Approved at a plenary meeting of stakeholders on 27 September 1999



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On 13 August 1998 a plenary meeting of stakeholders in the education, training and development of the human resource management sub-field competencies established a steering committee to drive the process of generating education and training standards for this purpose according to the process and requirements set out by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in the National Standards Bodies Regulations, 1998.

At its first meeting the Steering Committee clarified for itself that human resource management is a sub-field of Business, Commerce and Management Studies, which is the organising field of National Standards Body 03.

The Steering Committee established a sub-committee to develop a conceptual framework within which the setting of standards and design of qualifications for human resource management competencies as envisaged by the various regulations and guidelines issued by the South African Qualifications Authority can take place. The sub-committee also had to propose a process for the setting of standards. This document outlines such a conceptual framework and process. It is the result of workshop meetings and comments by the steering committee members and selected stakeholder groups on a first draft of this document. Annexure 1 lists the members of the sub-committee.

The next section briefly outlines the standard-setting methodology within which the sub-committee’s initial field analysis is situated.

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The standard-setting methodology developed by the Education, Training and Development Practices Project is taken as a departure point to devise an appropriate process for generating human resource management standards and qualifications. The model has eight components:

  1. establishing the political and technical processes for standard-setting;
  2. undertaking a field analysis
  3. developing the qualification structure
  4. developing the progression paths
  5. determining the standards required
  6. writing the standards
  7. designing uses for the standards
  8. revising the standards and qualifications.

Chapter 7 of the Final Report of the Education, Training and Development Practices Project (see the List of References below) describes each of these components in more detail.

Figure 1

The components may be seen as a cycle (see Figure1): they follow one after the other and the last component returns to the first. However, many components run in parallel once they have been started. For example, the first component - establishing the political and technical processes to undertake standard-setting - is present throughout the cycle. Also, there is a view in the sub-committee that work on components 5 and 6 could precede or run in parallel with work on components 3 and 4. The work of the Standard Setting Groups proposed in this document will clarify this through action research.

The next section discusses the steps to devise a framework through an initial field analysis (component 2), and to prepare for the work required for components 3 to 7.

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The sub-committee decided to undertake an initial field analysis through the following actions (which are not necessarily to be done in sequential order):

  1. Define the HRM sub-field in the Business, Commerce and Management context and, more specifically, in the context where HRM is practised.
  2. Analyse the current HRM field.
  3. Analyse the potential HRM field taking into account Transformation and Development issues. This activity is likely to include national and international research to determine Transformation and Development issues and best or preferred practice.
  4. Identify stakeholders and role-players (see Annexure 2 for an explanation of how these terms are understood in this document) for the listed activities. Pragmatically, it is not that all stakeholders and role players will be involved in all activities, however, it is suggested that the whole HRM scope, in terms of stakeholders or role players, is covered in carrying out all the activities.
  5. Identify HRM roles (current and potential) requiring unit standards. Generalist and specialist roles should be identified at various levels and within the different domains of HRM. This activity should keep in mind career paths in the various domains of HRM and the potential to move from one HRM domain to others
  6. Identify supportive HRM roles ( ancillary) requiring unit standards.
  7. Describe the shift from current to future roles and the supportive competencies that HRM practitioners should master.
  8. Develop a work flow analysis ( project management) for the activities listed.

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The purpose of this document is to provide a tentative framework for the definition of the field of HRM and delineation of the field within which HRM practitioners work. Within the document, typical roles assumed by HRM practitioners are identified, as well as sub-domains within each of the roles. The document is not intended to provide a definitive description of HRM but rather an initial framework that can serve as a starting point for reaching consensus on the definition and scope of HRM. The framework is for submission at the plenary session where general input is invited. Once consensus is reached regarding a definition and description of key roles played by either line management or by HRM professionals at different levels, the framework will be submitted for registration as the definition and scope of human resource management. Once registration of the intended definition and scope is complete, experts in each of the proposed roles will generate more detailed unit standards for each role. In addition to the roles identified, transformation and development issues as well as generic human resource skills have been identified.

