SABPP launches South African leadership standard in Free State
March 6, 2018
Launch of SABPP Gender Equity Award: Accelerating women empowerment at work by Thandi Thankge
March 8, 2018

On 1 March 2018, it was exactly seven years since I have been appointed as CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), an HR professional and quality assurance body.  According to the South African Leadership Standard launched in October 2017, leaders must reflect for improvement. Reflection requires a leader to do an honest and deep assessment of your performance as a leader.  Over the last two months, when I started to realise that I am getting closer to my seventh anniversary working for SABPP, I asked myself five key questions:

  • What did I learn?
  • What did we as SABPP achieve as major milestones taking us forward?
  • What mistakes did I make?
  • What challenges did we face and are still facing?
  • How can I use the answers to these questions in improving SABPP over the next five years?

In attempting to answer these questions, I realise that there were many highlights, multiple opportunities, some problems and challenges, but at the heart of it all a need to do serious reflection about the past, the present and more importantly – planning the future.  I also realise that the world of work, and therefore the world of HR has changed significantly over the last year. And the only thing I am 100% certain of,  is that it will change more as we move into an even more uncertain and volatile future.

I learned a lot from leading and managing SABPP.  I learned about the world of HR Professionals as they continue to implement HR practices in organisations.  I learned about the world of learning providers as they continue to provide learners with learning opportunities and qualifications.  I learned about learners studying to acquire qualifications in pursuing their hopes and dreams of a brighter future.  I learned about the complexities and challenges of managing a professional body as a non-profit organisation with limited resources.  I learned about the importance of sound governance by considering the key aspects of good governance in everything we do.  I learned about relationships, the importance of not only establishing these relationships, but growing and maintaining them.  I learned about the need to expand our capacity to deliver on the needs of all our stakeholders, and to balance their needs. Above all I learned about the challenges faced by HR Managers and this learning enabled me to develop solutions to the problems encountered by our professional members on a daily basis.


There are so many highlights and milestones over the last seven years that it will take a month to mention all of them. Hence, I will do my best to capture the essence of all the highlights in seven top initiatives:


1. Rebranding and Transformation of SABPP

The rebranding of SABPP was the first visible strategic change intervention.  The transition from the old to the new brand signified a transformed institution with a new focus. The logo as image for the new brand moving forward since 2012 from the 1982 brand is as follows:

Making the transition from the previous logo that was traditional and stern to depict mainly our professional registration and quality assurance roles, the new brand represented a modern, vibrant and dynamic look and feel to illustrate the new role and strategy of SABPP.   However, SABPP still ensured that the new brand integrates its two major roles, and that is quality assurance of learning according to our SAQA mandate as an ETQA, but also the standard-setting role of the HR professional body.  The tagline “setting HR standards” encompasses both the professional body and learning quality assurance roles of SABPP.  In essence, a major shift from the past is that we have dropped the words `South African’ and now simply refer to SA in our name.  This was done for two reasons based on our market analysis. Firstly, the overall name was too long, and did not fit in one line when completing forms or other documentation.  In terms of our new growth model, the SA now represents a stronger focus on Southern Africa as a region in view of the increased interest from HR professionals in neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zambia.  In time, and building on relationships currently being established the SA may even constitute Sub-Saharan Africa.  Thus, we are celebrating our South African focus and heritage, but extending our footprint much wider, while also being mindful of a growing number of South African expatriates and other professionals continuing doing excellent HR work throughout the world.

The rebranding of SABPP also provided impetus for the transformation of SABPP.  It took SABPP only three years (2011-2014) to transform from a majority white member professional body to a majority black professional body.  Today, the vast majority of board members (84%), management (67%), staff members (85%), professional members (65%) and student members (87%) are black.

2. HR Voice Strategy

The new SABPP strategy called HR Voice has been a major success.  It required SABPP to be the “voice” of the HR profession and we fulfilled this new role with a sense of purpose and urgency.  So much so that SABPP HR and employment relations positions have been presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Labour.  Since then we have been visible in all provinces and several other countries.

The HR Voice strategy opened many doors for SABPP.  Several initiatives evolved from our new HR Voice strategy adopted since 2012.  The strategy was such a success that its second version HR Voice II was approved by the new Board of SABPP.  In no other way has our commitment to HR Voice been more explicit than in the renaming of our previous newsletter “Across the Board” to “HR Voice.” This dedicated focus on improving communication with our professionals not only received good feedback from the market, it convinced management to convert the newsletter to a fully-fledged monthly magazine consisting of articles, news, events, tips and many other value-adding pieces of content.

Since 2011 SABPP also entered the uncertain and disruptive world of social media by opening twitter, linked-in and facebook accounts.  Over these five years we have significantly grown followers, posts and interactions on these platforms.  Today we have more than 6000 members on Linked-in and more than 14 400 followers on twitter.   Therefore, I also want to thank all of you for connecting with me and SABPP on twitter @MariusSABPP and @SABPP1. Twitter has been a highly effective medium for us to be connected on a daily basis.  All our company visits and conference presentations are shared on twitter and the SABPP blog hrtoday.me provided another useful platform for engagement.  All my slides of all public presentations are available on Slideshare.net, members can simply download or google the slides even if they could not attend these events.

