HR Standards generated to address labour turmoil

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, has launched the most exciting national HR project in South Africa ever – the creation of the first set of national HR Standards at the HR Standards Development Summit on Tuesday, 21 May 2013, in Johannesburg.

More than a hundred HR Directors and other senior specialists convened to develop the first set of national HR standards for the country. While global codes exist such as the Global Reporting Initiative, as well as the standards of the International Labor Organization, the local context requires a national approach and framework to address typical South African issues.

In extensive consultations with senior HR professionals throughout South Africa last year following the Marikana massacre, the SABPP identified the lack of national HR Standards as a major obstacle 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;
  • The variance in standards has resulted in HR professionals generally being taken less seriously than other professionals at companies.

A set of 13 national Standards titles has been brainstormed by the HR Directors at the summit in May and in August they will meet again to generate the necessary practice guidelines. The standards agreed 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 all areas of specialisation. 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.

Despite strong consensus to continue with this initiative, there are some myths about HR standards. These myths are as follows:

  • Industries are unique and a national approach will not work. This is simply not true, HR practices are universal, it is only the context that differs, e.g. a large organisation will have a more complex recruitment and selection strategy, and a mine will focus more on an integrated employment relations strategy than a restaurant.
  • Standards become onerous and too compliance-driven. This is not true, the intention is to raise the standard of people practice, and not to create another compliance regime.
  • If we have good HR practices at our organisation, we don’t need national standards. Also not true. The intention of the project is raise the standard of HR work nationally, your HR practices may be good, but what will happen if one of your suppliers is unable to deliver because of HR problems?

Siphiwe Moyo, Chairman of SABPP says: “I trust that HR Directors will join this special project and share their excitement regarding the strategic significance of this project for South Africa. In fact, proper HR standards can add meaningful value to the current focus on integrated reporting.”

Any enquiries about the project can be directed to the CEO of SABPP, Marius Meyer on

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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