A Step in the Right Direction? Investors in People and the Learning Organization

Bell, E.; Taylor, S. and Thorpe, R. (2002). A Step in the Right Direction? Investors in People and the Learning Organization. British Journal of Management, 13(2) pp. 161–171.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00229

Abstract

Investors in People (IiP), the state-sponsored workplace training initiative, has been interpreted as a tool which managers can apply towards developing a learning organization. In this paper we seek to evaluate the validity of this claim on the basis of a qualitative study of six case-study organizations which explores the social and micro-political aspects of IiP from the viewpoints of senior managers, personnel and line managers and employees involved with the standard. We suggest that implementation of IiP involves negotiating a central paradox – the tension between the hard, content-focused nature of the IiP framework and the softer, process-focused nature of much workplace learning. In particular, the administrative aspects of implementation associated with the standard can obscure the social processes of sense-making and collective negotiation of meaning, which are integral aspects of organizational learning. This can lead to an objectification of learning and may not allow for the participatory negotiation of meaning crucial to forming a community of practice. IiP continues to form a central part of the British government’s workplace learning agenda and it is now also being developed as an international standard. We conclude, however, that this institutionalization of practice has the potential to inhibit organizational learning.

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