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Accreditation schemes

29 April 2005 by

Potential customers often look for independent advice or recommendation before choosing a hotel or restaurant. That's why the AA and Michelin, for example, sell thousands of copies of their guides every year.

Potential staff are often also looking for the same independent opinion before they decide to apply for work or to accept an offer. They want to know that the company they are thinking of working for is an ethical, informed organisation that values its staff and their development.

Which is where accreditation schemes come in. Independent assessments of a company's employment practices should, in theory, raise standards, motivate staff and improve customer service.

But there is confusion about what these schemes achieve, and which is the best for each individual business. Here are some brief breakdowns of what each scheme involves and what the pros and cons are.

There are three main standards on offer covering the hospitality industry:

Investors in People (IIP) - a government-run national standard covering all businesses

Excellence Through People - industry-specific standard started by the British Hospitality Association

Hospitality Assured (HA) - also an industry-specific standard but started by the HCIMA.

Investors in People

What is it? IIP is a national standard covering all industries. It aims to help companies improve the training and development of staff in order to achieve business goals.

Who runs it? IIP was developed in 1990 by the National Training Task Force in partnership with organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, TUC and the Institute of Personnel and Development. In other words, it's a government-led scheme.

What are the principles? The IIP standard is based on four key principles:

  • Commitment Commitment to invest in people to achieve business goals
  • Planning Planning how skills, individuals and teams are to be developed to achieve these goals
  • Action Taking action to develop and use necessary skills in a well-defined and continuing programme directly tied to business objectives
  • Evaluating Evaluating outcomes of training and development for the progress of individuals towards their goals, the value achieved and future needs.

What will it cost me?

It depends what changes are identified and what you need to implement to achieve them. Can be very expensive but the initial assessment will cost about £500 a day.

How long will it take?

Again depends on what changes need to be made. But reassessment takes place at least every three years.

Who already has the IIP standard?

Out of more than 25,000 organisations that have achieved IIP status, 1,321 are in the hospitality industry, including McDonald's and Six Continents.

What are the benefits?

IIP is a widely recognised standard by both industry and the general public. Consequently the company's image is given an independent stamp of approval for both prospective staff and potential customers.

It should also, in theory, improve motivation and productivity, resulting in higher profitability.

What are the drawbacks? Can be very time-consuming and long-winded. It can also be far too expensive for smaller businesses, especially since the Government stopped handing out subsidies.

There is also a danger that people go for the standard for PR reasons rather than genuinely wanting to help their staff.

Where can I get more information?

The IIP Web site is very comprehensive.

Excellence Through People

What is it? A standard specific to the hospitality industry. It is aimed at improving a company's chances of attracting, employing and retaining good staff.

Who runs it?

The scheme was launched in January 1998 by the British Hospitality Association (BHA) with £350,000 of government funding. It is still championed by the BHA, but run by management company Hospitality and Leisure Manpower on its behalf.

What are the principles? Excellence Through People gives employers the opportunity to measure their employment practices against the best, gives advice and guidance on improvement and independently assesses an establishment and compares it with other similar businesses.

It has a ten-point code of good employment practice that it uses as a benchmark.

What will it cost me? Depends on the size of the company and whether or not the firm is a member of the BHA, but there are various set fees for the basic services:

  • Self-help pack: £49.50/£39.50
  • Benchmark report: £14
  • Initial registration fee: £35
  • Seminars: £69.50/£59.50
  • Assessment for certificate of employer practice: fewer than 25 staff, £135; 25-99 staff, £195; 100-plus staff, £375
  • Annual re-certification: £80/£108/£155

How long will it take?

Depends on the size of the business and what changes need to be made, but re-certification takes place annually.

What's the difference between Excellence Through People and IIP?

The standard is designed to complement IIP, but the basic difference is that IIP looks at using training and development to achieve business goals, while Excellence Through People examines the attraction and retention of good staff.

Who already has Excellence Through People?

As of January 2001 there were 187 businesses and 794 outlets accredited, including Sodexho's Directors Table division and the Savoy hotel in London.

What are the benefits?

Excellence Through People is more simple and less expensive than IIP. It is designed purely for use within the industry and not for public recognition, so PR is not a motivation. There is genuine verbal evidence that, on the whole, it does improve attraction and retention of good staff.

What are the drawbacks?

Excellence Through People is still a mystery to many within the industry and entirely unknown outside of it. The BHA admits that the take-up has been lower than it hoped. There is also a great deal of confusion between Excellence Through People and the other schemes, particularly Hospitality Assured.

Perhaps most importantly, it is seen as far too hotel-orientated and restaurants, particularly small independents, can see it as largely irrelevant to them.

Where can I get more information?

The BHA Web site can be difficult to negotiate, but all the information is there.

Hospitality Assured

What is it? Hospitality Assured is a scheme aimed at improving customer service and satisfaction as well as professional organisation.

Who runs it? Launched in June 1998, it is run by the HCIMA. Unlike IIP and Excellence Through People, it has never received any government funding.

What are the principles?

Hospitality Assured contains a set of requirements, all of which are measured against a set of industry standards through an independent annual customer satisfaction survey.

There is also an annual assessment against the Professional Service Standard. Independent assessors will talk to you and your staff to check how service standards are being maintained.

What will it cost me?

Depends on the size of the business and what changes need to be made. There are set fees for some things, including the assessment:

  • Self assessment book: £37.50/£25
  • Workshop: £450 half-day/£750 full-day
  • Annual assessment (or biennial for businesses with fewer than 20 employees): £660 + VAT (no report); £990 plus VAT (with report); £1,500 plus VAT (multinationals).

How long will it take?

Depends on the size of the company, but reassessment is done annually for businesses with more than 20 employees and every two years for smaller firms.

What's the difference between Hospitality Assured and Excellence Through People?

A lot. Excellence Through People aims to improve the recruitment and retention of staff; Hospitality Assured is designed to improve customer service.

Who already has Hospitality Assured?

72 businesses and 2,200 outlets have the gained accreditation, including De Vere Hotels, Little Chef and Travelodge.

What are the benefits?

By all accounts, Hospitality Assured is a very thorough and comprehensive scheme that genuinely does improve customer service levels.

What are the drawbacks?

Can be expensive and time-consuming, especially for small businesses. In fact, the HCIMA is currently reviewing the scheme to make it more accessible.

Like Excellence Through People, it is still relatively unknown with a small take-up. This is probably worse for Hospitality Assured as, unlike Excellence Through People, it is designed to be recognised by the general public. Many in the industry still cannot differentiate between the two schemes.

And, also like Excellence Through People, it is seen as largely irrelevant by small, independent restaurateurs.

Where can I get more information?

The HCIMA Web site has all the information.

by Andrew Davies

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