National project launched to create HR standards and metrics

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The HR Professional body for South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) has launched a project to generate human resource (HR) standards and metrics for South Africa. A group of 130 HR Directors and Subject Matter Experts will sit down to write the Standards at the HR Standards Development Summit in Johannesburg on 21 May and will align them to business strategy to outline  a consistent way of managing HR functions and people in organisations. HR metrics refer to tangible measures that show the impact of HR on the bottom-line of the business. For decades, HR has been criticized for not adding value to business, and this initiative is intended to rectify this shortcoming.

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Siphiwe Moyo, chairman of SABPP, says: “This project is the most profound national HR project in South Africa ever. Setting proper HR standards for South Africa will not only raise the level of professionalism in HR, but will also improve the quality of people practices in organisations.”

CEO of SABPP, Marius Meyer, points out that “It is time to create a GAAP for HR along the lines of the GAAP for finance.” Meyer says that HR must now rise to the level of other professions as far as standards are concerned. He asserts: “There are clear standards for accounting, engineering and other professions, but the same can not be said of HR. Accountants present their companies and clients with a consistent approach to the financial aspects of a company. For example, balance sheets and income statements are done in the same way, no matter the type of company or industry, and this consistent approach is prevalent throughout South Africa. However, there are many inconsistencies in the standard of HR work within organisations, between companies, within and across sectors, and nationally. These inconsistencies are based on a variance in standards at best, and the absence of standards at worst. This results in poor people management practices at most organisations costing them dearly, despite some pockets of excellence at leading companies.”

SABPP will generate 13 HR functional standards (for example for workforce planning, training, performance management and so forth), tangible HR metrics, as well as standards for integrated reporting. The latter project is an exciting development flowing from the King III Code on Governance for South Africa according to which companies should not only report on their financial bottom-line, but also on their environmental and social performance. SABPP will drive this process and stay in close contact with the HR community in ensuring that they are involved in the generation of the standards, as well as supporting them with the necessary capacity-building when applying these standards in practice.

The SABPP HR Standards and Metrics project will focus on the following five phases:

  1. Creation of a Management System Standard to ensure that a sound framework is put in place to govern and manage the HR standards generation project;
  2. Generation of HR functional standards covering all HR functions (from recruitment to training to employment relations);
  3. Development of HR metrics to measure key performance areas of HR affecting the achievement of business goals;
  4. Infusion of HR in integrated reporting frameworks to ensure that HR is sufficiently covered in integrated reporting standards; and
  5. Design of a new continuous professional development system and support tools in building the capacity of HR professionals to apply HR standards and metrics based on a national HR competency model.

Says Meyer: “We are confident that the successful completion of the first five phases as key building blocks for HR excellence will put us in a good position to lobby for HR to be integrated into King IV. Already there is sufficient evidence that people practices and sound human capital management drives business performance and good governance. Moreover, at most companies, labour costs are the biggest cost in business, and it therefore makes business sense to optimise people performance in order to achieve a return on the people investment and achieve business sustainability.”

Dr Michael Robbins from the UK, an international expert on standard-setting and risk management, will be the lead facilitator for this project. Robbins, who was also involved in the Investors in People Standard in the UK, is excited about this project: “I am honoured to be part of this process and I want to congratulate SABPP for driving this project. If SABPP is successful with this project, they will be one of the top professional HR standards generating pioneers world-wide.”

Leading HR journal, HR Future is partnering with SABPP to make a success of the project. HR Future magazine Executive Editor Alan Hosking has given his full support to this historic project: “Clear, formal HR Standards will take the practice of HR to a new level of relevance, excellence and credibility. This is exactly what HR needs in order to play its rightful role. The project will therefore be writing a crucial chapter in the history of HR in South Africa.”

Meyer expressed his thanks to the HR executives who have already committed to the project, in particular the HR leaders from Nedbank, First Rand Bank, Anglogold Ashanti and Fraser Alexander for their enthusiastic support during the conceptualisation phase of the project.

HR Directors and Subject Matter Experts who are interested in participating at the Summit on 21 May in Johannesburg can contact Sithembele Stofile on (011) 482 8595 or visit

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