Evaluating HR Function: A Methodical Approach

published on 25 January 2024

Assessing the effectiveness of HR functions can be a daunting task for many organizations.

This article provides a clear, step-by-step methodology to evaluate your HR capabilities against industry best practices.

You'll learn how to establish evaluation criteria, collect objective data, analyze performance gaps through benchmarking, and formulate data-driven recommendations for continuous improvement.

Introduction to Evaluating HR Function

Evaluating the effectiveness of the HR function is a critical exercise for organizations looking to optimize their human capital strategy. Assessing HR performance provides insight into how well the function is delivering on talent acquisition, development, retention and other priorities tied to business objectives.

This article will cover best practices for undertaking an HR function evaluation, including:

Importance of HR Function Assessment

Conducting periodic assessments of the HR function is important for several reasons:

  • Identifies strengths and weaknesses of current HR initiatives
  • Allows for correction of ineffective programs/policies
  • Ensures HR projects align to organizational goals
  • Demonstrates HR impact on business performance
  • Helps benchmark HR metrics over time

The main goal of evaluation is to determine what's working well and what needs improvement to enhance how HR supports wider organizational success.

Defining HR Effectiveness

When assessing the effectiveness of the HR function, there are a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure:

  • Talent acquisition: Metrics like cost per hire, time to fill open roles, offer acceptance rate and new hire retention rate.
  • Learning & development: Training program completion rates, employee satisfaction with development opportunities.
  • Retention: Employee turnover/stability rates, regrettable turnover metrics.
  • Engagement: Scores on engagement/satisfaction surveys, participation in HR initiatives.

Tracking these KPIs over time, paired with a review of HR processes and strategy, provides quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate an HR department's overall effectiveness.

How do you evaluate HR function?

Evaluating the effectiveness of the HR function is critical for organizations that want to optimize their human capital strategy. There are several key metrics HR leaders should track to measure performance:


This tracks the average number of days between posting a job and making an offer to a candidate. Lower times-to-hire indicate an efficient recruiting process. Best practice is to aim for 30 days or less.


This tracks the average cost of making one hire. This includes expenses like job board fees, recruiter salaries, etc. Lower costs-per-hire mean greater recruiting efficiency. Experts recommend staying under $4,000 per hire.

Employee Engagement Rate

This tracks the percentage of employees who report feeling actively engaged with their work. Higher engagement correlates with better retention and performance. Aim for an engagement rate above 70%.


This tracks total company revenue divided by the number of employees. Growth in revenue-per-employee over time reflects greater workforce productivity.

Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

This tracks employees' likelihood to recommend the company as a place to work. Higher eNPS indicates greater employee satisfaction and loyalty. Top employers score above 30.

Regrettable Turnover Rate

This tracks the percentage of high performers who voluntarily leave. Lower regrettable turnover means better retention of top talent. Experts recommend 10% or less.

Manager Effectiveness Score

This tracks employee satisfaction with their direct manager through surveys or reviews. Higher scores indicate managers who engage and develop team members effectively.

Employee Retention Rate

This tracks the percentage of employees who remain employed year-over-year. Higher rates reflect better talent retention. For skilled positions, aim for at least 80% retention.

Regularly monitoring these metrics provides data-backed insights into the health and performance of HR programs. This enables evidence-based decision making to continuously refine policies, processes, and strategies over time.

How do you evaluate HR capability?

Evaluating HR capability requires a methodical, step-by-step approach to assess current practices and identify opportunities for improvement. Here are the key steps:

Define your business strategy

The first step is to clearly articulate the organization's business strategy and goals. This provides crucial context for identifying the workforce capabilities needed to execute that strategy. Key activities include:

  • Reviewing the company's mission statement, vision, values
  • Understanding short and long-term business objectives
  • Identifying core competencies and competitive differentiators

Analyze your workforce profile

With the strategy defined, conduct an analysis of the current workforce profile. Gather data on demographics, skills capacities, engagement levels, and turnover rates. Look for alignment gaps between workforce capacity and strategic targets.

Identify your workforce needs

Compare the findings from the workforce analysis to the defined business strategy. Determine priority workforce needs such as:

  • Critical job roles to fill
  • Skills gaps requiring development programs
  • Diversity goals for improved inclusion

Evaluate your HR practices

Assess how existing HR programs and processes map to the identified workforce needs. Look for gaps where new or enhanced practices may be required. Key areas to evaluate include:

  • Recruiting and hiring effectiveness
  • Learning programs relevancy
  • Performance management rigor
  • Retention and engagement capabilities

Develop your HR plan

With all analyses complete, create a strategic HR plan that addresses short and long-term workforce needs. Define each program initiative, required resources and metrics for success. Focus on capabilities needing improvement.

