When AHRI chairman, Peter Wilson AM, spoke to University of Colorado Denver professor Wayne F. Cascio LFAHRI, and 2014 AHRI National Convention keynote speaker, recently about HR practitioners needing to take prudent risks, Cascio also spoke about his role in the creation of international HR standards.
Peter Wilson: You’ve been working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on the development of HR standards. What are the potential uses of HR standards in the profession and how applicable can they be outside national borders?
Wayne F. Cascio: I work on the taskforce for recruitment and when we have meetings there are 11 different time zones involved, so it’s a slow process. But everybody is excited about the possibility of what it will mean if we can develop these standards.
It’s very important that people understand that standards will always be voluntary, and that they reflect minimally acceptable practices. We’re not trying to preach to anyone, but rather document what’s minimally acceptable practice in a variety of areas.
The hope is, particularly for multinational companies, that they might have some consistency and stability in their HR practices that they instil around the world.
For example, we want to establish a common dictionary of HR terms that people could use around the world, such as what ‘employee turnover’ means.
Obviously there are many people working on these initiatives who are not native English speakers, but they’re all very excited about the potential. I want to emphasise potential, because we’re certainly not there yet.
PW: Where do you think we might see breakthroughs occur in developing HR standards, or areas that might develop first?
WC: We’ve got three American national standards that have already been approved: cost per hire, performance management and workplace violence prevention.
It would be a huge mistake for the American standards to become templates for the rest of the world. I think the breakthrough is participating and having your national standards body say to ISO [the International Organization for Standardization] that it wants to play a part, and not just be an observer.
Australia was an observer two years ago – now it’s a participator in the development of these standards. Currently I think there are 23 participating countries, but we need more than that, so I’ve been speaking about the standards in Asia and in western and central Europe.
I want HR professionals to know that if we don’t have input from different countries representing different regions of the world, then they’re hardly international standards.
The biggest obstacle is that international consensus is very difficult to reach, even on things that we think would be very obvious, such as the definition of words.
Again, it’s a slow process, so we shouldn’t expect huge breakthroughs, nor that it’s going to happen overnight. I think it’s going to be a few more years before we start to see some results.
I don’t want to be pessimistic; I want to be realistic. The Chinese have a saying that the longest journey begins with the first step, and we have to be willing to take baby steps before we see any advances.
It’s not going to happen any time soon, but we’re making great progress. I’m very encouraged that there are so many regions in the world looking for guidance on good practice.