team consistently higher than the competition, which includes some of the biggest names in UK finance.  In a declining market, Carlyle’s highly energised team achieved double digit growth. Their profit doubled year-on-year from £10m to £20m before tax in 2011.

  • 2.       Your people improve your financial performance

Employees who have clear access to development are more likely to feel happy and perform at a higher level. They will be more productive, and ultimately more profitable. One report showed an increase in gross profits per employee of up to £1,2K, when investment in training and management practices was increased by just 10%.

In 2003, Geoplan was making a loss of nearly half a million pounds a year.  With help from IiP, Geoplan overcame a series of market challenges, growing the business, and developing a self-managing structure so that anyone – rather than just manager John Taylor – could lead a project.  This was not an overnight solution but, in 2011 Geoplan made a profit of £400,000 and productivity has gone up from £56k per head in 2002 to £93k per head.

  • 3.       Your people help you rise above challenging times

We have all felt the impact and the challenges of the economic downturn. Making your workforce more skilled, more flexible, and producing better and faster results, can help you not only ride out tough times, but come out on top.

Otto Bock Healthcare, which employees 212 people across 12 UK locations, provides products to hospitals. It used IiP to bring together its diverse workforce and align teams to company strategy.  Despite slashed NHS budgets, financial results continued to improve, with a 19% rise in profitability year-on-year forecast.  Just recently, closer team-working helped Otto Bock win £1million of new business.  People like working at Otto Bock, and what’s more, they like making the business grow.

These three companies chose to use Investors in People (IiP) to help them sharpen their workforce skills while focusing on business goals.  Companies accredited by IiP have improved financial performance2, with higher levels of trust, co-operation and commitment among employees than their competitors.

To make a start, why not check out IiP’s free, interactive support tool here, to get some pointers about developing your people in line with your business ambitions.  To take it a step further, speak to an IiP advisor on 0300 303 3033, or see a list of IiP centres at



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