Here's what else to consider

  • Compare findings to HR best practices
  • Set measurable targets and KPIs
  • Assign ownership across HR domains
  • Reassess periodically to meet changing needs

Following this methodology enables an accurate evaluation of HR capabilities against strategic business objectives. It provides data-backed guidance for strengthening the function over time.

How do you evaluate HR strategy?

Evaluating and updating your HR strategy periodically is critical to ensuring your workforce initiatives align with your organization's goals and direction. Here is a step-by-step methodology to assess and enhance your HR strategy:

Assess your current state

  • Conduct an HR audit evaluating policies, processes, systems, and metrics to identify what is working well and pain points
  • Survey employees on engagement, culture, leadership, development, etc.
  • Assess HR reports on turnover, time-to-hire, compensation equity, performance management, etc.
  • Interview stakeholders across the organization to gain perspectives

Define your desired state

  • Clarify business objectives and how HR strategy needs to support them
  • Research HR best practices and future trends
  • Define an aspirational vision for the employee experience

Identify the gaps and root causes

  • Compare current versus desired state to reveal gaps
  • Analyze data to identify root causes of problems
  • Prioritize gaps to address

Develop your action plan

  • Set specific, measurable goals
  • Define initiatives to close priority gaps
  • Create timeline of activities
  • Determine resource needs
  • Assign ownership

Implement your action plan

  • Communicate the plan across the organization
  • Provide resources and support for implementation
  • Track progress and make adjustments as needed

Evaluate your results and update your HR strategy

  • Collect data to measure success
  • Analyze what worked well and what needs improvement
  • Incorporate lessons learned into strategy
  • Review the updated strategy with stakeholders
  • Continually reassess and realign as the business evolves

This provides an overview of key steps in the ongoing process of evaluating and enhancing HR strategy. Additional considerations include benchmarking against peers, leveraging external partners where helpful, and customizing the approach based on organizational needs and maturity level. The goal is to take a data-driven approach to ensure HR initiatives deliver value and propel organizational success.

How do you evaluate an HR system?

Evaluating an HR system requires a methodical, step-by-step approach to ensure you select the right solution to meet your organization's needs. Here are some best practices to follow:

Analyze the Current System

Conduct an assessment of your existing HR system and processes. Identify what is working well and what pain points need to be addressed. Gather feedback from key stakeholders across the organization to understand user experiences and where there are gaps or opportunities for improvement. This will establish a baseline to measure potential new systems against.

Do a Strategy

Define the objectives and priorities you want the new system to achieve. Link these goals back to overall business strategy. Common targets include improving efficiency, enabling managers with self-service access to data, facilitating collaboration, standardizing processes, and leveraging analytics for data-driven decisions. Outline must-have functionality.

Gather the Right Resources

Assemble an evaluation team with representatives across the organization. Include stakeholders in HR, IT, Finance, Operations, and end-users of the system. Subject matter experts in areas like payroll and compliance are also beneficial. This cross-functional group will provide diverse perspectives.

Establish Evaluation Criteria

Develop a list of your most critical criteria and rank by level of importance. Common considerations include capabilities, ease of use, security, scalability, total cost of ownership, vendor viability, implementation timeline, and support availability. Align criteria back to goals, priorities, and needs analysis.

Request Demos

Use your criteria as the foundation to create a demo script. This structured approach allows you to see the same scenarios and compare solutions equally. Focus demos on your unique use cases and pain points. Ask each vendor the same questions and pay attention to responses and what is shown.

Perform Due Diligence

Conduct reference checks with organizations similar to yours using the system. Research vendors online. Validate promised functionality, support satisfaction, and vendor financial stability. Consider analyst reports like Gartner. Narrow down to leading choices.

Make an Informed Decision

Score solutions individually against each criterion. Compare composite scores to make data-driven decision aligned back to your goals and priorities for the HR system rather than relying on gut feelings. Select system that best fits your needs.


Pre-Evaluation Considerations

Evaluating the HR function requires careful planning and preparation to ensure the process is comprehensive, insightful, and actionable. Here are some key considerations before beginning the evaluation.

Establishing Evaluation Criteria

To effectively evaluate the HR function, it is critical to first establish clear criteria and benchmarks for success. Useful metrics to assess include:

  • Employee retention and turnover rates: Assessing trends over time indicates the health of the workforce and effectiveness of talent management programs. Best-in-class benchmarks provide comparison.

  • Time-to-hire and cost-per-hire: Evaluating recruiting efficiency and expenses per hire shows if HR processes are optimized. Industry averages serve as benchmarks.

