70 HR Silos Part II

On August 17, 2016, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

160725 Map of HRTech Image.png

Dr. Chris Andrews (here are some of his works) from Australia’s Bond University sent a very thoughtful response to yesterday’s article. I’m including it and my response. It is heartening to know that the HRExaminer reaches such thoughtful people.

Do you think there are (or should be) repeatable standards in HR?

Dear John,

Reference: 70 HR Silos – https://www.hrexaminer.com/70-hr-silos/

You throw up an interesting series of statements that cover HR Technology, HR Standards and the issue of organisational effectiveness.  Let me make a few points:

HR Tech Diagram

The diagram is a useful list of HR technology areas and activities.  As a framework for HR Standards it falls short of other diagrams that place HR activities in a system model that also emphasise logical connections and correlations, for example Neil McCormick’s (Australian: University sector framework) or Marius Meyer’s (South Africa: National) SABPP model. Both can be viewed at www.hrstandards.com.au with twitter conversations directed to @HR_Standards.

Are there 70 – 120 individual pieces of HR software, located within ten or twelve major areas of expertise? I’m sure others with more knowledge of HR systems will add to your list.

Does this evidence suggest there are no standard practices in HR or HR Tech?  On the contrary if you accept that it is possible to list all of the HR technology (or perhaps HR activities would be a better framework for analysis) then you are part of the way to coming up with a HR framework, which logically leads to a description of ‘what we expect to see’ for each component of the framework. It is not a big stretch to go from that to outcome-based statements of objectives and where we want to be as a result of HR activity (high performing organisations).

HR is like a snowflake?  I’m not sure they are ‘pure as the driven snow’ – but that’s just my opinion!

HR is driven by business needs (properly articulated – my addition). Exactly, they should be; but they need to also cover compliance and risk when required.

Effective HR is always a reflection of the underlying business. I’m not sure I can immediately agree with that one – it’s worth a longer conversation.

(NB: My rework of your words) Effective HR is … (not) primarily a reflection of HR Standards. Here we will have to disagree.  Accountants have standards, Auditors have standards, why not HR? If you look at the country leading the world in this area (South Africa) last month they celebrated their 4th National HR Standards conference. The progress they have made on HR Standards and HR Auditing in just four years is staggering. A set of consistent national standards for organisations, twenty-two universities teaching to those standards, consistent membership requirements that reflect the national standards, competency standards for individuals and a National HR Auditing unit that can certify an organisation against the national standards. The case studies presented at national conferences demonstrate the value of HR to their leading organisations.  In my view, even effective and high performing HR can benefit from outcome-focused HR Standards combined with a searching performance audit*.

HR Performance

As a HR Performance Auditor will tell you performance has three components: effectiveness, efficiency and economy (the three E’s). It is useful to draw all three elements into your discussion of HR Standards.

If you need more information

As part of the Australian delegation to the ISO Technical Committee TC 260 (Human Resource Management) meeting in Singapore this month Neil McCormick is best placed to update you on progress toward activating the necessary connections between HR Technology, HR Standards and organisational performance.

I’m also sure that Marius Meyer would jump at the chance to share with you further details of the South African HR Standards journey.

Keep up the good work.


Dr Chris Andrews
Bond University

* See for example: https://eprints.usq.edu.au/4297/

Dr. Andrews,

Thank you very much. May I publish your note?

I suppose I wasn’t adequately clear. The practice of HR varies wildly from region to region, institution to institution and industry to industry. In many places, it includes medical teams, chemical  (drug) testing, and a very strong focus on safety. In others, not so much.

In many places, precision about competencies and certifications matter, in others, it’s an irrelevance. In some places, learning and development is central. In others, it simply isn’t useful.

Payroll and benefits are a part of some HR systems and a part of finance in others.

Bulk recruiting makes some organizations great and would destroy others.

In the US Government, the HR department ‘owns’ all of the people and is an essential part of all decisions involving people and their work. Most American line managers would never tolerate that level of power in an administrative function.

From my point of view, HR is much more like a spice cabinet from which each organization develops its own recipe. I am unaware of a single function that is universally considered mandatory. In fact, many of the 70 functions I named can be executed in diametrically opposed fashions

So, we largely disagree.

That said, I found your note very interesting, well considered and representative of a perspective I may not consider adequately.

Thank you. I would love to publish your response.

Read previous post:
HRExaminer Radio: Episode #183: Jeff Dickey-Chasins

Jeff Dickey-Chasins was the original marketing director for Dice.com, growing it from $7 million to $65+ million in three years....