Learning providers join HR professionals on National HR Standards journey by Naren Vassan

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During 2013, under the leadership of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and HR Future, hundreds of HR professionals from all nine provinces and four other countries developed the first set of National HR Standards for South Africa. Several awareness sessions followed in major cities throughout the country, and presentations were also done for the HR professional bodies in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. More than that, interest was attracted from 15 countries (Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, Kenya, Ghana, UK, USA, Australia, The Netherlands, Malaysia, Lesotho, Tanzania and Iran). This article shows how academics at universities and other learning providers are uniting with HR professionals in rolling out the standards in classrooms across the country.

Universities teach HR standards

When the HR standards were developed, 11 universities were involved, and since then a further 10 universities have expressed their support and interest. Some of them have started to change their curriculums to meet the National HR Standards.   Two PhD students are also interested to work on the HR standards as their topics for their theses. Also, the new Master’s HR Programme at North-West University Vaal Campus has been based on the HR Standards and Competencies.

Academics from the University of South Africa and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University have ensured that their students will receive textbooks incorporating the HR Standards from 2015. Other universities have redesigned the curriculum and learning manuals to include the standards. Says, Marius Meyer, CEO of SABPP: “Having worked at universities for many years, I expected more resistance from them. However, the academics exceeded my expectations with their overwhelming response to the HR standards. What impressed me the most was the fact that metropolitan and rural universities displayed the same level of enthusiasm, thereby ensuring that this project has become a national academic success overnight.”

Sihlangene Mgudlwa from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology states: “The standards are a great achievement. We are more proud of the HR profession than before. The standards will standardise HR practice.” Likewise, Prof Suki Goodman from the University of Cape Town expressed her comment: “Congratulations on the National HR Standard, a huge accomplishment.”   Karel van die Molen from the University of Stellenbosch Business School says: “I have perused the HR Standards document a few times and can categorically say that it is a very well-drafted document. Given its origin and given the number of people who initially provided inputs and insights, the distilled wisdom set out in the document certainly sets a standard which all of us as HR professionals can aspire to achieve.”   Dr Pierre Joubert from the Vaal University of Technology shares his excitement as follows: “This is very exciting and will forever stand as a milestone in the HR world!”

Global academic support

Interestingly, the South African standards also attracted interest from universities abroad.   Dr Chris Andrews from Bond University in Australia asserts: “Congratulations on your HR Standards work so far – to start with a model is a great sign. One of the primary reasons for having standards is to provide a base for performance evaluation.  For example a company auditor should not undertake a performance audit of HR activity without first specifying the standards against which performance is to be measured. In auditing, standards are fundamental. In HR, they still appear to be optional in the mind of many HR practitioners.”

Professor Bruce Kaufman from Georgia State University featured the South African HR Standards in a new textbook covering HR in 17 countries published in June 2014.   A master’s student in HR at the University of Theran in Iran will write her dissertation on the HR Risk Management Standard. Thus, it is clear that the National HR Standards have not only received broad academic endorsement from local universities, but also from international universities.

Learning providers

In addition to the HR standards teaching and curriculum alignment initiatives at South Africa’s universities, private learning providers have also come to the party in ensuring that workplace and unemployed learners are empowered with the National HR Standards as part of their HR certificate and diploma programmes. Hence, if we combine the university efforts with that of the private and public learning providers it means that very soon thousands of learners will exit these institutions ready to implement the national HR standards in practice. The Maccauvlei Learning Academy, QBit and Regenesys Business School are three such providers supporting this national initiative. Paula Teigao of Maccauvlei Learning Academy says: “I would like to congratulate you and the team on the first draft of the HR Standards for SA.  I believe that this document will add a lot of value to all organisations and is a big plus for the HR profession.  We are pleased to be associated with SABPP and we will be refining our current curriculum based on these 13 HR standards.”

With the new focus on occupations in the work-integrated learning system driven by the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO), the National HR Standards Initiative is well positioned to strengthen occupational learning for HR professionals. SABPP as a quality assurance body will play its rightful role to support work-place learning for HR students and professionals.

HR Standards journey continues

On 14 May 2014, with the participation of senior HR professionals, the overall HR Management System was further developed with a set of HR professional practice standards. These standards include the daily HR practices implemented by HR professionals such as diversity management, collective bargaining, learning design, career management, leadership development and coaching. These standards will be launched at South Africa’s second annual HR Standards Conference in Sandton on 28 August.


Building on the success of the National HR Management System Standard launched in 2013, the HR Standards journey continues in 2014. With HR professionals in practice now for the first time united with HR academics provides an opportunity for national alignment of curriculum, research and practice. The highlight of this year’s journey is the launch of the HR Professional Practice Standards in August. For the first time, the HR profession and management teams will have clear national guidelines on key HR practices such as succession planning, career management and dispute resolution. To conclude with the words of Cello Gardner from the University of Zululand: The HR Standards initiative is “a major leap for HR towards credibility, respect and a positive image.”


Naren Vassan is Head of Learning and Quality Assurance at SABPP. An earlier version of this article appeared in HR Future. For more information about the launch of the Professional Practice Standards on 28 August 2014, contact chantal@hrfuture.net or visit www.sabpp.co.za or 


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