HR Executives setting national labour standards

The HR professional and quality assurance body of South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and HR magazine HR Future launched a national human resource (HR) project to create the first set of national HR Standards at the HR Standards Development Summit on Tuesday, 21 May 2013, in Johannesburg.  Thomas Ncongwane of Msukaligwa Municipality in Mpumalanga summarises the project as follows: “This is the best human resource project undertaken so far.  It will set the national labour standards for companies.”

This project has been running over last two years when the HR profession was consulted in all nine provinces about the need for HR standards. In extensive consultations with senior HR professionals throughout South Africa last year following the Marikana massacre, a lack of national HR Standards was identified as a major stumbling block to establishing sustainable HR professionalism and sound people practices in the country. The following problems were identified:

  • An absence, variance or lack of HR Standards at company, sector and national level;
  • Inconsistencies in the way in which HR is practised;
  • Concerns about the vastly different models consultants and “experts” suggest to organisations;
  • The absence of national HR benchmarks for the purpose of benchmarking and pursuing best practices; and
  • The variance in standards has resulted in HR professionals generally being taken less seriously than other professionals at companies.

Says Marius Meyer, CEO of SABPP: “Subsequent world competitiveness reports have indicated the need for South Africa to improve its human capital. The current skills crisis and talent shortages experiences by business can not be perpetuated, and a more systematic approach is needed in establishing a national framework for sound people practices in business. Sound labour relations will remain a pipedream if basic HR and people practices are not entrenched at South African companies.”

A set of 13 national HR standard elements has been brainstormed by HR Directors and, on 21 May, HR Executives convened in different working groups to generate the necessary standards. The standard elements are strategic HR management, HR risk management, talent management, workforce planning, learning and development, performance management, reward, employment relations, wellness, HR technology, organisation development, HR service delivery and HR measurement. These areas are critical to improving the quality of people practices in organisations. Moreover, there are too many different perspectives on these areas, hence, the need for standardisation around a common set of definitions and practices.

The purpose of the national HR standards development initiative, therefore, is to formulate a consistent set of HR Standards for South Africa, including HR metrics to measure the bottom-line impact of HR on business. While still recognising unique operating contexts, industry and company differences, national standards will create a consistent framework for high quality HR work practised by true professionals throughout the country. All participating HR Directors, their companies and professional bodies will be acknowledged as the pioneers in setting HR standards for South Africa.

Leon Steyn, HR Director at the TMS Division of the Bidvest Group asserts: “For too long HR professionals have been plagued by an array of guidelines and standards which were either borrowed out of desperation, imposed or not suitable. This HR standards initiative is an exciting step in the right direction and a breath of fresh air for all HR professionals. I support this idea whole heartedly and it is great to be part of this project.”

Siphiwe Moyo, Chairman of SABPP adds: “I trust that HR Directors will join this special project and share their excitement regarding the strategic significance of this project for South Africa. The first set of standards will be launched on 20 August. Also, we are sure that CEOs will support their HR Directors in driving better people practices and standards at our companies. In fact, proper HR standards can add significant value to the current focus on integrated reporting.”

SABPP and HR Future magazine will continue to engage with HR professionals throughout the country in order to solicit inputs until the final set of HR standards are ready to go to market.

HR Future Executive Editor Alan Hosking said, “We believe that the standards will make a significant contribution to raising the overall standard of HR work in South Africa.”

Enquiries about the project can be directed to the CEO of SABPP, Marius Meyer, on More information about SABPP is available on You can also contact Alan Hosking at or visit

HR managers who are interested to attend the National HR Standards Roll-out Conference in Krugersdorp on 20-21 August are welcome to contact SABPP on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s