Arlington, Va. — Nov. 20
Human resource department staffs and budgets showed some signs of recovery in 2012, although those gains probably did not compensate for cuts and freezes experienced during the recession.
Following two straight years in which HR department staff cuts were more common than increases, the pattern reversed in 2012, as reported staffing gains in human resources outpaced reductions-in-force by 10 percentage points this year, according to a survey of HR departments by Bloomberg BNA.
Budgeted adjustments in HR funding for 2012 also reflect some improvement from the last few years, according to the survey, but are still well short of levels observed before the recession.
HR department staff levels have seen some reversal of fortune in 2012. Twenty-one percent of surveyed human resource offices gained staff positions between 2011 and 2012, while only 11 percent experienced cuts. Two years ago, nearly a third of respondents (32 percent) reported reductions-in-force within human resources, with just 13 percent indicating gains in HR staff.
Human resource staff ratios appear to have stabilized at slightly higher levels than those observed from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. For 10 straight years, the median ratio of HR staff to total headcount has been either 1 or 1.1 human resource employees for every 100 workers served by the HR department. The median ratio bounced between 0.9 and 1 HR staff per 100 employees from 1996 to 2004.
HR budgets for 2012 suggest some easing of the fiscal austerity observed over the last several years.
Roughly one-fifth of the responding employers (22 percent) reported reductions in human resource funding for 2012, down from 37 percent of respondents to last year's survey.
Moreover, only 11 percent indicated HR budget cuts of more than 5 percent, versus 24 percent of those surveyed about a year earlier.
Budgeted changes in HR outlays also reflect modest improvement in HR departments' fiscal situations. The median budgeted change in human resource department budgets for 2012 is an increase of 3.2 percent, up from both 2011 (2 percent) and 2010 (2.2 percent).