HRM Standards - Where is L&D?
2nd August 2017 | Mark Loon
The impact of global HRM standards
Imagine a common set of vernacular for HRM that spanned across the world and sectors. Imagine a world standard that specifies best practices in HRM. Imagine the innovation that this will bring. This may become a reality soon as global HRM standards are here.
Although the idea to develop international HRM standards first gained traction in 2011, the publication of the first standards in the field was only in 2016. However, the development of new standards is gaining pace. The International Standards Organization’s (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 260 is charged with this responsibility and has successfully overseen the publication of eight standards published, with another 12 under development.
But what are HRM standards, and what are the implications? The family of management system standards may be viewed as management technologies. HRM standards, in particular, help the HR profession to consolidate best practices to support employees and to better serve organizations. In addition, standards acts as a catalyst for innovation in policy and practices, while at the same time increasing transparency of organizational governance for investors and stakeholders. Standards facilitate interoperability, which means it provides opportunities for organizations e.g. suppliers, alliance partners to work more seamlessly together. Finally, standards enable the supply side of the labour market to make more informed choices. So there are a lot of positive outcomes that derive from these standards.
But aren’t standards also restrictive? Prior to adoption of any of the standards, organizations must consider if the standard is right for them, or if the time is right. The comparability, interoperability, and opportunities for innovation that come with standards must be weighed with the organization’s unique circumstances. Standards are in essence ‘rules’ but within these rules organizational management have some discretion in the choice of mechanism that they can pursue.
In the UK, the British Standards Institute (BSI) endeavours to play its role, as the voice of the UK, in the development of HR standards. As part of the work, the BSI has developed a national standard in valuing people, on diversity and inclusion and a national guide on learning and development (L&D). The national guide on L&D offers HR professionals, and indeed for L&D professionals, choices (together with other quasi standards such as the Investor in People programme) in terms of development pathways for their respective organizations.
Is L&D being developed in TC 260? Not yet, but given BSI has just launched the L&D guide in May 2017, the advent of the guide places the UK in advantageous position to significantly contribute to an international L&D standard. Inevitably, any potential international L&D standard would include guidance for L&D professionals to ascertain their unique organizational circumstances and environment in contextualising their L&D needs e.g. national culture, regulatory forces. An L&D standard also compels the need to appreciate the strategic nature of L&D (and therefore the need for increased professionalisation of L&D professionals), to understand the centrality of individual learners, such as recognising their needs in shaping how they engage with learning processes. Other important areas that need to be covered are the savvy use of technology when adopting diverse modes of blended learning, and the ability to harness the full potential of collective and social learning.
Such a global standard should also draw the attention of L&D vendors as well as senior executives in the C-suite due to the opportunities L&D afford in developing strategic capabilities such as organizational learning, agility and ambidexterity. Similarly, investors will also be keen to understand the L&D processes put in place by organizations to develop its human assets as it may be a significant indicator of an organization’s future value.
An international standard in L&D will allow entrepreneurial, small and medium-sized organizations, as well as those in the public and not-for-profit sector to access best practices that have laid the foundation of some of the best performing organizations - thereby triggering a race to the top for the best talent, in nurturing for talent and, ultimately, genuinely putting people first. Imagine that!
 An international diversity and inclusion standard has commenced. Once published, the ISO standard will supersede the UK’s national standard. The UK is represented on the ISO diversity and inclusion panel.
 L&D is not part of the 12 standards under developed. It has yet to be proposed.
About the author:
Dr Mark Loon is the author of Professional Practice in Learning and Development, Chair of the UK’s mirror committee to ISO’s TC 260/ BSI’s international committee, expert panel member on PD 76006:2017 Guide to learning and development and faculty member of Bath Business School, Bath Spa University.
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