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HR professional standards: HR directors have their say

Experts from across the globe are discussing what standards could look like for HR, but what do HR directors think? Six from both sides of the Atlantic share their views on standards for HR

David Peach, HR director, NYSE Euronext
“A few years ago, I did an HR strategy programme and I remember sitting there thinking: ‘Is this it? Is this the ultimate we as a profession can aim for?’
It was tedious and full of jargon. I think we need to align leadership and HR with a wider purpose and reconnect HR with self-confidence in its own profession and the value it adds. To reconnect with our own value as a profession, we need to show some discipline and rigidity in what we do, and that comes through standards. Through standards we can show measurable outcomes that aren’t just costs.
We should look at how we measure our impact on stakeholders. You can look at the usual things like absenteeism and costs, but there should also be statistics around community impact and leadership standards. However, it would be very easy to fall back on easy, Kitemark-type measurements. That, I wouldn’t like.”

Sara Hill, chief HR officer, Ceridian
“I’m aware of the movement, but I’m not actively paying attention to it. I feel it’s more of a push than a pull from SHRM. For me, the question is: what is the impact to US businesses of having HR standards?
If you look at financial reporting standards for accounting, the value comes from the metrics. It should be about the value to the business, not simply HR trying to professionalise itself.
Metrics and cost is when you drive the practice side: the financial performance of managing your people assets. If you are able to measure that effectively, that will be where the value comes.
You need metrics so leadership understands why the people performance is important. The metrics have to be meaningful, and I’m only in favour of standards that are key to driving the business.”

Jim Newell, group HR director, BSI
“I’ve been in global HR for a long time, and the need for HR to be judged and measured in a much more robust way can only do us all good.
And this is not just for the sake of HR, it’s about improving business performance. There is too much variation in the quality in the HR profession.
If you look at the BSI Quality Standard, the supply chain depends on suppliers meeting that. In time, if you are able to see a business measured against its HR standard, that will be used as a badge of excellence, a badge that verifies that the organisation is a good one to work with, one that can be trusted to deliver certain levels of service. And who wouldn’t want to be operating in a best-practice organisation? Who wouldn’t want to be able to hold their hand up and say ‘I do HR management at best practice standards’? Inside that best practice, it could deal with efficiency, cost, quality and ethical behaviour.
I’ve worked in the US, and they can overdo the tick-box stuff. But they deserve credit for getting the principles up on the table.”

Jackie Bornor, head of HR, IG Group
“It’s an interesting concept. I think the ISO works in industries like accounting, where there’s a right or a wrong answer.
But HR is one of those things where you know ‘good’ if you see it. Does it fit into box-ticking? HR is about empathy and conversations, but I think there should be guidelines around morality in HR and how you treat employees. HR is soft skills, but they are hard to accomplish. Maybe as a profession we don’t take ourselves as seriously as we should.
HR is shape-shifting. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be guided by standards and behaviours, but what standards? And who would sign these standards off? It’s not to say we shouldn’t have them, I just don’t know what they would look like.”

Julie Bradley, CFO and HR director, Tripadvisor
“I’m not clear what the HR standards consist of. Due to Sarbanes Oxley, some of the controls around people already exist. Things like sales reps having signed compensation plans, management signing off on headcount requests – that control environment around financial statements already exists. I’m a big supporter of Sarbanes Oxley even though implementation was difficult.
I wouldn’t be in favour of an ‘after the fact’ HR standard, where ?HR does its day job and then does a bunch of steps to satisfy a ?new requirement.
But if the key drivers, risks and opportunities are clearly defined and embedded into the day job, I would be supportive. That’s where Sarbanes Oxley has gone for accounting. It’s not that the accountants close the books and then go and do those controls; it’s all part of the process that gets me comfortable that everything is correct.
If it’s integrated into the process rather than added as an afterthought, it could take HR to a higher level.”

Miriam Koller, HR director, Bibby Financial Services
“I’ve seen bit and pieces about [the standards movement] as we operate in the US and they’re leading the charge, but I’m no expert. In principle, it’s a reasonable idea. It helps to raise the profile of the HR profession and put it on a par with accountancy, risk or marketing. HR has been left in the wings a bit, but now it’s coming to the fore.
At the moment, we’ve just got CIPD qualifications and it’s a very broad brush. So standards might help to streamline HR and give frameworks and reference points. But it needs some flexibility as I wouldn’t want HR to become rigid and all about regulation.
At the end of the day, we are there to serve people and HR should be the voice. If we lose that flexibility, we would become more of a jobsworth in the organisation. I think it would be a good thing for the profession, but it needs some caveats. I want a commercial and sensible approach.”

Have your say

HR magazine want to know what our readers think about HR standards. Are they a good thing for the profession, or will they create unnecessary bureaucracy? And if they are inevitable, what should HR professional standards look like? 

To take part in our qualitative research project and have your say, visit http://bit.ly/1dmhtv9

To read the background on the standards movement, click here.