Standards are a defining feature of reputable professions and a vital part of organisational life providing a ‘quality assured’ basis for ethical and effective practice. Regardless of whether organisations have a dedicated HR function, they will at some point require guidance on good human resource management practice in areas such as workforce planning, recruitment, diversity and inclusion, learning and development, and human capital reporting. British and International standards provide such guidance and are developed by HR experts globally, with input from key stakeholders. Organisations choosing to adopt these standards have the opportunity to optimise their performance through the HR practices that contribute to organisational success.

This factsheet explains what British and International standards are and why they matter. It gives brief descriptions of the British and International HR standards already published or currently under development. It outlines how the CIPD is involved in their development, and concludes by looking at their relationship with the law.

Organisations large or small, and regardless of their sector or field of activity, use British and International standards covering a wide range of subjects, such as nanotechnology; energy management; health and safety and quality management. The point of such standards is to provide a reliable basis for organisations and people to share the same expectations about a product or service as they represent an agreed way of doing something, for example, the detailed technical specifications for making something or the quality requirements for management systems.

These British and International Standards are developed through the collaboration and consensus of technical experts in specific fields, who are brought together by national standards bodies, including the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO). These standard-setting bodies, and the expert groups of standard makers they convene, represent key stakeholders, such as government agencies, industry, academia, special interest and user groups, and industry and employer bodies, for the standards being developed.

The suite of British and International HR standards provide an organisational focus on specific areas of professional practice. They complement the CIPD’s professional standards, which define what it means to be a ‘people professional’. By that we mean people working in HR, learning and development (L&D), organisational development and the many other disciplines, not just in terms of their knowledge and skills, but also their integrity, shared values and ability to draw on our unique expertise to make evidenced-based ethical judgements.

Standards are important to organisations that seek to optimise compatibility, interoperability, safety and quality of their products and services, and to ensure efficient coordination of systems and processes across increasingly complex supply chains. They matter to government as they provide a basis for public policies and an amplification of regulation, and they matter to users of standards because they ensure the quality, safety, characteristics and specification of a product or service they use. While the users of standards provide invaluable feedback to the shape of these standards, we cannot forget the economic imperative - the principal driver is economic as standardisation facilitates efficiencies by building global interoperability into products and systems, which in turn supports global supply chains and international trade.

In 2011 the British Standards Institution (BSI) convened a committee to develop national standards in the field of people management, and to contribute to developing international standards in human resource management led by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The terms ‘human resource management’ and ‘human capital’ are used interchangeably in this factsheet to encompass the terms used in the suites of standards being developed nationally and internationally. These standards matter because they provide clear, constructive approaches, challenging leadership and management to develop organisational cultures that support good work and that recognise the intrinsic value of the people that work for, or on behalf, of the organisation.

People metrics are essential to organisations and the decisions they take. Metrics standards are designed to support a data-driven, evidence-based approach to making people management and development decisions in a sustainable and principled manner. As technologies and systems evolve to collect more data to support the measurement of inputs, processes and outputs, it’s likely that our future people management practices will also change.

There are also standards for organisations on governance, resilience and business continuity and smart working that will also influence future organisational priorities and direction.

British standards in human capital are developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) together with experts representing employers, academia, and industry and professional bodies. As well as the CIPD, this includes the University Forum for Human Resource Development (UFHRD), Acas, The Trades Union Council (TUC) and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES).

The suite of British standards covering human capital provide a principles-based framework for valuing people, diversity and inclusion, and learning and development.

The standards are all based on principles for valuing people in organisations:

  • People working on behalf of the organisation have intrinsic value, in addition to their protections under the law or in regulation, which needs to be respected.
  • Stakeholders and their interests are integral to the best interests of the organisation.
  • Every organisation is part of wider society and has a responsibility to respect its social contract as a corporate citizen and operate in a manner that is sustainable.
  • A commitment to valuing people who work on behalf of the organisation and to meeting the requirements of the standard is made and supported at the highest level.
  • Each principle is of equal importance.

Taking a principles and systems-led approach enables organisations to maintain the quality of decisions and relevance of the outcomes in the context of networked organisational relationships and evolving business models, and to better understand their role in a network of employment relationships spanning employees, contractors, volunteers, supply chain partners and customers.

The standards are:

  • BS 76000 Valuing people in organizations (2015): this management system standard promotes a structured approach to people value management to enable organisations to assess the extent to which their HR policies and practices promote long term effectiveness, shared values and social sustainability to ensure the mutual respect and contribution of everyone who works on their behalf.

