ANSI Note of Clarification

This note is in response to Setting Standards.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Write To The Editor Reprints

Thank you for your article, "Setting Standards," which appeared on May 31, 2012, in Human Resource Executive Online.

On behalf of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), I am writing to provide clarification from ANSI's perspective of some of the points made in the article.

By way of background, ANSI is the coordinator of the U.S. standardization system. In that role, we accredit standards developing organizations (SDOs) like SHRM, and approve individual documents as American National Standards (ANS). ANSI does not itself develop standards. Sometimes, you'll see ANSI as part of the name or designation of a standard, but that simply means that the Institute has approved that document as an ANS based on evidence of procedural compliance.

ANSI does not determine which SDOs develop standards in specific subject areas, nor does ANSI determine whether a proposed standard should move forward. Once announced, a proposed project will succeed or not, based on participation by materially affected interests. It is also important to note that ANSI does not grant exclusive scopes of standards development activity to one standards developer over another.

With all that said, here are some of the specific statements in the article that we would like to clarify:

"SHRM, which began the process at the request of the American National Standards Institute, has worked with a task force of 166 HR practitioners, line managers, academics and consultants, from public and private organizations nationwide, to create such an investor-metric standard."

ANSI did not request that SHRM (or any other developer) initiate any standards development activity. SHRM is an ANSI-accredited standards developer, and initiates activities of its own volition. These activities are announced in ANSI's weekly public review mechanism, Standards Action.

"SHRM says the work group is merely guiding the process for the formulation of standards -- not creating the actual standards. The criteria for the standards are created by ANSI, says Lee Webster, director of HR standards at SHRM."

This is unclear. The work group is, in fact, developing consensus in relation to the technical content of the standard in question. But since SHRM intends to submit the finished document for approval as an American National Standard, the process by which that standard is developed must adhere to ANSI's Essential Requirements, which describe criteria for openness, balance, consensus, and due process in standards development. The requirements do not govern the technical content of the standard itself; rather, they assure that the standard has been developed in a manner that is equitable, accessible, and responsive to all stakeholders.

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"Webster adds that ANSI designated SHRM as the exclusive U.S. developer of human resource standards in early 2009." ... "One is to act as the designated HR Standards Secretariat body for ANSI."

ANSI does not grant exclusive scopes of standards development activity.

"We are going to adopt the ANSI standards and present the final draft to our members," he says. "We may even ultimately disagree with the standards, but it has to be done via the ANSI process. We want it done well, done right."

The way this is phrased is confusing, as it implies that ANSI is the one developing the standard. SHRM has put the working group in place to develop the standard. Once it is completed, it is expected to be submitted to ANSI for approval as an American National Standard.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss ANSI's roles with you and to provide additional information that may be helpful to you.

Again, thank you for your interest.

Liz Neiman 
Director of Communications and Public Relations 
American National Standards Institute 
New York


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