The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

How Many HR People Does it Take to Get the Job Done?

team success

In thinking about HR teams, we are often asked how many HR people does an organization need. If you have an HR executive telling you they need more people to get everything done, you should be insisting on an analytical reasoning why.

To provide a baseline for comparison, we share recent data on HR teams. The ratio of HR to employees remained fairly stable at one HR team member for every 100 employees in the last half of the 20th century.  Data from the SHRM Trend survey of 2013 shows that the average organization has 1 HR team member for every 133 employees. The reduction in headcount of the HR function can be attributed to both economic necessity and the technological advances that are available to HR teams in organizations of all sizes. This figure is a generalization for all organizations; your appropriate ratio may change based on factors such as education, location, technical ability, language, among other things, of your workforce. The number might also fluctuate based on functions that are outsourced through HR vendors such as payroll, training, and recruiting. Regardless of the use of outsourcing in your organization, the study is still an accurate benchmark organizations can use to evaluate when it is time to add to or increase the size of their HR teams.

We see common themes in the HR function that are creating large teams. If your ratio is far greater than 1 to 130 for example, consider if your HR executive has embraced technology and evaluated the reasons why. If you have a much small HR-to-employee ratio, consider if the needs of your employee population are being met and the culture you strive for is being driven through the organization.

If your organization is smaller than 133, this doesn’t mean you can ignore the HR function. In small organizations, HR is often more critical than ever given the complexity of compliance, recruiting, training, and career opportunities. In small organizations, we often see HR as a hybrid function, or a function for which outsourcing is viable option. We will look at the areas of focus for HR throughout the book, and help you come to a conclusion of how to best incorporate the level of HR that is appropriate for your business.

Averages are just that: the top of the bell curve. You may want a more integrated HR team, or prefer one that requires more employee participation in their own services. There is no right or wrong, but a ratio should be determined that both you and your HR executive are comfortable with going forward. The challenge we present to CEOs and HR executives is to look critically at their HR challenges and desired initiatives to determine what is staff ratio is right for their organization.

Photo: Chris Potter

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