Essential HR metrics for 2020

With data skills increasingly critical for success in the HR profession, new analysis from HR & Compliance Centre reveals three priority areas for HR metrics data activities in 2020.

"The future of the HR profession lies in analytics." This is according to Fermin Diez, Mark Bussin and Venessa Lee, authors of "Fundamentals of HR analytics", a book providing practical guidance on using data to inform and improve HR policies and practices.

In 2020 and beyond, all HR professionals will need to demonstrate both an understanding and practical experience of data-driven decision making, they argue.

HR professionals looking to make use of analytics should focus on metrics that can drive actions directly benefiting their organisation. "Solve for business problems, not HR symptoms," Diez, Bussin and Lee advise. "If HR wants to be heard, it needs to be able to put HR arguments in business language, meaning, using data that link HR decisions to business outcomes."

HR & Compliance Centre senior HR practice editor Noelle Murphy agrees. "The most powerful metrics are those that can demonstrate a return on costs and investment," she says, speaking in a recent HR & Compliance Centre podcast on essential HR metrics.

So where should HR professionals focus their data and analytics activities in 2020?

The box below reveals three key metrics that matter to HR, based on traffic data for HR & Compliance Centre's Benchmarking - HR Metrics tool over the past year reveals.

Looking ahead, HR & Compliance Centre analysis of trending HR metrics data topics highlights three areas set to place high on the HR agenda for 2020: resourcing; retention; and employee wellbeing.

HR metrics 2020: Three essential people data points

Labour turnover (voluntary resignation rate)

Absence rate

Number of employees per HR staff member


A strong labour market means that the competition for good job candidates is fierce. "We're in a very tight labour market so roles are more difficult to recruit for," Murphy says. This is driving up recruitment spend for many employers.

Cost per hire is on the rise for 40% of organisations taking part in HR & Compliance Centre's latest key recruitment metrics survey. A focus on employers looking to fill mid-level vacancies reveals that the median cost per hire for managers is £3,500 for 2019/2020, up from £3,000 a year earlier.


Another symptom of the buoyant labour market is that retention is a key data priority area for HR.

Labour turnover rates have shown a steady increase since 2012, in line with the gradual strengthening of the labour market.

The median voluntary resignation rate stands at 12.9% according to HR & Compliance Centre research conducted in 2019, up from 8.9% in 2012. One in three employers (34.6%) says labour turnover has increased at their organisation over the past 12 months.

Employee wellbeing

As employers look to boost retention among their existing workforce and improve their employer brand to entice new hires, employee wellbeing initiatives - including managing mental health in the workplace - will become an increasingly important part of HR's workload.

More than half of employers (54.4%) run informal employee wellbeing initiatives, while one in five (22%) has a formal programme in place, HR & Compliance Centre data shows.

One-third of employers (32.8%) allocate a specific budget for employee wellbeing activities. Among this group, the median annual spend per employee is £36.36.

Managing mental health in the workplace is likely to represent a particular area of focus for employee wellbeing initiatives. 88.1% of employers say that some of their employees took sickness absence due to mental health issues in the past 12 months. But only 21.1% have a mental health strategy or policy in place.

Data skills are essential for HR in 2020

For HR data and analytics initiatives to be effective, they must be grounded in a thorough understanding of the organisation's strategic objectives, and of how people data can be used to drive the achievement of these objectives. This means that the most valuable metrics for each HR department will vary according to their organisation's strategic priorities.

But for Diez, Bussin and Lee, there is little doubt that building and demonstrating data and analytics skills is essential for all HR professionals in 2020 and beyond. "For new HR professionals, analytics will become the price of entry into the profession," they say. "For existing HR professionals, analytics is the minimum expected to be able to have strategic conversations about the impact HR has in the implementation of the business' strategy."