HR Standards: 2nd Line of Defence for HR Professionals


HR Standards: 2nd Line of Defence for HR Professionals
by Xolani Mawande

I suppose many of us would like to work for “great companies to work for”. Big and successful companies with great brands out there. Companies with great employee value proposition, good work ethics and companies who have applied the HR standards. Some of these companies have now subjected themselves to HR Auditing and have received wonderful feedback and passed with flying colours.

On the evening of the 27th of July 2016, SABPP will honour such outstanding achievement by some of these companies in an award ceremony. You do not want to miss the unveiling of such great companies. Employees of these companies will walk with pride. They will display their certificates at their reception wall. They will always quote in their presentations, tenders etc. that they won an SABPP HR award. They will rightfully claim to be one of the first companies in the world to be audited. They will tell friends and family that they meet the HR standards. All good.

Perhaps the great question is to determine whether all of the employees in HR contributed to the success. Were there no backbenchers who just sat and didn’t even know what was happening? Were there no prophets of doom who were just waiting for a mistake to happen? Were there no incompetent employees who were covered by the very competent ones? These employees are now basking in glory all in the name of working for a great company.

Working for a great company with competent employees does not itself make you a competent employee. Many have been disappointed when they hired employees from ‘great companies to work for’ only to be disappointed in their performance. Does it mean that all employees in those companies are exceptionally great?

Sadly, not. You might have survived in numbers and your incompetency hidden from the world. You might have been carried by your colleagues, subordinates or your manager. However, this cannot last forever and one day you will be exposed and embarrassed.

Therefore, the best line of defence is for you to improve your competence. Our standards generally are low. Matriculants celebrate with a 30% pass. University students celebrate with a 49%. We have been messed up to celebrate mediocrity. People expect bonuses for just doing the minimum requirement for their jobs without going out of their way. CEOs are tired of HR Directors who have no backbone because they do not know their story. They just go with the flow and reduce themselves to messengers.

We need to improve our competence as HR professionals first as individuals then as a collective. SABPP in 2012 came out with a competency model for South African HR professionals.


We need to improve our competency as professionals if we really want business to take us seriously. Think about a few things like:

  • Let’s pass maths. We cannot reduce HR profession to people who are scared of analytics.
  • The first degree/diploma is not enough. Let us strive to be HR experts with a minimum of a Masters’ degree just like the economists.
  • Continuous Professional Development. Let us continue learning every day and make even our organisations a learning environment. Your qualification obtained twenty years ago cannot remain your only defence. Consider attending events organised by your professional body by visiting the events calendar or by emailing
  • Let us play a role in the improvement of the education system.
  • Let us mentor upcoming professionals so that they grow with the right culture. SABPP has a wonderful HR candidate programme and you the experienced professional could be the supervisor/mentor.
  • We need to find passion in our jobs and be the best that can be.

While SABPP will continue to champion the National HR Standards and Audits of HR functions, it all starts with our own professionalism and competence as HR Professionals.  We have to earn the title “professional” by being professional in our behaviour, conduct, ethics and value we add to the organisation.  Our own competency is indeed our first line of defence, then we can apply the standards in our organisation.


Xolani Mawande CHRP is COO of SABPP, a board member of SABPP and a Lecturer in HR Management at the University of Johannesburg.  You can contact him on or follow him and SABPP on twitter @xolani_mawande @SABPP1



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