Setting HR Professional Practice Standards by Marius Meyer

During 2013, the National HR Management System was developed by the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) in association with HR Future, the top HR magazine in the country. The HR Management System consist of 13 Standards Elements as depicted on the next page. The purpose of the HR Standards Initiative is to professionalise the field of HR Management with clear standards of professionalism and thereby reducing inconsistencies and poor HR work. As Jennifer Stephen, HR Manager at Renault SA said: “The creation of HR Standards contributes to the value of HR within an organisation as management can measure against these standards.”

The first pilot audit against the HR Management System was conducted in February 2014, and lead auditors have now been trained to audit companies against the National HR System. The first group of lead auditors will be certified on 28 August in Sandton Convention Centre at the launch of the first set of HR Professional Practice Standards. Moreover, a National HR Academy is being set up to build capacity in the application of the HR standard implementation process.

During the consultation process last year, thousands of HR professionals from all nine provinces participated. The final HR standards document was subsequently improved by incorporating the comments from the market. However, some of the inputs could not be integrated into the National HR Management System Standard, given the fact that these remarks did not refer to the overall HR Management System, but to specific HR practices. For instance, the following questions were raised:

  • Where is succession planning in the system?
  • Where is employment equity covered?
  • What about mentoring and coaching?
  • Where is career management?
  • What about recruitment and selection?

These and other questions received from the HR market, helped SABPP to do further standards planning work by converting the overall HR management system to specific HR practices. In other words, the focus now is on reworking the overall system into particular HR practices. These practices refer to the day-to-day professional work of HR professionals as part of the HR functional architecture.

HR practices such as wellness and diversity programmes are needed to strengthen the HR Management system, and to ensure that the 13 Standards elements are implemented in practice through targeted HR practices. Thus, these practices do not duplicate the 13 HR standards elements, rather they strengthen and reinforce the overall system. In addition, the professional practice standards ensure that the needs of all HR professionals are catered for, despite their area of specialisation. While the three strategic HR standard elements, i.e. strategic HR Management, talent management and HR risk management are the responsibility of HR Directors, and the seven functional HR standard elements the domain of Heads of HR specialisations such as OD, Reward and Learning, the professional practice standards take the system down to the level of all HR practitioners, irrespective of their seniority. For instance, an OD specialist will now have a clear professional practice standard.

The first figure shows the HRM System Standard developed in 2013, and the second figure shows the transition to HR professional practice standards to be developed in 2014.




For ease of reference and to demonstrate alignment, the HR professional practice standards have now been grouped under the elements of the HR Management System Standard. Although these professional practice standards may be categorised differently at certain organisations, the idea was to provide a logical grouping against the 13 standards elements. Organisations are welcome to group it differently according to their needs, as long as the practice standards are applied at their workplaces. The next table illustrates the differences between the two sets of standards.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.36.37 AM

While the HR Management System Standard was developed in 2013, this year the focus is on the HR professional practice standards. These standards were developed on 14 May to provide practical guidelines for HR professionals and line managers in applying these standards. The professional practice standards have now been released for comment. In addition to the full public comment phase, more than 300 HR specialists will provide inputs into the draft standards. We have now entered the two months consultation period, after which the final HR professional practice standards will be launched at the second annual HR Standards Conference at Sandton Convention Centre on 28 August.

In conclusion, this year the standards journey continues from the successful first phase launched in 2013. SABPP is building on the HR Management System Standard by developing 30 HR professional practice standards to ensure that all specific HR practices are standardised for the purpose of reinforcing the HR Management System. This will create a renewed focus on consistency and standardisation of HR practices in support of the National HR Management System.


Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. He can be contacted on or on twitter @MariusSABPP. For regular updates visit the blog Senior HR professionals and subject matter experts who are interested to participate in this historic project, are welcome to contact us on to book a seat at the 2nd Annual National HR Standards Roll-out at Sandton Convention Centre on 28 August.

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