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HR Metrics

10 May, 2016 - 15:24

By Ronald Tam

For any company that is implementing new human resource programs or adjusting existing ones, these changes can quickly become a substantial company project. The roles of human resource programs are to manage the employees of companies to increase the human capital in a company. However, the specific goals or strategies that HR seeks to achieve may be different for each company or situation. Therefore, there is no set standard for measuring the success of HR.

"The business world is dominated by people who look at metrics, and the HR world needs to play in that space… if you can measure manufacturing efficiency with Six Sigma, why not use similar analytics to measure human capital performance" (Grossman, 2006). It is suggested that the business world is focused on metrics in determining success. Similar approaches must be taken to value HR in order for it to be widely accepted, “but were the HR policies and practices really worth the time and effort? HR thought so, based on overall company performance. But Poses, who also had served as a financial analyst at AlliedSignal, wanted more. He wanted substantive proof, validation that his HR investments were paying off” (Grossman, 2006). This is the most common view of companies when it comes to HR, so the metrics sought out here is a financial measure.

The first approach to HR metrics would be the approach in measuring the financial success of the company as a result of the HR implementations. Evaluations can be viewed as company projects or investments in this case. The first measurement is just a simple ratio of change in profits due to new HR divided by cost of the new HR. This measure will give an idea of how well the new changes paid off relative to how much was spent on it. Another measure is payback period, “The payback period of an investment is the period of time required for the cumulative cash inflows (net cash flows) from a project to equal the initial cash outlay (net investment)” (Moyer, McGuigan, & Kretlow, 2006). The payback period is measured by the net investment divided by the annual cash inflows as a result of that investment; this measure will give a company an idea of how long it takes the project to earn by its cost. The final measure for financial metrics of HR is a net present value, “The net present value of a capital expenditure project is defined as the present value of the stream of net (operating) cash flows from the projects minus the project’s net investment” (Moyer, McGuigan, & Kretlow, 2006). This is done by taking the present value of all future expected cash flows from the HR change and subtracting it from the cost of the project. This will put the value of the HR project in monetary terms like any other investment for the company. These are all measures that can be used to express the HR program or changes in terms of a relationship between its financial returns and costs. There are no specific standards for determining whether an HR project was a good investment or not, but the company should relate their results with industry results or historic results.

The other approach to HR metrics is more towards operations aspect of the company. “The old HR measures, such as head count, the cost of compensation and benefits, time to fill, and turnover, no longer cut it in this new world of accountability. They don't go far enough to create shareholder value and align people decisions with corporate objectives” (Schneider, 2006). Since the purpose of HR is to improve an operational aspect of the company, it should also be measured in that context. “Many companies are forging ahead on efforts to create a new set of metrics that the traditional HR functions like recruiting, training, and performance review [relate] to overall corporate goals” (Schneider, 2006). Measurements here can include a variety of traditional measurements such as employee turnover, average stay of employees, efficiency of employees, etc. These measures all affect the operation aspects of a company and are standardized information currently. A new measure that can be introduced is the measurement of human capital; “human-capital metrics can provide meaningful correlations that help predict behavior and human-capital investment demands well ahead of the annual budget”. Another new HR metric can be directly related to the operational aspects of the company. “HR metrics might measure efficiency, or the time and cost of activities; human-capital metrics measure the effectiveness of such activities. Time to fill becomes time to productivity; turnover rate becomes turnover quality; training costs become training return on investment” (Schneider, 2006). The take from non-financial HR metrics is that there is no limit to any measurements or techniques. They can range from something simple and standard such as employee turnover to something creative that measures the effects of human capital increases, customer satisfaction increases, etc.

Human resources should be treated like any other projects that a company can undertake. It can be measured both with financial results or operational results. The financial results are measures to compare the cost against the return from HR. The operational measure can look at standards or more complex and creative measures. Ultimately HR metrics are valued and judged against the goals or strategies of the company and how well they are aligned with the results. Therefore, a company should not limit themselves on how they are evaluating their HR success and build techniques around how they feel they should value it.