The transition from HR Standards phases 1 & 2 (2013) to phase 3 (2014)

by Kate Dikgale-Freeman

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 consists 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.”

Having completed the first two phases during 2013, we realise that some of you were part of this journey from day one, while others have joined in as the process unfolded. And some of you are joining us for the first time in 2014, a special welcome to all the newcomers. You are exactly that – newcomers, not latecomers! SABPP and HR Future have tapped into the collective wisdom of thousands of HR professionals to be able to share the final version of phase 3, i.e. the HR Professional Practice Standards with you. Thus, we are using this opportunity to remind the early adopters of progress to date, and to bring the newcomers up to speed. The HR standards journey is moving fast, but we need to ensure that we keep all HR professionals up to date as we move forward to the next phase of the initiative.

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.

The standard development process consisted of three phases:

Phase 1: Development of HR System Standard (the overall systems framework with the 13 elements)

Phase 2: Development of HR Application Standards (detail on “how to” apply the 13 standard elements in the workplace)

Phase 3: Development of Professional Practice Standards (working down from the overall standard elements, specific HR professional practice standards have been developed for different areas of professional practice, e.g. on-boarding, succession planning, employee engagement etc.).

UntitledPhase 1: HR Management System Standard (13 standard elements)

The next figure shows the HRM System Standard with its 13 elements developed in 2013.


Phase 2: HR Application Standards (13 sets of practical guidelines)

The second phase consisted of reworking the overall HR Management System Standard into a set of practical guidelines for implementation in the workplace. For those of you who missed out on the 2013 awareness sessions, the HR Standards file is available from the SABPP office at and contains the outputs from both phase 1 and 2.

Phase 3: Development of HR Professional Practice Standards

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 figure on the next page depicts the HR Professional Practice Standards mapped against the relevant elements of the HR Management System Standard.


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 and dynamics of their HR architecture, as long as the practice standards are applied effectively at their workplaces. The table below illustrates the differences between the three sets of standards.


Phases 1 and 2 (2013)


Phase 3 (2014)

  • Developed in 2013 by more than 500 senior HR Managers.
  • Covers the overall system of HR.
  • Consists of 13 standard elements.
  • Provides a broad view of the strategic and functional management of HR.
  • Does not prescribe methodologies.
  • HR Directors and senior HR Managers own the system standard.
  • Developed in 2014 by 74 HR professionals and subject specialists.
  • Covers a range of HR practices.
  • Consists of 30 HR practices.
  • Provides specific details of the HR practices underpinning the HR system.
  • Prescribe certain methodologies.
  • HR functional heads or subject matter experts own practice standards.

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 were then released for comment, and inputs received from the market were incorporated into the standards. We have now completed 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 further 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.


Kate Dikgale-Freeman is Vice-chairperson of SABPP and Director of DNA.   For regular updates visit the blog 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s