What we learned from Dr. Wilson Wong: Human Capital Management Standards

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Last week Noosfera had the opportunity to host, together with HR Hub a Master Class with Dr. Wilson Wong. Dr. Wong is Head of Insight and Futures at the CIPD and also Chair of the Human Capital Standards Committee at the British Standards Institution (BSI), directly contributing to the development of the ISO standard for Human Capital Reporting.

For two hours we were immersed in a different kind of world – a world where practice is guided by evidence-based research and where standards are the benchmark against we measure and develop our profession. Dr. Wong generously introduced us, step by step to the process behind developing ISO standards and went on to focus on Human Capital Reporting [1].

What we learned from the process of developing standards is that before measuring a key indicator, the first step is ensuring that there is a common understanding of the vocabulary – and the meaning behind it. In terms of human capital, Wilson gave a comprehensive definition: the whole worth of a human being, including knowledge and expertise outside of the main field of work.

There is also a measure of Human Capital that poses some food for though: the Human Capital Index, measured by the World Bank at global level. The index measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18, given the risks of poor health and poor education that prevail in the country where she lives. Our colleague, Roxana Mocanu, wrote more on this topic with focus on Romania, in a dedicated article: Valoarea capitalului uman romanesc.

Maybe the most valuable insight of the evening was the process through wich we can decide what metrics are relevant for our practice. Dr. Wong engaged us in a reflective exercise related to our measuring practices with 3 key questions:

  1. CONTEXT. What is your organizational context?
  2. MEASURE. What are you going to do with the data?
  3. OUTCOME. How does that affect organizational effectiveness?

Having a list of metrics is not enough – the data has to be relevant for the organisation’s key business objectives, so that when we interpret it, the results can be used to make recommendations and take decisions that produce effective business impact.

We concluded the event with a few thoughts on the future of HR. As a researcher, Wilson said that he cannot predict the future, but he can plot multiple scenarios, taking into consideration the available data. Which is that worldwide, around 50-60% of HR work is still based on reporting and compliance [2] – tasks that can be easily automated in the future by software robots. The best opportunity for the HR profession would be to have the readiness to develop data literacy skills and to refocus on value-added work, be close to the business and to the employees and make a measurable impact by using the data available to support and inform business decisions.

If you are interested in reading more about the Human Capital Management Standards, Dr. Wilson Wong co-authored a very comprehensive book: Human Capital Management Standards. A complete guide.

A warm thank you goes to Dr. Wilson Wong, for accepting our invitation, our event partners, HR Hub and to our hosts for the evening, Fitbit Romania.

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[1] ISO 30414, Human resource management – Guidelines for internal and external human capital reporting, is the first International Standard that allows an organization to get a clear view of the actual contribution of its human capital. Applicable to enterprises of all types and sizes, it provides guidelines on core HR areas such as organizational culture, recruitment and turnover, productivity, health and safety, and leadership.

[2] Lawler and Boudreau’s (2018) longitudinal study on trends in HR reported that in 2016, HR spent 50 to 60 percent of its time on services, controlling and record keeping. This was true in the United States, Canada, Australia, UK/Europe and China. The study reports that how HR spends its time has not changed significantly since 1995.

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