Research show increasingly confident HR teams frustrated by admin work and poor quality data

HR departments continue to grow and to spend more money on what they do – but are being frustrated by an organisational emphasis on administration rather than strategy, new research reveals.

Now in its 18th year, the XpertHR 2020 HR Roles and Responsibilities Survey also reveals that despite the growth of HR analytics, nearly two out of three organisations lack sufficient meaningful data to measure HR performance.

Data collected by XpertHR reveals that the typical HR department now has one HR practitioner for every 63 employees (a ratio of 1:63). This has fallen steadily since 2007 when the ratio stood at 1:118, but has levelled out over the past five years.

In terms of headcount, while half of all employers say there has been no change in HR practitioner numbers over the past two years, four in 10 say that numbers have increased, while just one in ten reports a fall in numbers.

Strikingly, around half of all organisations report that their HR function does not have its own budget. Among those that do, the typical spend on all HR activities now stands at £1,176 per employee annually, compared with £985 a year ago.

Key findings from the survey show the following:

  • The ratio of HR practitioners to employees stands at 1:56 in private-sector-services organisations, 1:75 in the public sector, and 1:79 among manufacturing-and-production companies.
  • 20% of HR time goes on administrative activities – the joint most time-consuming activity alongside business consultancy.
  • Just 5% of HR time is devoted to analytics, with a further 2% of time on generating reports.
  • 62% of organisations do not gather enough meaningful data to measure HR performance, and of these, 62% blame poor or non-existent HR information systems.
  • The most common HR metrics gathered by employers include:
    • Absence (92%)
    • Staff turnover (84%)
    • Exit interview feedback (80%)
    • Disciplinaries/grievances (68%)
    • Employee survey results (68%)

Commenting on the findings, XpertHR senior HR practice editor, Noelle Murphy said:

“We have seen the HR function transformed since our HR Roles and Responsibilities Survey began 18 years ago. But some things remain surprisingly and frustratingly similar and familiar.

“Despite the emergence of new technologies and the more widespread use of HR information systems, HR teams still find themselves bogged down in administrative work that could or should be automated. Too many HR departments still don’t have an identifiable budget. And too few have the data they need to demonstrate the value that HR adds.

“Even so, most HR practitioners regard their department’s work as every effective, or at least above average.”