financial chartIn its annual HR survey, Bloomberg BNA reported that human resources departments showed positive signs of recovery in 2012, though these gains are not expected to overcome the cuts undergone during and after the recession. For two consecutive years, beginning in 2010, HR departments were more likely to cut staff than increase them, but 2012 saw staffing gains outpace reductions by 10 percent. HR budgets also experienced some improvement though not nearly enough to compensate for recessional cuts.

More than 20 percent of survey participants said that their HR offices gained staff between 2011 and 2012 while 11 percent reported staffing cuts. Staff ratios appear to have stabilized at a range between 1.0 and 1.1 HR employees for every 100 workers served. HR funding cuts for 2012 were reported by 22 percent of survey respondents, down 15 percent from 2011. Only 11 percent reported cuts of more than five percent, down from 24 percent in 2011.

In 2012, HR departments continued the long-running trend of taking on new functions rather than giving them up with 40 percent of participants reporting some change in their responsibilities over the past year. Just 6 percent reported losing any activities while 34 percent said that they had taken on at least one new initiative or program. Almost all (99 percent) of HR departments now conduct a quantitative evaluation of their compensation and benefits program and 71 percent regularly perform such evaluations for their wage, salary, and benefit structures.

Health care costs sit at the top of the list of most HR department agendas with 42 percent of respondents reporting the rising costs of health benefits to be “extremely important,” and 39 percent ranking it “very important” in budgetary considerations. Nearly 70 percent of HR offices outsourced at least one program or activity this year, remaining mostly unchanged for several years. The most popular targets for outsourcing include employee assistant and retirement planning programs.

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