What You Should Know about ISO Standards for Human Capital

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member David Creelman and Lee Webster, Director of Standards Development at the Healthcare Management Institute at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) develops and publishes standards in industries as varied as healthcare, technology, food safety, and agriculture. Besides facilitating international trade, the existing 22,500 ISO standards ensure that products, services, and systems work safely and effectively. The reason your child's car seat is safe is due to seat manufacturers adhering to ISO 13216-3:2018 Road vehicles -- Anchorages in vehicles and attachments to anchorages for child restraint systems -- Part 3: Classification of child restraint system and space in vehicle.

There are currently twelve ISO standards for HR that are helping to elevate the profession. Experts from 56 countries are involved in the eight current standards projects. You might have thought that HR was too “soft” for standards, but standards have had a hugely positive impact for other areas once considered “soft” such as safety and quality.

ISO standards are not legally mandated, however it normally makes sense to use, for example, the ISO standard for calculating turnover, rather than spend time inventing your own idiosyncratic measure. Since standards present effective, interoperable solutions, organizations that apply them experience an immediate operational competitive advantage.

ISO Standards for Human Capital

To our minds, the most exciting ISO standard in HR is the recently released one on human capital reporting: ISO 30414. This standard aims to provide meaningful, comparable, and consistent data to boards and investors about human capital. If this helps bring serious investor attention to human capital it will bring a new energy to the HR function.

The human capital standard covers core HR areas such as:

  • compliance and ethics;
  • costs;
  • diversity;
  • leadership;
  • organizational culture;
  • organizational health, safety and well-being;
  • productivity;
  • recruitment, mobility and turnover;
  • skills and capabilities;
  • succession planning; and
  • workforce availability.

How You Can Get Involved in Setting the Standards

Besides adopting existing standards, interested parties may directly participate in standardization activities. Standard setting is led by dedicated expert volunteers and the process works hard to get input and consensus from a wide range of stakeholders. It's easy to get involved in standards setting through local national “mirror” committees (in the U.S. these are called Technical Advisory Groups, “TAG”).

The heart of the process is that a group of experts comes up with a draft standard, which is then commented on by anyone with an interest in the topic. The working group responds to the comments and eventually, when there is sufficient consensus, the international member countries of ISO vote on the standard. If approved, ISO then publishes the standard. Yes, getting all this consensus can be a slow process! The human capital standard took three years to put together.

To learn more about ISO HR standards development, please go to https://www.iso.org/committee/628737.html

In the U.S., the sister organization to ISO is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The institution overseeing the coordination of ISO HR standards is the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). You can get involved by emailing Mr. Lee Webster at [email protected]