  • BS 76005 Valuing people through diversity and inclusion (2017): this standard is presented as a code of practice intended to facilitate fairness and dignity at work. It provides a framework of recommendations for reviewing, assessing and undertaking a competent and principled approach to diversity and inclusion to enable an organisation to demonstrate its commitment to valuing people in its widest sense.

  • PD 76006 A guide to learning and development (2017): this published document provides an essential ‘roadmap’ to the use of learning and development as a means to maximise the value of people in an organisation, including options to identify priority learning and development areas, innovative ways to meet learning needs, and options to evaluate the success of learning practices.

These standards provide a framework for organisations to establish managerial accountability and support for flexible, innovative and sustainable practices to achieve the full potential of their people.

Future work being planned relates to health and well-being and principles of measurement.

In 2011 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) formed a Technical Committee (TC 260) to develop human resource management standards to offer broad, coordinating guidance for organisations in aligning and streamlining their HR practices for their own benefit as well as their stakeholders. These international standards codify organisational guidelines, processes, practices and systems in people management and development. They are being developed by experts representing 28 member countries, including two experts nominated by the CIPD who are representing the UK.

The following human resource management standards have been developed and published by ISO TC260:

Standards that TC260 workgroups are actively developing include:

We are proactively engaged in the direction and development of both the British and International HR standards. We lead the UK approach and make clear that, while the arguments for efficiency and optimal interoperability are valid in the realms of benchmarking, the management and development of people requires a strong ethical underpinning. Currently two CIPD staff members and several other members of the CIPD are actively involved in the development and review of standards.

Get involved

Our profession has an important role to play as the experts on people, work and change - so no matter what your interest in people management and development is, or where you live and work, you can contribute your expertise.

All British and International standards work is undertaken within a network of committees. It requires the voluntary contribution and commitment of experts. To get involved in standards work and share expertise in shaping future standards, individuals must become a member of a national or international standards committee. This requires the support of a nominating organisation; for example, a trade association, professional body or academic institution, in order to represent their views. Anyone interested in participating in the work of a national or international committee should contact the national standards setting body – see a list of participating member countries and the contact details for each national standards setting body.

But anyone can comment on standards during the essential public consultation phase. To do so, it’s necessary to register on the BSI standards development site.

Standards aren’t the same as regulation or legislation, but the technical detail of standards often inform the drafting of policy guidance, regulation and legislation by government; for example, environmental protection.

Because legislation can change, standards rarely cite the law within their technical content.

Organisations need to meet their legal obligations, but compliance with a national or international standard signals they take their responsibilities seriously, and demonstrates commitment to doing things well.

False claims of compliance or compliance failings can be a matter for a trading standards unit at a local authority - and potentially leads to being on the wrong side of the law.


British Standards Institution (BSI)

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)


Books and reports

MULVIE, A. (2018) Working with external quality standards and awards. London: Routledge.

MULVIE, A. (2018) Working with external quality standards and awards: strategic implications for human resource and quality management. CIPD Applied Research Conference. Reviewed in In a Nutshell, issue 88.

WONG, W., ANDERSON, V. and BOND, H. (2019) Human Capital Management Standards: A complete guide. London: KoganPage.

Journal articles

ANDERSON, V. (2017) HRD standards and standardization: where now for human resource development? Human Resource Development International. Vol. 20, No.4, pp327-345.

CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.

Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.

This factsheet was written by Heather Bond, CIPD's nominated expert, and Wilson Wong, Chair of the BSI Committee.

Heather Bond: Standards Adviser

Heather joined the Research team in 2014 and represents the CIPD as an expert on British and International Standards Committees that are developing human capital and resource management Standards.  

A Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, and holder of a judicial appointment as an Employment Tribunal Member, she first joined the CIPD in 2002 and was previously the Quality Assurance Manager responsible for qualification development, delivery, assessment and regulatory compliance.

Wilson Wong

Wilson Wong: Head of Insight and Futures

Wilson is Head of Insight and Futures.  He represents the UK on human capital metrics at ISO/TC260 (HR Standards) and is independent Chair of the Human Capital Standards Committee at the BSI. His career has spanned academia, corporate finance and national ICT policy. Wilson’s PhD in Economic Psychology (Behavioral Economics) was on opportunity recognition. 

He’s on the Editorial Board of HRDQ and International Journal of HRD Practice, Policy & Research. A member of the International Association of Applied Psychology and an Academic Fellow of the CIPD, he was called to the Bar in 1990. Research interests include the psychological contract; scenario planning; the future of work; the evolving employment relationship (e.g. models of fairness); the future of voice and human capital measurement (e.g. the unstable nature of ‘talent’).

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