HR Managers rating themselves on National HR Standards: Is there hope apart from their honesty?


HR Managers rating themselves on National HR Standards:
Is there hope apart from their honesty?
By Marius Meyer

Since the launch of the National HR Standards in 2013, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) has been active in facilitating awareness and capacity-building sessions throughout the country.  As part of these efforts, it was interesting to note three general responses:

  1. Although there were areas in which HR Managers really performed well, by and large, the current majority view is that most HR departments are not performing as well as they should. Despite pockets of excellence at leading companies, most HR Managers don’t get it right.
  2. There were certain areas (e.g. talent management, workforce planning, organisation development and HR measurement) in which the level of underperformance was openly admitted.

Now what do we make out of this?  The good news is that HR Managers are honest.  They are willing to provide an honest and open reflection on where the gaps are.  Also, the previous narrative of blaming line management is changing.  The HR Managers we interacted with were willing to accept the need for HR to get its house in order first.  And as psychologists remind us: If you face you problem, you are ready to work towards a solution.

So let us look at the self-ratings of South African HR Managers in all nine provinces.  HR Managers from almost all the different industries participated in the survey, e.g. banking, mining, insurance, manufacturing, government, higher education, information technology, retail and wholesale, in other words all key sectors of the economy.  This is how they scored themselves out of 10 on each one of the 13 standard elements:



The colour green would have been a 60% rating, i.e. meeting the national standard, but unfortunately this was not achieved yet.  Between 50 and 60% is amber (nearly there, but not quite there), and less than 50% means that they are significantly underperforming.  So let us look at the areas of hope:

  • Strategic Management (50%)
  • Learning and Development (57%)
  • Performance Management (53%)
  • Employee Wellness (55%)
  • Employment Relations Management (58%)
  • HR Service Delivery (56%)

Focusing on the problem areas, it is clear that significant work is required to improve the quality of HR practice in the following areas:

  • Talent Management (43%)
  • HR Risk Management (41%)
  • Workforce Planning (44%)
  • Reward and Recognition (47%)
  • Organisation Development (47%)
  • HR Technology (46%)
  • HR Measurement (38%)

In conclusion, it is evident that South African organisations are currently underperforming against the HR standards.  Companies are slightly below the standard in six areas, and well below the standard in seven areas.  But what can be done about it?  Firstly, capacity-building is needed to train HR teams on the HR standards. Secondly, if universities can increase their efforts of instilling the HR standards among HR and industrial psychology students, a new pool of well-trained young HR talent could make a big difference in raising the bar in HR practice.  I want to thank all the companies and their HR Managers for participating in the survey.  I also want to thank them for their honesty and openness to face their current reality.  People often ask me whether I have hope that things will improve. The answer is yes!  In tomorrow’s article I will share the reason for my hope and that is the results of the first 17 companies audited against the HR standards.  These companies have performed very well against the standards, while still facing areas requiring attention and improvement.


Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP.  For daily news about the National HR Standards Initiative, follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1.  For more information about the 4th Annual National HR Standards Conference on 27 July 2016 visit SABPP on


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