Analyzing Human Capital Metrics in a Down Economy

By Stephen Miller Jul 6, 2009

SHRM’s 2009 Human Capital Benchmarking Database, now available, examines an array of HR metrics to help organizations make smarter staffing, compensation and HR management decisions during economically challenging times.

In March 2009, SHRM surveyed a sample of HR managers and higher-level HR executives from among its members, across a range of industries, and analyzed data based on 1,205 responses. Some key findings are presented below. You can receive data based on your industry and employee size by contacting the SHRM Customized Benchmarking Service at A customized report or more than 40 metrics are available for a discounted member price.


Of responding organizations, 16 percent anticipate increased hiring activity in 2009 compared to their hiring activities in 2008. The top three industries that expected to hire more employees in 2009 over 2008 are:

  • Services—professional, scientific and technical
  • High-tech
  • Services—accommodation, food and drinking places


Responding organizations expect salaries to increase by a mean of 1.9 percent in 2009.

Salaries as a percentage of operating expenses vary by industry:

  • The highest salaries as a percentage of operating expenses are in government/public administration—federal and educational services.
  • The lowest are in utilities and biotech.

The target bonus as a percentage of salary fell in 2008:

  • For executives, the target bonus decreased from a mean of 11.1 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2008.
  • For nonexecutives, the target bonus decreased from a mean of 4.1 percent in 2007 to 3.3 percent in 2008.

HR Departments

Some 16 percent of HR departments expect to hire HR staff in 2009, down from the previous year at 24 percent.

The HR-to-employee ratio is the number of full-time HR employees (FTEs) supporting 100 people in an organization:

The mean HR-to-employee ratio for organizations of all sizes was 1.12.

Organizational Data

The overall mean revenue-per-FTE was $287,323 in 2008, a 32 percent decrease from the previous year. The top three industries with the highest mean for revenue-per-FTE were:

  • Biotech
  • Telecommunications
  • Management companies and enterprises

The over mean net income-per-FTE was $86,874 in 2008, down from $166,987 the previous year. The top three industries with the highest mean for net income-per-FTE were:

  • Construction, mining, oil and gas
  • Biotech
  • Government/public administration—federal

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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