ISO Accepts Plan For Global HR Standards

Feb 25, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Imagine an international standard for determining cost of hire. Or one for valuing the human capital of a company.

A pipe dream just a few years ago, now both are possible following yesterday’s decision by the International Organization for Standardization.

“A major milestone was passed,” says Lee Webster, SHRM’s director of HR standards. “There’s a lot of work, but we’re on the way.”

What the ISO approved was an application by the American National Standards Institute to develop globally applicable HR standards. It’s a companion effort to the one underway now to create HR standards for the U.S.

Lead by SHRM, the first standard — to create a uniform way of measuring cost of hire — is working its way through the public comment process. That closes March 18th. Depending on the comments and suggestions that come in, the proposal could become a standard by the summer.

Led by Webster, SHRM began the standards process a few years ago, applying to ANSI to create a body of minimum standards for the HR profession. ANSI is a private, non-profit organization that accredits industry standards for products, services, processes, and people, now including HR.

Although ANSI is the technical lead in the application for global standards, it’s SHRM that is leading the way. In the U.S., SHRM is the standards developer, and has multiple volunteer groups developing standards in the areas of diversity, measures and metrics, and staffing and workforce planning. It was the latter group that developed the cost per hire standard.

Webster says it’s likely the cost per hire standard will be the first one to be proposed to ISO. As in the U.S., ISO standards development is a long process. A proposed standard is reviewed by a technical committee, potentially composed of a representative of all 156 member nations of the ISO, but practically only a few dozen may choose to participate. Public comments are also solicited. Also as in the U.S., the comments must be addressed and may lead to revisions in the standard. That then starts another public comment round, until, finally, the ISO accepts the standard.

While cost per hire seems fairly straightforward — some 36 comments have been received so far, most endorsing the standard or suggesting additional financial components — the standard Webster is most excited about is one dealing with valuing a company’s human capital.

Former SHRM CEO Susan R. Meisinger wrote about it recently in her HR Executive column. If a metrics standard for human capital valuation can be developed and accepted by the financial community then, wrote Meisinger, “we will enter a new frontier for the HR profession.”

It’s no easy task, agrees Webster. “The (volunteer group working on it) might not be able to agree. But we’ve got some great people working on it. Not just HR professionals. We have professionals from finance and investment,” he says.

“If we can develop a standard,” he says, “It’s no longer whether we should have a seat at the table. We are there.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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