A few years back, I was in a local mentoring group through my SHRM chapter. I heard a story from one of the senior level HR professionals in the room that has forever stuck in my mind.

Recently they had won an award as the “best place to work” in our area, and the others in the room were asking for the secrets to their success.

Here’s a paraphrased version of the story.

Others began talking about how their ratio wouldn’t allow for an HR person to be embedded into the work groups of 50-80 employees, and the conversation quickly began to turn into a “Well, we have 150 employees and only 1 HR person” discussion. People were actually proud of the fact that they were extremely lean in HR staff.

Now, assuming there’s work to be done, I am a big fan of avoiding that overly-lean level of staffing in the HR function. Check this:

Sometimes you have to stop and wonder where common sense has gone. Companies are expecting more from their HR team than ever before, but according to data gathered by XpertHR, companies are increasing the number of employees relative to the number of HR professionals. This leads to a number of trickle-down effects, but the major one is forcing those human resources employees into a more administrative function.

No, it’s just an ever-increasing spiral in an attempt to decrease costs and increase efficiency. While you’ll never meet someone who’s for increasing costs and lowering efficiency, that does come with its own baggage. Recent information from Gallup puts employee disengagement higher than 25%.  Source: HR to employee ratio

Now that I’m off my soapbox, let’s look back at the original idea. Embed HR pros in the employee work groups. Don’t centralize the HR function in a remote location and expect to get the same results in the areas of recruiting, employee relations, etc. The more time I spend getting to know our people, their work, and our customer, the better I can serve them as an HR professional, pure and simple.

So, let’s take a peek at the “groundbreaking” concepts that you can use to make your HR team great.

The big three

  1. Let HR interact with the employees, managers, and leadership team. Yes, all of them.
  2. Have enough bandwidth in the HR team to do more than just cover administrative functions. Unless you like being a secretary.
  3. Be in the middle of things. There’s no substitute.

And I didn’t mention it outright before, but it needs to be said–don’t use the employee to HR ratio as a means of measuring effectiveness in your function. Some industries think 1 HR pro to 100 employees is perfect, but they also might have different challenges from following that formula with no regard for the people on the other side of the equation.

Want a breakthrough in company performance? Hire great people (HR included!) and let them work. It’s a pretty neat concept. 

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  • 2 thoughts on “A Breakthrough in Company Performance

    1. I’m always amazed that HR–the people responsible for the most personal and social part of an organization–is off in a corner somewhere with no regular interaction with the rest of the staff. How counter-intuitive! How are they supposed to be your trusted advisers if you never talk to them? How are they going to advocate for you if they don’t know what you want?

    2. My last job I sat with the team and reported to the director of the business unit, it was great and I think it is the best way to do HR. We did still have a centralised HR admin function as well which I think is a good balance between having efficient central services but then local HR that can be flexible, adaptable and can understand the business need.

      Great post.

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