In arriving at the definition and the scope, inputs were gathered from both academics and HRM practitioners, to ensure that both theoretical and practical perspectives are reflected. Previous drafts were circulated amongst the Steering Committee members and some HRM professionals. Their constructive comments are gratefully acknowledged, and will continue to improve this initial framework in an iterative way.

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To define and describe the scope of human resource management requires an understanding of the influences that the changing environment in which human resource management is situated have on human resource management systems and roles.

For this reason, a brief survey is given of aspects of the environment that were taken into account when compiling the definition and scope of human resource management. The process followed in arriving at the definition and scope will also be outlined.

The organisational context

The organisational context in which HRM finds itself at present is one of rapid change and considerable uncertainty. As various views of HRM were placed on the table and discussed, it became apparent that this sub-field of management is in a phase of transition. In the context of traditional organisational structures, HRM was placed as a function within a "silo", as were other organisational functions; for example finance, production and marketing. However, a turbulent environment has brought a concurrent change in organisational structures and the nature of HRM and its functions are in the process of change. Many organisations are now structured around multi-disciplinary project teams with the HRM professional as one member of the team or as consultant to the team, and where line managers take on various HRM roles. Figures 2 & 3 illustrate these developments. See also Annexure 3 for a summary of the results of a recent survey by Terry Meyer (1998) on the future role of human resources management in South Africa.

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The nature of Human Resource Management Roles

Human resource management is also in the process of change with regard to the nature of the role performed. In the past many functions were performed by HRM professionals themselves, the role they are taking on, is one of consultant to line management, where line managers perform many of the functions traditionally handled by HRM professionals. Similarly there is a trend in which businesses are shedding all functions that are not directly related to core business, and in the process many HRM functions are being outsourced. Hence the change in the nature of services provided.

The activity of generating unit standards and designing qualifications can be used as an opportunity to catapult HRM practices into the future. To do this, those issues which are going to shape the future for HRM practices (termed transformation and development issues) need to be identified and analysed, especially in relation to current roles that will still be required of HRM practitioners. These issues are central to the activity of generating unit standards (e.g. outsourcing, societal responsibility) and their impact on HRM roles (e.g. staffing, performance management). In addition, supportive roles or functions required by HRM practitioners will also have to be identified in order to complete the HRM practitioners qualifications design package (e.g. Financial, IT). This description may be depicted as in Figure 4.

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Dimensions of Human Resource Management involvement

As part of the overall change in the nature of HRM, the extent of involvement by the HRM function in the lives of individuals and the community is increasing. Traditionally the focus was limited to employees in the organisation. However with a greater awareness of the importance of well-being and the role of family and community in determining well-being, the Human Resource Management function needs to be involved more widely than before. This impact reaching the broader community and includes involvement in socio-economic activities and legislation issues. Figure 5 illustrates the greater involvement required of human resource managers.

Now that the background against which the definition and scope have been developed, has been outlined, the definition and scope will be discussed.

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It is proposed that we take human resource management to be that part of management concerned with:

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The scope of human resource management outlined below includes an outline of transformation and development issues, tentative generic skills required in performing HRM roles, as well as the roles of a human resource management practitioner (line management and HRM professionals). With regard to the latter, the assumption is made that roles are inter-linked and interdependent, even though these relationships may not be expressly stated in each case.

Transformation and development issues

·         Knowledge management which entails accumulating & capturing

·         Knowledge in large organisations for future application & use (organisation memory)

·         Reconciliation management

·         Work creation as opposed to job creation

·         Manage the transfer of HRM functions and skills to line management

·         Marketing of HRM to line management

·         Development of contextual approaches to HRM

·         Multi-skilling and /or multi-tasking

·         Increased societal responsibility

·         Managing people in virtual work environments

·         Focus on deliverables rather than doables

·         Develop additional means of assessing HRM

·         Appreciation and assessment of intellectual capital

·         Take HRM from a business partner to a business itself / Managing HRM as a business unit

