Paving the HR way

SABPP CEO, Marius Meyer

SABPP CEO, Marius Meyer, looks at how leading providers are joining HR Professionals on National HR Standards journey.

During 2013, under the leadership of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), hundreds of human resource (HR) professionals from all nine provinces and four other countries developed the first set of National HR Standards for South Africa. The purpose of this initiative was to reduce inconsistencies in HR practice and to professionalise the field of HR Management. Several awareness sessions followed in major cities throughout the country, and presentations were also done for the HR professional bodies in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana. More than that, interest was attracted from 18 countries (Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, Kenya, Ghana, UK, USA, Australia, The Netherlands, Malaysia, Liberia, Lesotho, Swaziland, 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 directly involved, and since then a further 11 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. Having worked at universities for many years, I expected more resistance from academic institutions. 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.  Sakkie van Greunen who lectures HR at the University of Pretoria has already taken more than 200 HR students through the HR Standards.

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 der 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!”  Already 126 HR auditors have been trained to audit companies against the National HR Standards.  Academics from the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch University have now been trained to join this pool of auditors, in addition to other learning providers such as Emergence Growth and Bruniquel & Associates.

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.”

Dr Andrews is one of the first people in the world to complete a PhD dissertation on HR Auditing.  He was the international guest speaker at the 3rd Annual National HR Standards Roll-out on 17 September 2015 at Sandton Convention Centre.

Professor Bruce Kaufman from Georgia State University featured the South African HR Standards in a new textbook covering HR in 17 countries published in 2014.   A master’s student in HR at the University of Theran in Iran will write her dissertation on the HR Risk Management Standard.  Moreover, Pauls Gibbons, HR Head at Mintek became the first person to complete her master’s degree on the HR Standards. 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, Emergence Growth Academy 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 South Africa.  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 ranging from Strategic HRM to Talent Management to Learning and Development and HR Measurement.”    

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.  Already the new National HR Candidateship programme has been developed based on the National HR Competencies and Standards, thereby ensuring work-integrated learning and competency building for young HR professionals entering the workplace.

Building on the success of the National HR Management System Standard launched in 2013, the HR Standards journey continued in 2015.  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.  Likewise, skills development practitioners have now also been empowered with a set of Learning and Development HR Professional Practice Standards, ranging from training needs analysis, to design and development to training evaluation.

Universities and other learning providers play a key role to build capacity around the HR Standards.  

To conclude with the words of Cello Gardner of the University of Pretoria:  The HR Standards initiative is “a major leap for HR towards credibility, respect and a positive image.”

Marius Meyer 


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This edition

Issue 58