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Nonprofit HR’s Blog

Peter Cappelli has more on the name-calling and finger pointing between SHRM and the HR Policy Association about plans to introduce ANSI standards for human resources.

“SHRM has been the most important proponent of the idea that HR is a profession, manifested by the notion that there are standards for determining appropriate employee management practices that cut across organizations. SHRM’s remarkably successful Certification Institute, which both sets those standards and assesses whether individuals know them, is the engine driving that approach. It is completely consistent with the ANSI notion of standard setting in business practices.

Establishing standards for assessing employer investments in human capital would be a real boon for those who believe that those investments matter. The peer pressure to report them would be enormous, and the companies that are not investing and that don’t have sophisticated practices in this area of HR would feel the pressure to do so. It would both expand significantly these investments and standardize the way they are carried out.

On the other side is the HR Policy Association, which is made up of the top HR executives in the biggest publicly-held companies. They are opposing the idea of having these standards with an aggressive public relations campaign. Why would HR professionals object to them?

Because these folks don’t see themselves as HR professionals. They see themselves as executives of their companies first and foremost. As a top executive, you are thinking that these standards will cost the company a lot of time and money to put in place, and you also know there will then be pressure to spend and standardize how they do it. This is restrictive for the company even if it expands your personal empire in the process. Are you going to side with the HR professionals on this or with your CFO? No prizes for the answer to that one.

The general lesson here is that conceptual arguments like whether HR is a profession or a business function end up having real consequences.

Any bets as to which side will win?”

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