On 1st September this year, BSI launched a new standard – BS ISO 27500 ‘The human-centred organisation – Rationale and general principles’. BS ISO 27500 is a high-level goal-setting standard and it sets out 7 key principles that characterize a human-centred organisation.

The standard is aimed squarely at executive board members and senior management, which makes it relatively unusual. The principles and recommendations it sets out are for executive board members to endorse and implement in order to achieve a human-centred organisations.

Why should an organisation aim to be human-centred?

The seven key principles of a human-centred organisation are designed to:

  • Optimise performance throughout the organisation.
  • Minimise risks to the organisation and individuals.
  • Maximise wellbeing in the organsation and arising from its activities.
  • Enhance relationships with customers and the community and society which the organisation operates in.

The human-centred approach is based on principles that have underpinned ergonomics and human factors since day 1 i.e. that systems should be designed around the intended / expected user, with consideration given to individual differences, strengths and needs, rather than users having to adapt to the system.

A human-centred organisation recognises that it has an impact on a range of stakeholders – i.e. the ‘user’ is multiple and varied, including employees, contractors, customers, employees’ families, the community(ies) the organsation is based in and the wider society(ies) which it operate in. This broad holistic view of organisational culture and impact, needs board level championing and direction in order to become embedded within and organsation. The new standard is aimed at starting and underpinning that process .

 The 7 principles of a human-centred organisation

 Principle 1: Capitalise on individual differences as an organisational strength

Products, services and work systems should be designed to accommodate individuals differences in capabilities and needs. From a physical product point of view this is reasonably well understood, but less so for work systems. For example it may include creation of teams with complimentary skills, recognising, maximizing and building on strengths rather than making weaknesses a net disadvantage.

Principle 2: Make usability and accessibility strategic business objectives

Products, systems and technology either used in the organisation, or provided by it, should be accessible and useable (effective, efficient and satisfying to use), which may partly be achieved through use of national standards and recognition of statutes such as the UK Equality Act 2010.

Principle 3: Adopt a total system approach

Recognise that people who are stakeholders, are part of a whole system that includes equipment, workspace, physical, social and organisational environment, which are used by or affected by the organisation. This will mean taking a socio-technical approach to organisational development or changes – i.e. designing organisation and technical systems in tandem rather than in isolation.

Principle 4: Ensure health, safety and wellbeing are business priorities

Protect all stakeholders – as broadly as the wider community – from any hazards that might be generated by the business. Take a proactive approach to this, going beyond the basic minimums set out by national statute. Recognise also that healthy work and workplaces affect employee wellbeing, and if designed to have a positive affect, that will encourage performance and reduce errors and sickness absence.

Principle 5: Value personnel and create meaningful work

Provide meaningful work and give employees an opportunity to refine and develop their skills. Recognise good performance and work to create and share a positive vision for the organisation, which employees can share in. Make sure the experience of product or service users is also meaningful.

Principle 6: Be open and trustworthy

Communicate openly and transparently to employees and the wider community / society. Ensure that there are clear communication channels for all stakeholders, and act in a timely way on information received.

Principle 7: Act in socially responsible ways

Act in ethical ways and instill pride in all stakeholders including local communities. This principle embodies the recommendations set out in ISO 26000 (Guidance on Social Responsibility). These include considerations such as the following:

  • Protecting the environment and preventing pollution
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Preventing discrimination and upholding human rights
  • Community involvement
  • Respect for property rights and the rule of law.

For a more comprehensive summary of ISO 26000 click here.

What are the benefits of being a human-centred organisation?

If this sounds like a lot of work, its worth considering that there are significant benefits to an organisation being human-centred. These include:

  •  Better operational effectiveness and efficiency
  • More useable products and services – which will increase uptake and useage
  • Increased accessibility for all stakeholders – including customers
  • Reduced risk of poor product design
  • High level of responsiveness to customers and market movements
  • Enhanced health, safety and environmental systems
  • Increased confidence and trust throughout the organisation – meaning greater staff loyalty and lower turnover

Is there an assessment process – to check how my organisation measures up?

There is, as yet no formal certification or accreditation for BS ISO 27500. Hopefully as the reputation and value of the standard grows, which I believe it will, that an accreditation process may be developed.

However, in the meantime, Guildford Ergonomics has developed an online rapid assessment form, which anyone who is interested in can use. From the assessment we generate a short report which gives you an initial benchmark overview which you could compare your organisation against at a later date e.g. to gauge progress in developing the seven key principles.

Our report will also help you identify any of the principle areas that you might want to focus on as a priority. The assessment itself is a rating scale format and takes only about 5 minutes to complete. Immediately afterwards you will receive an email confirming we have received your assessment, and it will also provide your raw scores. We will email you your report within 24 hours.

And did we mention? –  it’s all FREE!

Click here to do the online assessment

The online assessment can be done anonymously but, in order for us to email the short summary report to you, you will need to enter an email address. If absolute maintenance of anonymity is a concern for you (i.e. if you don’t even want us to know which company you represent or what your name is) we recommend using a throw-away email address.

Data handling guarantees – these are our promises:

  • All data handling is EU compliant and data will be deleted once your report is sent to you.
  • You do not have to enter your company name when you do the assessment unless you want to.
  • The information you provide will not be shown to any third parties.
  • The email address you use will not be used by us for any marketing purposes at all.

Click here to see an example report.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or want to discuss any ergonomics or human factors issues.