  • Employee engagement and satisfaction scores: Regular pulse surveys assess job satisfaction, organizational culture perception, and engagement levels to identify areas needing improvement. Highly engaged workforces outperform peers.

  • Training program ROI: Calculating returns on HR's learning and development investments indicates their business impact and guides future priorities. Leading companies expect 200-300% returns.

  • Compensation equity: Auditing pay gaps related to gender, race, or tenure uncovers inequities to address. Many countries legally require pay audits.

Benchmarking against top competitors and high-performing organizations contextualizes assessment results.

Stakeholder Engagement

HR should collaborate with key stakeholders throughout the evaluation, including:

  • Executive leadership: Align on business objectives HR supports and how to demonstrate impact.

  • Managers: Gather insights into HR service quality, pain points, and enhancement ideas from those directly managing employees.

  • Employees: Understand first-hand experiences with HR services and culture perceptions via focus groups or surveys.

Involving stakeholders ensures evaluation insights reflect diverse needs and aligns HR priorities accordingly.

Resource Allocation for Evaluation

Adequately resourcing the evaluation initiative is vital for success. Key considerations include:

  • Budget: Funds to cover survey tools, analytics services, consultants, or other evaluation expenses.

  • Time investment: Schedule evaluations during less busy periods. Data collection and analysis is time-intensive.

  • Project team: Assign skilled HR analysts to lead the evaluation, analyzing data and presenting findings.

Proper planning and resourcing of the evaluation enables evidence-based insights to enhance HR function effectiveness.

Methodology for HR Function Evaluation

Outlining a clear, step-by-step methodology for evaluating the HR function is key to identifying areas for improvement and enhancement. This process should involve careful planning, comprehensive data collection and analysis, and an objective assessment framework.

Planning and Preparation

Prior to evaluation, key prerequisites include:

  • Defining goals and success metrics aligned to business objectives
  • Understanding current HR initiatives and pain points
  • Ensuring stakeholder buy-in and support
  • Assembling cross-functional evaluation team
  • Developing project plan and timeline

Taking the time to thoughtfully prepare will ensure an effective, insightful evaluation.

Data Collection Strategies

Robust data should be gathered across areas like:

  • Recruitment metrics
  • Employee retention and turnover
  • Training program ROI
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Manager feedback
  • Compensation benchmarking
  • Performance management

Both quantitative and qualitative data provides a holistic view. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and analyzing HRIS records allows for data triangulation.

Objective Assessment Techniques

With reliable data gathered, current performance can be compared to goals across metrics like:

  • Time-to-hire
  • Voluntary turnover rate
  • Internal fill rate
  • Training completion rates
  • Employee NPS scores
  • Manager satisfaction with HR support

Gaps can be identified between actual and target performance. Root causes should then be further analyzed through methods like process mapping workshops.

Following this methodology allows for an accurate, in-depth assessment of the HR function. It serves as the foundation for developing data-driven strategies for enhancement.

Analyzing HR Function Performance

Evaluating and enhancing the HR function requires a methodical, data-driven approach focused on identifying performance gaps and improvement opportunities against industry benchmarks.

Benchmarking and Gap Analysis

To accurately evaluate the HR function, key performance indicators (KPIs) should be tracked over time and benchmarked against top quartile standards. Useful KPIs include:

  • Employee retention rate
  • Time-to-hire
  • Employee engagement survey scores
  • Training program completion rates
  • Internal hire rate
  • Pay equity ratio

Comparing these KPIs against industry averages or high-performing companies in the same sector reveals performance gaps. A deeper analysis into the root causes of underperformance is then conducted through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and process evaluation.

This benchmarking and gap analysis illuminates the weakest points across talent acquisition, development, retention and provides the foundation for improvement initiatives.

Formulating Actionable Recommendations

With performance gaps identified, specific and measurable recommendations can be developed to close these gaps. Useful guidelines when formulating recommendations include:

  • Directly address the root cause of underperformance
  • Set quantitative targets based on benchmark standards
  • Prioritize solutions with the highest ROI
  • Balance short and long-term recommendations
  • Specify implementation plans and resource requirements

For example, if talent acquisition KPIs show an excessive time-to-hire, recommendations may include implementing AI screening to accelerate early recruitment stages or enhancing the candidate experience through recruitment marketing automation.

Effective Reporting Techniques

Findings and recommendations should be compiled into executive reports supported by data visualizations. Useful reporting best practices include:

  • Dashboard overview of KPIs and targets
  • Root cause analysis through process maps
  • Prioritized recommendations with expected impact
  • Risk analysis of maintaining status quo
  • Implementation roadmap and resource plan

Leveraging data visualizations ensures key insights are quickly digested while providing the depth to justify recommendations. This drives management alignment on the improvement strategy.

