HR profession gets its own formal standards

The HR Professional body for South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) launched a project to generate human resource (HR) standards and metrics for South Africa. A group of 100 HR Directors developed the first set of HR Standards for South Africa on 21 May. The purpose of the project is to lead and assist HR Managers in generating standards and metrics for the HR function aligned to business strategy.

HR standards are needed to set a standard and 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 criticised for not adding value to business, and this initiative is intended to rectify this shortcoming.

Current shortcomings in the field of HR are as follows:

  • There are inconsistencies in the way HR is practiced;
  • There are many grey areas and different approaches of dealing with them;
  • Consultants use vastly different models and frameworks;
  • HR managers are challenged about the lack of bottom-line impact of HR work.

It is time to create a national standard for HR, along the lines of IFRS for finance. It is time for HR to rise to the level of other professions as far as standards are concerned. 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.

Siphiwe Moyo, chairman of SABPP, 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 HR professionalism, it will also improve the quality of people practices at organisations.”

SABPP will generate HR functional standards (for example, for workforce planning, learning and development, performance management), 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 HR 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;
  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;

SABPP is confident that the successful completion of the first five phases as key building blocks for HR excellence will put the profession 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 drive business performance and good governance. Moreover, at most companies labour cost is 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 agreed to be the lead facilitator of this project. Michael, who was also involved in the Investors in People Standard in the UK, shared his excitement 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. Executive Editor Alan Hosking of HR Future shares his support for this historic project. “We are excited to be part of this project in rewriting the history of HR in South Africa. Standards will take HR to a new level of credibility, relevance and excellence,” said Hosking.

Marius Meyer, CEO of SABPP says: “I am grateful to the 100 HR executives who committed to this project. HR Directors and HR Managers interested in participating in the second phase of the project are most welcome to attend the roll out on 20 and 21 August in Johannesburg.”

For more information, contact Sithembele Stofile on (011) 482 8595. More information about SABPP is available 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 in Johannesburg  are welcome to contact SABPP on

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