·         Adviser / consultant to line management

Supportive generic skills

This is not intended to be final outline of human resource skills but the following have emerged during the process as important skills for human resource practitioner to possess. These are:

·         Project management

·         Consulting skills

·         Entrepreneurship

·         Self management

·         Communication skills

·         Facilitation skills

·         Presentation skills

·         Skills for transforming groups into self-directed mutually controlled high performing work teams

·         Trans-cultural skills

·         Mediation & arbitration skills

·         Financial skills

·         Problem-solving

·         Diagnostic skills

Core roles in Human Resource Management

The core roles of human resource management are grouped below into four categories. The titles of the clusters are tentative, and are open for comment.


§         Strategic perspective

§         Organisation design

§         Change management

§         Corporate Wellness management


§         Staffing the organisation

§         Training & development

§         Career Management

§         Performance Management

§         Industrial relations


§         Compensation management

§         Information management

§         Administrative management

§         Financial management

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The roles listed above are now described in terms of broad functions, activities and outcomes to illustrate more or less what the descriptions will look like once the Standard Generating Groups begin to work with each role in detail.


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As an example, each of the functions of this role is further unpacked in terms of activities.

Human Resource Planning (linked to strategic perspective)

·         Determine long-term human resource needs.

·         Assess current resources.

·         Identify areas of need.

Determining requirements of jobs

·         Appoint a representative committee with the task of conducting the job analysis.

·         Decide on the use of job analysis information.

·         Decide on the sources of job analysis information.

·         Decide on the method for job analysis.

·         Review the information.

·         Based on the outcomes of the job analysis, write job descriptions and job specifications

Recruitment of staff for the organisation

·         Develop & implement recruiting strategy bearing in mind relevant legislation.

·         Decide whether recruitment will take place externally or internally.

·         Select methods of the recruitment (for example job posting, personnel agencies & advertising)

·         Engage in recruitment.

Selection of human resources

·         Develop and implement selection strategy in line with relevant legislation.

·         Select appropriate tools for selection.

·         Validate selection tools in line with legislation.

·         Provide selection short list for line management to make a decision.

Placement of staff

·         Place staff in ways that will have the potential to benefit both organisation and employee

Induction and orientation

·         Act as a facilitator for induction and orientation of new employees

Management of a-typical employment situations.

Management of termination

·         Advise management regarding the strategic implications of terminating employment relationships.

·         Conduct exit interviews.

·         Develop a plan to replace competence lost.

·         Analysis of staff turnover and advise management on pending problems and corrective action (where necessary).

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Alvares, K.M. (1997). The Business of Human Resources. Human Resource Management, 36(1), 9-16.

Anderson, R.W. (1997). The Future of Human Resources: Forging ahead or falling behind, Human Resource Management, 36(1), 17-22.

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Ulrich, D. (1997). HR of the Future: Conclusions and Observations. Human Resource Management, 36(1), 175-179.

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Annexure 1: Members of Standards Generation and Qualifications Design Sub-Committee

Chairperson: Stella Carthy

Members: Anne Crafford, Frank Groenewald, Seddick Jappie, Dirk Lambrecht, Nomsa Mdakane, Thandeka Mgoduso, Marianne Scott, Pius Nkonyane, Prof Dries Schreuder, Prof Ben Swanepoel

Facilitators: Dr Andries Lategan, Elsabé Smit

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Annexure 2: Stakeholders and Role-Players

The standard setting pilot projects in South Africa found it useful to use the terms stakeholder and role-player in the way described below.

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Annexure 3

The nature of HR management in the first decade of the 21st century

Implications of findings by Terry Meyer 1998

The key findings are summarised as answers to four questions:

  1. What are the key contextual issues facing business in South Africa?
  1. What are the major issues facing HR management/
  1. What are the primary HRM roles in South African organisations?
  1. What are the primary competency categories which could form the basis for a competency model for HRM management in ?

·         A broad framework comprising four categories of competency clusters is suggested:

·         Contextual competencies

·         Functional competencies

·         Managerial and leadership competencies

·         Generic and process competencies

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