IDear Workforce-I How Many HR Pros Per Employee

March 28, 2000

Dear Workforce:

How many HR professionals are usually employed in an organization?


A Dear Upper One Percentile:

There's about one HR professional per 50,000 employees.

Oh--wait--that's just what it feels like. Actually, according to a survey by BNA and SHRM, the ratio is about 1/100 employees, as I imagine you expected. It was .9 per 100 in 1996, which was an all-time low. Firms that handle government contracts tend to have more HR folk on staff.

Some more info from that survey:

  • 60% of firms outsource HR functions, from EAPs to benefit plans.
  • HR performs general administrative duties at 58% of companies; administrative services like security and telephone services at 19% of firms; credit union management at 15%; food service management at 13%; medical in-house at 13%; EPA compliance at 13% of firms; and risk management at 11% of firms.
  • 46% of establishments have specialized HR staff, handling bennies, comp, training, or other niches.

As you know from using this site, more and more HR professionals are now business people taking, or at least trying to take, a more proactive role in making a profit or otherwise helping the organization prosper. These companies--those with proactive HR departments--are sometimes also outsourcing the administrative stuff and saving the strategic role for in-house. This could mean fewer HR pros on staff, but each having more value.

These kind of HR professionals, which some companies are now calling workforce management professionals or people management professionals, are helping identify merger candidates; assessing employee skills and redesigning jobs and employees based upon those skills; integrating recruiting with the company's public relations and marketing efforts; helping make heads and tails out of the company's knowledge and data; lobbying Congress; making virtual teams work effectively; and lots of other things you've read about on this site.

Check out the articles about this year's Optimas winners, and follow the writings of Jac Fitz-enz in Work Views in your Workforce Week e-mail newsletter to keep up.


SOURCE: Bureau of National Affairs and SHRM survey No. 63, Human Resource Activities, Budgets & Staffs, 1997-1998. Chart provided by Mary Feldman of the Segal Company. Written by Todd Raphael of Workforce.

E-mail your Dear Workforce questions to Online Editor Todd Raphael at, along with your name, title, organization and location. Unless you state otherwise, your identifying info may be used on and in Workforce magazine. We can't guarantee we'll be able to answer every question.