10 HR Metrics the Pros Need to Know

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These days, it seems like the word “data” is around every corner of the office. Every field seems to be scrambling to utilize the capabilities information technology can offer—and human resources (HR) is no exception. For those who know what to look for, common HR metrics offer a huge wealth of potential insights. Those insights can lead to better organizational health, higher profits and a better work environment.

“I find that a lot of metrics are extremely useful if read correctly and put into the proper context,” says Shirley Borg, head of human resources at Energy Casino. Borg explains that sometimes, companies track metrics without truly using them to improve decision-making or train HR staff in how to utilize the information. This waste of potential makes it all the more important that HR pros understand how data can enhance their roles.

“I wish more people understood that metrics in HR are not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Linda Shaffer, chief people and operations officer at Checkr®. “Every organization is different, and it's important to use the right HR metrics for your specific needs.

If you are working in HR (or if you intend to someday), you’ll want to get a handle on some of the most common HR metrics companies track and why those metrics might be useful to your organization. We asked HR pros to share the HR metrics they rely on most in their roles to give you a better picture.

10 Common HR metrics employers are tracking

1. Retention rate

Retention rates measure the percentage of employees who stay with an employer over varying lengths of time. This metric can be useful because it will shed light on how happy employees are with the company. “High retention rates can indicate that employees are satisfied with their jobs and feel valued by the organization, which can lead to increased productivity and a positive company culture,” says Cath Garcia, head of HR at Skill Success.

Low retention rates, inversely, can indicate that employees aren’t satisfied with aspects of the company—or are finding better compensation or career growth potential elsewhere. This makes retention rate a metric worth monitoring, as large shifts can be indicative of a need for further investigation.

2. Voluntary turnover rate

Turnover rates are a very popular HR metric to pay attention to, especially since turnover is notoriously expensive for companies. Voluntary turnover rates indicate the rate of all employees who leave an organization by choice, whatever the reason may have been, according to Adrienne Couch, human resources analyst at LLC.services.

“Over the last year, companies have struggled with retention,” Couch says, adding that she expects retention issues to remain a problem as more employees are willing to leave a job over work-life balance.

While turnover is just part of the business world in many ways, high rates can indicate larger problems within the company. While it is largely similar to retention rate, narrowing the focus to employees who are voluntarily making the decision to move on puts a greater focus on the people organizations strive to keep on board. Like retention rate, this metric can be useful in identifying potential issues and subsequently supporting proactive changes.

3. Employee engagement

Employee engagement can be a single metric gathered from employees in the form of surveys, for example. But many companies track multiple elements of engagement to avoid oversimplifying this metric into the way employees feel about their work on a given day. Things like after-work hours, attendance at voluntary meetings or time spent collaborating outside an individual’s direct scope of work can help companies deepen their understanding of engagement.

Shaffer tracks employee engagement because it can help highlight when the company is doing well. Connected and motivated employees are a great thing! And on the flip side, “A decrease in employee engagement can be indicative of a problem within the organization and will help me identify what needs to be addressed,” Shaffer says.

4. Employee relations incidents

“Human resources deals with actual people, and their relationships are way more complex than some cost-per-employee stats can show,” Borg says. “To cultivate a good work culture, it's important to track any grievances.” Borg explains that it’s crucial to assess the company’s leadership and the well-being of employees. Grievances can be complicated to assess, but they are not something to ignore.

5. Training and development

The training and development metric measures the training and development opportunities a company offers employees, as well as the effectiveness of those programs, according to Garcia.

“Investing in the professional growth of employees can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention, as well as improved job performance.”

This could take the form of tracking the number of employers opting in to professional development programs, external continuing education opportunities or organizational mentorship programs.

6. Cost-per-hire

“This has been a tried-and-tested HR metric that has proven very important,” Couch says. “It shows how much the company is spending to get a new employee.”

In the process of recruitment, interviews, onboarding and training materials costs can really add up. “This metric helps gauge the efficiency of the hiring process,” Couch explains. It can be a useful way for HR professionals to evaluate their talent acquisition strategies. Additionally, a high cost-per-hire figure may indicate candidates are finding something about the roles posted—whether that’s work environment, compensation, etc.—that may be causing candidates to reject offers and subsequently drive up acquisition costs.

7. Compensation

Since compensation is usually a primary factor for employees when they consider where to work, keeping an eye on what your employer offers in comparison to the rest of the industry should be an ongoing endeavor.

“Given the competition when acquiring talent, ensuring we are competitive is essential,” says Heidi Brockman, head of human resources at House Buyer Network®.

8. Recruitment time

Recruitment time measures how quickly a company fills open positions. It’s a fairly simple metric from the outside, but it can be key when you use it in conjunction with other data points like compensation, turnover and cost-per-hire. “A lengthy recruitment process can lead to delays in onboarding and have a negative effect on the organization,” Shaffer says.

That said, recruitment metrics need constant tweaking, according to Borg. You’ll need to adjust for the current socioeconomic situation at each given time to get an accurate picture of where your process stands compared to other organizations.

9. Overtime expense

This one might seem trivial, but Couch keeps a close eye on overtime because it has a direct correlation to absenteeism and turnover. “Most employees do not mind working overtime; it means more pay,” Couch says. But when overtime hours start getting excessive, negative impacts follow closely behind.

“This metric also lets me know when it is time to advise the manager to consider hiring additional employees, even if they are temporary, to fill the current gap,” Couch says.

10. Absenteeism

“For those outside HR, it may not feel like a key metric, but to a seasoned pro, it’s key to workforce planning,” Brockman says. “A high level of absenteeism can be a red flag to larger issues—especially where it's linked to one department or manager.”

Shaffer adds that it’s important not to rely on the absenteeism metric as a picture of overall employee performance. “It's important to measure more than just the number of hours worked in order to accurately assess employee engagement and commitment.”

What would you like to track?

HR metrics are fascinating, and when it comes to creative ways to keep a pulse on how the company is doing, the sky’s the limit! HR pros can come up with all kinds of different things to keep an eye on and try to adjust the data collection as needed.

At the moment, Brockman points out that many HR metrics emphasize traditional skills and ignore soft skills because they are harder to track in a quantifiable way. “This can be unfair for employees who really shine but are at the lower end of the scale when it comes to traditional skills.”

“I wish more people understood that metrics in HR should not be used in isolation, but rather as part of a broader, holistic approach to managing the workforce,” Garcia says. She explains that understanding the context for data collection and potential for errors or bias in the data is key if you want to work toward larger goals using HR metrics.

“HR metrics make work easier,” Couch says. “Most people consider data and technology a lot of work, scary or too much, especially in the HR field.” Couch adds that the increase in understanding and efficiency that data can provide really makes your job easier. If you find the topic of HR metrics interesting, there’s so much room in the industry for you to explore and expand those horizons.

If you’d like to look into a program that can help you develop your competencies as an HR professional, Rasmussen University can help. Our Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and Organizational Leadership can provide an excellent foundation for starting an HR career, and our Master of Human Resources Management program can help you continue to develop those leadership-level HR skills.


Checkr is a registered trademark of Checkr, Inc.
House Buyer Network is a registered trademark of House Buyer Network, Inc.

About the author

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a senior content manager who writes student-focused articles for Rasmussen University. She holds an MFA in poetry and worked as an English Professor before diving into the world of online content. 

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