Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business


Business Studies

First Advisor

Dr. John Murphy

Second Advisor

Mr. Michael Walsh


In 1997 FAS introduced the Excellence Through People Award, a human resource based quality standard. The main objective was to increase the level, relevance and quality of training being conducted in Ireland. It had become apparent that it was no longer sufficient to offer customers low cost products to try to gain advantage over competitors. Customers were becoming more sophisticated, with more disposable income. Also, technological developments were constantly shortening product lifecycles. Thus, what companies required was for their employees to know in real time what their customers value and to know how to provide it for them. It has been argued that this is one of the only sustainable competitive advantages remaining for companies. This thesis set out to determine if managers in Ireland believe that the skills of their workforce are a primary source of sustainable competitive advantage, to identify the benefits of Excellence Through People for the business and for its employees, and to identify if the award system is appropriate for individual industry sectors and/or company size.

Indications of the impact of this award system are derived from qualitative and quantitative research methods. Primary research was undertaken in the form of interviews and questionnaires. Four experts were interviewed for their views on the necessity for companies to train employees and their perceptions of the fAS Excellence Through People Award. Questionnaires were issued to three populations. The first was to the management of companies who have received the Excellence Through People Award, second, to employees of companies who received the award, and finally, to a sample of companies who have not participated in the programme.

The research concludes that a large proportion of companies now base their strategic business decisions on the belief that their employees are a key strategic resource that need development and training. The general perception of the Excellence Through People Award is positive both for recipient and non-recipient companies. The author provides a number of recommendations that fAS could adopt in order to develop the Excellence Through People system further and to attract new recruits to it.

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