SHRM Bid to Lead Global HR Standards Effort Ratified


By SHRM Online staff February 25, 2011
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has ratified a proposal by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for SHRM to lead a group charged with creating global HR standards.

ISO’s ratification of SHRM’s proposal to create global HR standards puts SHRM “on the road to creating a management system for HR,” said Lee Webster, director of HR standards at SHRM. “No other organization has submitted a proposal like this to the ISO,” he noted.

Webster is looking for task force members who will decide what the U.S. position will be on global HR standards and make recommendations to the United States’ ISO representative. Interested persons can contact Webster at

A U.S. Technical Advisory Group (US TAG) will be established to represent the United States’ view on global standards. SHRM will administer the group; its first meeting tentatively is scheduled during the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition June 26-29 in Las Vegas.

The Feb. 24, 2011, announcement is the latest in a recent string of news about SHRM’s involvement in standardizing HR practices.

SHRM Online reported Feb. 7, 2011, that a proposed HR standard for measuring cost-per-hire—the first of its kind in the United States—was available for public review and comment through March 18, 2011.

On Feb. 8, 2011, SHRM Online reported that former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chair Cari Dominguez and renowned diversity expert Effenus Henderson are leading a task force responsible for creating measurable diversity and inclusion (D&I) standards for the HR community.

The cost-per-hire and D&I standards are being developed under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is the authorized agent for the U.S. government for coordinating standards development. In February 2009 ANSI designated SHRM as the exclusive U.S. developer of HR standards.

ANSI will act as the secretariat for the first two years, assisting SHRM as it learns the ropes, Webster explained. At the end of that period, SHRM will have sole indefinite secretariat responsibility over this global body.

Prior to its ratification, SHRM’s proposal to create global standards drew some opposition.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labor standards, sees SHRM’s proposal as an unwelcome overlap into its domain.

SHRM’s proposal “encroached on the standard-setting activity of the ILO,” Guy Ryder, ISO’s executive director of Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, wrote in a Dec. 13, 2010, letter to Kevin McKinley, deputy secretary-general of the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva.

This would result, Ryder wrote, in ISO “becoming, without authority, an alternative body for dealing with issues involving human rights and labour rights rather than dealing, as was its mandate, with certain technical areas of work.”

Part of the ISO’s review process of the SHRM proposal called for a vote among its members, none of whom are HR professionals. Among member countries voting, 14 agreed with SHRM’s proposal to create global HR standards, six disagreed and five abstained.

Argentina, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, and Malaysia disagreed with the proposal, with Germany the most outspoken. Among the objections it raised:

“Certification in the field of HR management does not provide an added value for the organization, but just causes additional costs. On the other hand, a purely voluntary guideline without certification will more probably not lead to any significant improvement,” it said in written comments.

Additionally, Germany said the proposal’s scope is too broad, that HR management cannot be standardized on an international level, that standardization in the field of HR management will not provide the expected results, and that the ISO should not get more involved in nontechnical areas.

Objections from other countries included the following written comments to the ISO:

Czech Republic: Other, current standards are sufficient, and the proposed standard is not necessary at this time.

Malaysia: “Developing and developed countries’ HR policies and practices are different and may have diverging needs and requirements.” It indicated that “there is potential risk that the certifiable standard could become a trade barrier.”

The global HR standards that will be developed will be voluntary, SHRM’s Webster said.

“You don’t have to follow it,” he said, noting that some countries have their own HR standards or guidelines. “You could do more than [that], if you want. We’re saying you shouldn’t do less than this.”

Related Articles:

Task Force Members Needed to Develop HR StandardsHR News, September 2010

SHRM to Craft U.S., Global HR Standards, HR News, February 2009


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect

HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.