Following Failure of Human Capital Measure, SHRM Moves Ahead With Other HR Standards

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The Society for Human Resource Management says it may publish a final HR standard on performance management as early as this month, just weeks after it withdrew its proposed wide-ranging “Human Resource Indices for Investors” standard under heavy pressure from business groups.

The new standard could come out in the fourth quarter of 2012 or first quarter of 2013, SHRM spokesperson Jennifer Hughes said in an email to BNA Dec. 10. According to SHRM's website, the standard is “a proposed set of minimum elements of a performance management system in three areas--goal setting, performance review, and performance improvement plans.”


The performance management standard could come out in the fourth quarter of 2012 or first quarter of 2013.  


This is only one of a number of areas where SHRM is developing metrics, using its accreditation as the HR standards bearer awarded by the American National Standards Institute (30 HRR 529, 5/14/12). SHRM says it is awaiting the institute's approval for the performance management standard.

SHRM announced Nov. 29 that in response to opposition in the business community, it had withdrawn the proposed Human Resource Indices for Investors standard (30 HRR 1322, 12/10/12). The standard was intended to help investors evaluate the worth of a company's human capital. Some HR professionals contended, however, that it would be burdensome to companies and irrelevant to investors (30 HRR 621, 6/11/12).

Workforce Planning, Diversity, and More.

Another HR standard that appears to be at an advanced stage, according to SHRM's website, is titled “Workforce Planning--Basic Elements,” and is “designed as a proposed minimum set of data analyses required to project future hiring needs.” SHRM has made this draft standard available for a second round of public comments.

Several other HR standards are listed as under development:


• Job Description: The standard includes “common elements of every job such as roles, responsibilities, supervision and authority as well as underlying knowledge, skills, and experiences required.”

• Human Resources Metrics Panel (Dashboard): A collection of widely used, basic HR/labor metrics and measures.

• Turnover Metrics Definition: “Minimum effective aspects of the definition of turnover.”


SHRM also is working on diversity standards for ANSI. SHRM's planned diversity standards are divided into three sub-topics: qualifications of the lead diversity/inclusion professional, a collection of diversity metrics and measures, and organizational diversity and inclusion metrics. In October, a co-chair of SHRM's diversity task force said one of these three standards would be released at the end of this year and the other two would be released early in 2013 (30 HRR 1174, 10/29/12).

But Hughes said that “the diversity-related standards still have to go through at least one 45-day public comment period or, most likely, two 45-day public comment reviews before public suggestions are incorporated and the standards are submitted to ANSI for consideration.”

Opposition Still Mobilized

However, the same issues that created vehement opposition to the Human Resource Indices from the business community, leading to its cancellation, are still in play for all the other HR standards SHRM has in the works, if the viewpoint of the HR Policy Association is anything to go by.

“We are very supportive of the use of HR metrics internally to support the HR function, and many of our members develop metrics internally to develop the HR function and advance the purposes of the company,” Tim Bartl, vice president of the HR Policy Association, told BNA Dec. 10. “But these standards went far beyond what we could support.”

There were three major grounds for concern with the Human Resource Indices, Bartl said--their “one-size-fits-all” approach, which failed to take into account the many differences between industries and individual companies; the steep cost to companies of assembling the information that would have been requested; and the prospective public disclosure of confidential internal company HR information.

The latter aspect, unacceptable to the business community, was the Human Resource Indices' entire raison d'etre, Bartl added. “The purpose was to get this out in the public domain so investors could assess it. But we have not heard from any of our members that investors are even looking for this information. It's too detailed and not material to them.”

As for the standards still in the pipeline, Bartl said, “it would depend on what exactly is proposed, but I think our members would be extremely wary about disclosing this information. If it were guidelines for internal development [of HR metrics], it would be a different matter altogether.”

He cautioned as well that much of HR is subjective, making the development of purely objective metrics very difficult.

By Martin Berman-Gorvine  


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