Why national HR standards are needed in business

The HR professional and quality assurance body of South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), together with its strategic partner HR Future magazine, 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. The next two months will be used to refine these draft standards until they are ready to be signed-off by HR Directors and other stakeholders for release to the market.  This project has received positive feedback from all nine provinces, and eight professional bodies in South Africa. Moreover, our HR colleagues in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Ghana have expressed a keen interest in the initiative and have asked SABPP to provide guidance in their countries to get similar projects going.

SABPP CEO Marius Meyer says, “In extensive consultations with senior HR professionals throughout South Africa last year following the Marikana massacre, it emerged that the lack of national HR standards is the single biggest obstacle to sound people practices in organisations. Now, as strike season approaches, time, resources and lives will be wasted because no-one has addressed root causes. A single set of HR standards is needed to improve people management in all organisations.”

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;
  • The variance in standards has resulted in HR professionals generally being taken less seriously than other professionals at companies.

The initiative has a clear rationale: Subsequent world competitiveness reports have indicated the need for South Africa to improve its human capital. The current skills crisis and talent shortages experienced by business can not be perpetuated, and a more systematic approach is needed in establishing a national framework for excellent people practices in business. Sound labour relations will remain a pipedream if basic HR and people practices are not entrenched at South African companies.

The benefits of a national set of HR standards are as follows:

  • Promoting quality and consistency in HR practice;
  • Creating integrated HR systems and frameworks;
  • Providing a platform for HR benchmarks nationally;
  • Reducing variation and eliminating HR errors and risks;
  • Building HR teams and outputs based on clear standards and metrics;
  • Enhancing the credibility of HR among other professionals; and
  • Developing a national framework for HR curriculum at HR academies, learning providers and universities.

A set of 13 national HR standard element titles has already been brainstormed by HR Directors in May and it is now time for HR executives and other interested parties to get together to generate the necessary practice standards. The standards 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 in improving the quality of people practices in organisations.

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.

The following companies were represented during the first standard generation phase of the project: Murray & Roberts, Samancor Chrome, Deloitte, Nedbank, Sandvik, Evraz Highveld, Assupol Life, Sanlam, Edcon, Hilton Worldwide, CSIR, Illovo, Simba, Waltons, Netcare, Eskom, Alcatel-Lucent, Rand Water, Sasol, Astral, Advtech, Liberty, Britehouse, DPSA, JIC, ARM, Anglo American, Voilkswagen, FNB, JHI Properties, Medscheme, Clover, Spar, JD Group, Babcock Africa, Dawn, Liviero, University of Pretoria, Wits University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Zululand, Cargo Carriers, Tranter Holdings, MacDonalds Transport, Fair Cape Diaries, Aranda Textiles, BBKSIC, Ernest & Young, Labournet, Levis Strauss, Exxaro, CBI Electric, SAICA and Servest Landscaping.

Once the HR standards are in place, HR Directors will direct the application of the standards in companies. SABPP wants to go as far as suggesting that workplaces should be audited to assess the prevalence of sound people practices. Continuing with poor people management and outdated HR practices puts the sustainability of companies at risk.

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. Also, we are sure that CEOs will support their HR Directors in driving better people practices and standards at our companies.”

HR Future Executive Editor Alan Hosking commented, “National HR standards set the scene for a new era for HR Directors. It will provide them with a clear framework for executing their mandate as custodians of sound HR management and governance of the people function in companies. In fact, proper HR standards can add significant value to the current move towards integrated reporting.”

The national HR Standards will be presented to the HR profession on 20 and 21 August at a special National HR Standards Roll Out in Johannesburg.

Any enquiries about the project can be directed to the CEO of SABPP, Marius Meyer onmarius@sabpp.co.za. More information about SABPP is available on the SABPP blog hrtoday.me and the website www.sabpp.co.za

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

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 executiveoffice@sabpp.co.za




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