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What’s the ideal HR-to-staff ratio?

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in Human Resources,The HR Specialist Forum

I’m the HR director of a small manufacturer, supervising an HR specialist and an administrative assistant. We have recently reduced our workforce from about 300 employees down to 200. Now the CEO is arguing that since our staff has shrunk, we don’t need the HR specialist anymore. I think it’s unreasonable to expect me and my admin to take care of all the HR needs of a 200-person organization. I need ammunition to make my case. How many HR professionals should there be for every 100 employees?—Jackie, MD

See responses below.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat November 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

We currently have 119 people. My position is Director of Human Resources. I have a clerk that helps with some things but the majority of every aspect Human Resources falls on my shoulders. I course there are those days when I wish I had about 4 other people helping.


Anonymous October 6, 2010 at 10:55 am

Our company goes by a 1:200 ratio. I have 1.5 FTEs for “HR” functions. I argue with the standard we use a lot because my 1.5 FTEs for 294 employees handles everything Cate mentions above plus employee health/worker’s comp. I’ve never found a true apples-to-apples comparison when looking at HR:Staff ratios.


Cate October 1, 2010 at 11:57 am

I believe what often gets missed in this question is… beyond just a straight ratio (I’ve heard everything from 1:100 to 1:300), is how many of those HR people are handling administrative tasks, and how many are handling the day-to-day of managing employee relations and engagement? If I were to look at a company with 1500 employees, with 15 people in its HR department, it may seem fine. Until you realize that 2 of those people do nothing but Benefits, 1 does nothing but Comp, 5 are solely focused on Staffing, 1 does nothing but HRIS, 1 is the Dept admin who really doesn’t touch employees and 1 is the VP/Dept Head focused on strategic initiatives. So really, that’s only 4 people who are actually serving the general needs of the employees and managers on a day-to-day basis (in this example, the ratio is 1:375). I’m not saying that those other people in the HR department aren’t absolutely vital to the employees… I’m just saying, if an employee has a family issue that’s going to affect their attendance (or their manager has noticed the problem), those other HR members are not part of the equation for them. So the main question is – how does management want the HR department to serve the employees?


Julie August 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I work at a company where the number of employees fluctuates due to the seasonality of the nature of our business, from 250-400+ employees. Our HR dept consists of me. The CFO absorbed the title of HR director but I am the only person functioning. We have a full time recruiter so I don’t do recruiting functions for the most part. I am going to assume this is an abnormal situation….?


Jacque August 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

The number of HR staff also depends on the industry. In our industry in addition to the other HR functions of recruiting, benefits, orientation, discipline, etc. we also have multiple (2-8 per employee)certifications that have to be tracked in addition to vaccinations, uniforms and it seems the list goes on and on. We are also in an industry that typically has fairly high turnover. We currently have an HR Generalist, an HR Assistant and at least 50% of my job function…and we are constantly swamped. I need to add that our use of technology is good, it’s not that we’re doing a lot of manual processes. The 1:160 figure about gave me a heart attack! We have 205 employees.


Lisa July 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I would agree with the previous 2 posts. We have 172 employees at our organization with just myself and 1 other person. We handle HR/Payroll/Benefits and I also oversee 2 other departments in my organization. Although we are busy throughout the day it is a manageable workload. I was able to effectively handle HR/Payroll/Benefits with up to 180 employees by myself but once I had other departments to handle I then needed help.


olawanle moronkeji July 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I think the role of technology in the HR function of an organisation matters in this context. How distributed to other staff is the HR role? what level of self service is available to staff? Is the organisation using an HR business partner model? If the organisation is still at the level of a purely HR administrative model, then the HR/staff ratio may be more than 1:160. The level of development and practice of HR across functions in the organisation will definitely impact on HR/Staff ratio.


smriti ahuja May 25, 2010 at 2:51 am

While each industry and each organisation will have its own needs that will determine this ratio, a thumb of rule in a reasonably mature Organisation and industry is 1:160


HR Manager February 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm

I doubt if there is any HR-staff ratio that is universally applicable. Here’s my suggestion: List down all the functions of your HR unit and do a time-and-motion study. The result should give the required person-days per month which can be converted to the no. of HR persons required.

Hope this helps.

Ismael D. Tabije
Publisher, Woodridge HRM Articles


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