Setting the scene for South Africa’s first HR management system standard – Dr Michael Robbins

dr Michaela robins

The HR function in contemporary organisations is concerned with people enabling, people development and a focus on making the “employment relationship” fulfilling for both management and employees.

In recent decades, the idea of “resource centric organisation” has gained popularity. This involves looking at all the resources utilised by the organisation in reaching its objectives and ensuring optimal use of each resource separately and as an integrated whole. It has become imperative to put “people first” while making sure of maximising the ROI (Return on Investment) on all resources. This has led to the development of the modern HRM function which has to balance ensuring the fulfilment of management objectives with ensuring that the needs of people resources are taken care of, while maximising the contribution of human capital to the success of the business.

In this way, HR management (HRM) differs from personnel management not only in its broader scope but also in the way in which its mission is defined. HRM goes beyond the administrative tasks of personnel management and encompasses a broad vision of how management would like the people resources to contribute to the success of the organisation.

Investors today are increasingly looking at the value of the intangible assets of a business in deciding where to invest.  There are several efforts underway globally to formulate an evidence-based framework that can present valid information about how human capital, as one of the intangible assets, can be evaluated as investment risk.

The SABPP HR Management System Standard emphasises the importance of human resource management as a leadership imperative and management instrument for monitoring and verifying the effective implementation of an organisation’s HR strategy.  Establishing standards is also an essential part of conformity assessment activities such as external certification/registration and of supply chain evaluation and compliance.  Essentially, if you meet the national HR standard, but your suppliers don’t, your business could be adversely affected, hence the need for a national HR standard.

This SABPP Standards provide guidance on the management of HR management programmes, the conduct of HR management systems, and on the competence of HR professionals applying the standards, as well as providing a framework for HR service providers operating as consultants and learning providers. The standards are intended to apply to a broad range of potential users, including organisations implementing human resource management systems for the first time; organisations needing to conduct benchmarking of existing management systems for contractual reasons; and organisations needing to include HR into internal audit and risk assessment processes. The HR Standard can also be useful to organisations involved in certification/registration of management systems, in accreditation or in standardisation in the area of conformity assessment.

The guidance in these SABPP Standards is intended to be flexible. As indicated at various points in the text, the use of these guidelines can differ according to the size, nature and complexity of the organisation, as well as its objectives and scope in wishing to implement a human resource management system. Although these SABPP Standards are written for the defined elements of the HR Management System, the user can consider adapting or extending the guidance provided herein to apply to other elements such as leadership or audits.

At this stage, these SABPP Standards provide only “should” guidance. However, users can apply them to develop their own mandatory integrated management system, relating requirements of these Standards to international management system standards or specific internal requirements. I look forward to meeting 300 senior HR professionals in Johannesburg on 20-21 August to launch and formalise the country’s first HR Standards.  I don’t think the local business and HR community realise that you are becoming world leaders with these efforts.  It is an honour to facilitate this process for you.  I hope that this initiative will be a wake-up call for top managers all over the world to invest more in their human resources, and to build better people management practices in companies.


Dr Michael Robbins from IMOR (UK) is the Chief Facilitator of the National HR Management System Standards Initiative driven by SABPP. Dr Robbins has been involved in standard development projects for the British Standards Institute.  He orientated the 13 local HR Standards Facilitators, and facilitated the standards-writing day on 21 May with more than a hundred HR Directors.  He will also be the key note speaker at the launch of the HR Standards on 20 August and will manage the second phase of the HR Standards writing process (i.e. developing the “how to” standards with clear guidelines for application in the workplace).

To view the full programme of South Africa’s HR Standards Roll-out, visit

To book your seat at the SABPP National HR Standards Roll-out Conference in Krugersdorp on 20-21 August, please contact

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