By Ross Perez 2010/05/24

Steve Wexler at i4cp is frequently asked a difficult question: "How many full time HR employees should my organization have." In an attempt to answer it, Steve enlisted Tableau Public and a recent HR survey to create the following visualization. The viz evaluates the 850 companies in the survey based on the number of full time HR employees they have and how successful the organization is as a whole (based on revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction). Take advantage of the interactivity to find out how many HR employees your organization should have.

Broadly, the bottom chart tells us that the highest performing organizations have slightly more full time HR employees than the lower performers. If you select a smaller organization size, say 1 to 99, this difference is magnified, perhaps because smaller organizations are growing faster and need more attention per employee. Although every situation is unique, this viz seems to show that it is better to err on the side of excess with HR employees, than be caught with too few hands!

What we like about this viz

Labels: The data labels on the "Ratio" view make it much easier to quickly understand the content of the viz. Instead of having to mouse over for a tooltip, users can just read.


This is one issue I have with data visualization. Just because you can put together a scatterplot and derive a trendline, that doesn't mean that you can answer a question. Looking at this graph, I don't see how you can make any claim that more HR FTEs contributes to company performance--just that there is a correlation, and the correlation seems rather weak at that. I'm especially dubious about the "outliers removed" part. It seems that among smaller firms (10,000 employees or fewer), it's just a few low performers that drag down your curve.

It's an interesting visualization from a descriptive point of view. It's pretty much useless from a prescriptive point of view. You really can't say that a higher ratio of HR staff to total employment contributes to corporate performance based on this data. You can say that there's a correlation, but that correlation could be spurious.

And the more pronounced differentiation in smaller firms is probably just a numbers issue--if I've got a 100 person firm, and my HR department goes from 2 people to 3, I've just increased my HR-to-employee ratio by 50%.


We certainly appreciate the post, but a key point (if not *the* key point) is that the organization size is what really determines the typical ratio and the so-called point of inflection is around 10,000 workers (this is where high performing organizations have fewer HR FTEs). Indeed, you can see by the slope of the lines that the dark orange responses (lower performers) increase at a higher rate than the higher performing organizations.

No matter -- anybody interested should filter by organization, geographic structure, and industry type to see typical ratios.



Ah, you are spot on. We do NOT suggest that more HR FTEs contribute to performance but rather we compare / contrast the habits of higher and lower performing organizations.

A more thorough examination of this may be found here:

I think this interpretation will address the issues you bring up.


Jeff and Steve,

Thank you for the insight, and I apologize for misconstruing the intent of the visualization.


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