With a structured evaluation methodology, HR leaders can continually optimize their function, close performance gaps, and enhance their organization's human capital strategy.

Implementation and Improvement Cycle

Implementing recommendations and tracking ongoing progress is critical for realizing the full value of any HR evaluation. This requires strategic communication for change management, prioritizing and executing key initiatives, and monitoring performance through relevant KPIs.

Strategic Communication for Change Management

Effective change management ensures stakeholder alignment, adoption, and sustained transformation. Strategies include:

  • Clearly communicate the why behind initiatives, linking to organizational goals and desired culture
  • Highlight benefits for both the business and individual employees
  • Provide transparency into data, evaluation methodology, and implementation plans
  • Encourage two-way dialogue through town halls, focus groups, surveys
  • Consider change models like ADKAR to address awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement

Prioritizing and Executing Initiatives

With multiple recommendations, prioritization is key. Consider:

  • Impact: Initiatives with the greatest effect on strategic goals
  • Urgency: Pressing needs requiring immediate action
  • Interdependencies: Foundational projects enabling other efforts
  • Resources: Budget, staff, and tools needed for implementation

Develop detailed project plans outlining:

  • Goals, scope and metrics
  • Owners, team members and responsibilities
  • Timelines with milestones
  • Risk management
  • Communications plan

Continuous Improvement and KPI Tracking

Measure ongoing performance to ensure initiatives achieve desired ROI. Useful approaches include:

  • HR scorecards: Track progress through relevant metrics
  • Pulse surveys: Frequent feedback from employees
  • Process analysis: Identify enhancement opportunities
  • External benchmarks: Compare to industry standards over time

Continuously evaluating data, linking HR contributions to strategic goals, and course-correcting ensures lasting positive impact.

Case Studies and Real-World Examples

Success Stories in HR Function Transformation

The clothing retailer Zappos provides an excellent case study for successfully transforming the HR function through methodical evaluation. As the company grew rapidly, leadership recognized a need to scale and enhance their people operations. They conducted an extensive assessment, surveying employees to benchmark the current culture and identify gaps between actual and desired culture. This enabled them to pinpoint specific areas needing improvement.

Based on the evaluation findings, Zappos refocused their HR strategy on more clearly conveying company values to employees, building manager capabilities, and boosting employee engagement through enhanced internal communications. Over several years they methodically introduced new practices like manager training programs, a peer-to-peer social recognition platform, and company-wide meetings to reinforce cultural values. Surveys showed employee satisfaction with corporate culture rising from 81% to 86% over three years as a result.

Lessons Learned from HR Assessments

A common pitfall when evaluating HR functions is failing to connect findings to concrete actions. For example, one tech firm conducted an extensive evaluation showing concerns over unclear career progression. However, they never followed up by introducing mechanisms for managers to provide mentorship opportunities and skills training to help develop high-potential employees. This oversight led to decreased retention over the next few years.

Another lesson learned is the need to repeat assessments at regular intervals, rather than treating them as one-off initiatives. HR processes need continual optimization, so ongoing evaluations enable companies to gauge progress over time. For instance, repeating a cultural assessment every 2-3 years provides crucial insights on whether new HR programs are having the desired impact based on longitudinal employee survey data.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Regularly evaluating the HR function is critical for identifying areas for improvement, aligning with business goals, and driving organizational success. By following the step-by-step methodology outlined, HR professionals can thoroughly assess their current state, benchmark against industry standards, and implement changes to enhance their function.

Recap of HR Evaluation Benefits

Conducting periodic evaluations of the HR function provides many advantages, including:

  • Identifying gaps in current HR strategies and practices
  • Pinpointing specific areas in need of improvement
  • Ensuring HR objectives and initiatives align with overall business goals
  • Comparing HR metrics and performance against industry benchmarks
  • Highlighting strengths and successes to build upon
  • Informing data-driven decision making and priority setting
  • Driving meaningful progress and evolution of the HR function

Planning for Future HR Assessments

To ensure continuous improvement after an initial HR evaluation, it is important to plan for regular reassessments. Best practices include:

  • Scheduling follow-up evaluations every 6-12 months
  • Tracking progress on action items from previous assessments
  • Reviewing and updating measurement criteria as needed
  • Leveraging insights from ongoing metrics monitoring
  • Identifying new benchmark targets to strive toward
  • Engaging stakeholders in the evaluation and planning process

With a methodical approach and commitment to regular reevaluation, HR professionals can optimize their function to fully support business goals and workforce needs over time.

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