It can pay to have some data at your fingertips

Chief among these is your establishment, writes our columnist: who you employ, their contracts, start and leaving dates and so on

Gill Taylor
Gill Taylor

The end of the year can be a period of relative calm for those responsible for HR - a time to turn your thoughts to HR benchmarking and reporting. It is good practice in HR to have some facts and figures at your fingertips. They should be reported to the chief executive and the board to show that your figures are in the national benchmark range. If they are lower, so much the better - if they are higher, you should work out why and act.

The first bit of information you should have and keep up to date is on the establishment: who you employ, the types of contract they are on, their job titles, salaries, start dates (and end dates if on fixed-term contracts) and hours worked. You should know the number of starters and leavers in any quarter, and your staff turnover figure for the year. Turnover in our sector runs at between 16 and 17 per cent - a bit lower for management posts. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 6 per cent of the whole UK workforce is employed on temporary contracts.

The most commonly collected HR benchmarks are: absence management; discipline and grievances; staff turnover; exit interviews; and appraisal results. Data on staff absence is the most-collected, so you need a mechanism for collecting self-certification forms, then recording and monitoring the figures - and remember that you can't exclude long-term sickness.

Statistics for the sector from the CIPD show there are higher levels of absence in larger organisations. The most common causes of short-term absence are: minor illnesses, 91 per cent; musculoskeletal (not back pain), 47 per cent; back pain, 43 per cent; and stress, 47 per cent. (People often give more than one reason.) For managers, stress is the second most likely cause, at 53 per cent, after minor illnesses. For long-term absence the most common reasons given are: stress, 60 per cent; mental ill health, 52 per cent; and acute medical conditions, 49 per cent. These figures are pretty shocking but not surprising, given the pressures on the sector and the continuing austerity agenda.

For context, note that all UK employees have an average absence of 6.9 days, or 3 per cent of their working time. For the third sector, the equivalent figures are 7.7 days, or 3.4 per cent of working time. And in care services, the figures are 12.5 days, or 5.5 per cent of working time.

The final interesting statistic for the third sector is how much staffing input you need on HR for each individual staff member across all sectors - that is, trained HR staff people per headcount staff (not full-time equivalents). The ratio of HR staff (including those in training and recruitment, but not in payroll or pensions) to staff is 1:46 at the lower quartile and 1:111 at the upper; with a median of 1:74 and a mean of 1:91.

Gill Taylor is a sector HR consultant

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