This report presents the outcomes of People Skills, a UK pilot programme which provided small firms with HR support and advice. The programme was supported by J.P. Morgan through the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and delivered through the CIPD and local partners. In each of three locations – Hackney (London), Stoke-on-Trent and Glasgow – a small bank of independent HR consultants was recruited to provide free employment and people management advice to small businesses on demand, and the CIPD’s HR Inform online support system was made available to project participants.

The pilot ran from July 2015 to October 2016 and has been evaluated by a team at Manchester Metropolitan University through surveys and interviews with project stakeholders. The project demonstrates that there is demand for HR support amongst SMEs, and th at a model of bespoke, face-to-face provision by independent consultants is an effective way of meeting that. Tangible improvements to SME employment practices can be delivered through this model, which in turn provides a foundation for more transformational change and greater business confidence.

The CIPD recommends a national rollout of the People Skills initiative as part of a renewed focus in industrial strategy on enhancing workplace productivity by boosting managerial quality, increasing investment in skills and strengthening the quality of business support through local level institutions. 

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