The major success of the HR Voice strategy has been our commitment to stakeholder engagement.  Professional registrations numbers have increased significantly and reached a record of 974 registration in 2015, a new record year for SABPP.  We now have more than 70 accredited learning providers.  Another major initiative has been the launch of student chapters at universities.  More than a 1000 students have been registered at 17 campuses  throughout South Africa.

However, our commitment to building research capacity has resulted in a stream of publications.  Our monthly fact sheets and other research publications were very well received in the market.  A highlight was the launch of the first book published on ethical competence for HR practitioners, of which the foreword was written by the previous Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela.  We subsequently started to run public Ethics workshops and to train companies on HR ethics and we are glad to see that this training has impact and relevance in an environment characterised by fraud, corruption, state capture and other unethical business practices.

What people don’t often realise is that things don’t happen automatically. You need people to make things happen.  That was one of the major reasons why SABPP has been so successful over the last seven years – we managed to deliver because of our people.   In seven years we have grown from a small team of three full-time staff members to a strong team of 22, in addition to more than 250 volunteers serving our national and provincial committees.  Our staff members made things happen.


3. HR Competency Model



In line with the HR Voice strategy, a National HR Competency Model was developed by SABPP. The competency model consists of 14 competencies broken down according to levels of work.  The competency model was very well received by the market and published in national and international publications.


4. HR Standards and Audits

The biggest achievement of SABPP over the last five years has been the development of the first set of National HR Standards in the world.  These standards have now been exported to several countries all over the world. The standards have been accepted by Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.  Moreover, an Audit framework has been developed to audit companies against the HR standards.


5. HR Professionals as Ex-Officio Commissioners of Oaths

In 2015 the Minister of Justice, Advocate Michael Masutha approved SABPP registered HR Professionals as Ex-Officio Commissioners of Oaths in  accordance with the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act. This made the work and lives of many employees and HR Managers easier by empowering HR Professionals to fulfil the role of Commissioners of Oaths when they certify copies of ID documents and qualifications, as well as administering affidavits.


6. South African Leadership Standard


The development and launch of the South African leadership standard in 2017 was a major highlight over the last seven years. This was the first major attempt by SABPP management to reach out to line management by providing them with a standard assisting them with their daily leadership practice.


7. HR Risk Management book


Having done research on HR Risk Management for period of eight years, in addition to the development of the HR Risk Management standards as part the National HR Standards, consolidating all the SABPP learnings and lessons in HR Risk Management culminated in our first risk management product, i.e. a book on HR Risk Management.



Despite the successes outlined above, there are still many challenges I am facing in leading the HR profession:

  • Getting HR people on the same page (the competency model and HR standards helped, but more work needs to be done);
  • Building HR competence (we are still faced with different levels of competence);
  • Expanding our resources and capacity to deliver on the needs of the HR market;
  • Socio-economic challenges such as inequality, unemployment, poor education, making it difficult for HR to deliver;
  • Inconsistencies in HR practice;
  • Many HR practitioners still not adequately qualified;
  • Unethical behaviour by HR, line managers and employees;
  • Companies being hesitant to conduct HR audits.




As a strategist I am also open to new opportunities.  We have started to make good progress on key initiatives that will take the HR profession to a new level of meaning and significance over the next five years:

  1. National HR Academy to be launched to build HR Competence.
  2. Awareness and capacity-building in the application of the HR Standards.
  3. HR Audits to be done throughout the private and public sector.
  4. Launch of first set of National HR Metrics.
  5. Implementing a new CPD system.
  6. Leveraging alliances to advance the HR profession.
  7. Developing more HR Professional Practice Standards.



I have been blessed to work with so many HR Professionals, learning providers, academics, learners, board and committee members, staff members and other stakeholders over the last seven  years.  I want to thank all of you for supporting me, challenging me and enriching my vision, strategy and life.  I have been inspired by your commitment to the HR profession, your inputs, your suggestions and ideas.

In 2011, soon after my appointment, when I asked for suggestions I was overwhelmed by the responses.  Today I can proudly say that 95% of these suggestions were either implemented, or are in the process of implementation. Thus, your suggestions were consolidated and in essence, became the new SABPP strategy.  Once again, as I look towards the 2018-2020 period, I invite you to provide me with new ideas and recommendations so that I can plan and refine our strategy based on your inputs.  You are welcome to send these ideas to me directly on marius@sabpp.co.za or phone +27 (011) 045 5400 or (010) 007 5906.  I look forward to hear from you soon so that I continue to tap into your insight and wisdom to take the HR profession to a new level of significance during 2018 and beyond.  Also, I have been inspired by all the HR teams I visited over the last seven years in all nine provinces.  If I have not yet been to your company, please let me know so that I can schedule a visit to your office.

As I reflect on the past seven years, I also attempt to plan for the next period on the exciting journey of building the HR profession towards the 2020 workplace.  I am filled with excitement about the opportunities ahead, and I am mindful of challenges and risks.  However, I look forward to continue serving the HR market and professional community with value-adding products, services and initiatives.  Let us continue to set HR standards and raise the bar for the HR profession to achieve the status and credibility it deserves.   I also accept the challenge and opportunity posed by President Ramaphosa to all South Africans: Send me!

Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP.  You can follow him on twitter @MariusSABPP