Top HR leaders set national HR standards for South Africa

On 21 May, a hundred HR Directors and eight HR professional bodies and associations gathered in Johannesburg to set HR standards for South Africa. This is a national initiative driven by the HR quality assurance and professional body, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and leading HR journal, HR Future. The project initiated from the realisation that business activities like production, accounting and engineering have clear standards, while there was a total absence of HR standards.

Although most HR Managers are doing their best to ensure an effective HR function, they are doing so in a vacuum, given the lack of a common framework for people practices. For instance, while most organisations do some form of performance management, vastly different approaches and models are used to manage performance. Other HR functions such as learning, reward and employment relations are not exempt from these inconsistencies and variance in practice.

Alan Hosking, Executive Editor of HR Future says: “Clear, formal HR Standards will take the practice of HR to a new level of relevance, significance, excellence and credibility. This is exactly what HR needs in order to play its rightful role. The project is writing a crucial chapter in the history of HR in South Africa.”

At the HR Standards Development Summit on 21 May, SABPP delegates from leading companies generated 13 HR standard elements (for example, for workforce planning, learning and development, performance management and so forth). This will be followed up with tangible HR metrics, as well as standards for integrated reporting. The summit was facilitated by Dr Michael Robbins, Managing Director of IMOR(UK), who commented at the event: “South African HR Directors are leading the world after today, there are six groups doing this work globally, but you are at the forefront of setting HR standards.”

Siphiwe Moyo, Chairman of SABPP opened the Summit and said: “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.”

One delegate added: “This was the best day in my HR career. After today I am proud to be in HR.” David Bischof, chairman of the Assessment Centre Study Group summarised the day as follows: “An exciting, invigorating and intellectually stimulating day with fantastic colleagues.” Stan Horwitz, a board member of the South African Organisation Development Network described the event as an “outstanding, groundbreaking summit.” Selenah Seipei, an HR intern at DNA said: “I had the best day of my life. History was made today and I’m honored to be part of it.”

The SABPP HR System Standards Model encompasses the four phases of all good quality management practice, that is, prepare, implement, review and improve. The three standards components are (1) HR-business alignment at the strategic level, (2) the functional and cross-functional HR value chain, as well as (3) measuring HR success. Within these three standards components, the 13 HR standards elements generated are as follows:

  1. Strategic HRM;
  2. Talent management;
  3. HR Risk Management;
  4. Workforce planning;
  5. Learning & Development;
  6. Performance management;
  7. Reward;
  8. Wellness;
  9. Employment Relations Management;
  10. Organisation Development;
  11. HR Service Delivery;
  12. HR Technology;
  13. HR Measurement.

A total of 13 working groups were formed for senior HR professionals to generate the standards. They were assigned to develop the standard based on three components: a clear definition of what the standard element means, the objectives of the standard, as well as the implementation of the standard in practice.

An inclusive process was followed to involve as many stakeholders as possible. In addition to the hundred HR Directors, the following professional bodies collectively representing approximately 15 000 members participated in the working groups:

  • SA Board for People Practices;
  • South African Reward Association;
  • Assessment Centre Study Group;
  • Human Capital Institute (Africa);
  • Southern African Organisation Development Association;
  • International Society for Performance Improvement (South Africa chapter);
  • Employee Assistance Professional Association of South Africa; and
  • South African Professional Trainers Association.

As conveners of the initiative, SABPP and HR Future will continue to engage with the HR professional community over the next two months to finalise the first phase of the project. HR Directors and Managers are welcome to liaise with SABPP regarding the first draft of Standards and prepare for the first set of professional practice notes. On 20 and 21 August the profession will see the roll out of the national HR standards. As HR professionals, we owe it to our clients, and other stakeholders inside and outside our organisations to drive a framework for high quality HR work. SABPP and HR Future will drive this process and stay in close contact with the HR community to ensure it is supported with the necessary capacity-building when applying these standards in practice.

Already eleven universities have committed to developing their curricula based on the output of the National HR Standards Initiative. The next generation of HR talent will reap the rewards of these standards. SABPP CEO Marius Meyer expressed his gratitude to all participants and other interested parties for joining SABPP and HR Future on a journey towards HR excellence in South Africa.

 For regular updates about progress on the National HR Standards Initiative, contact him on or follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1. Website:

People who are interested to join SABPP for the National HR Standards Roll-out Conference on 20-21 August 2013 are welcome to contact SABPP on

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