Category Archives: FTE

Decreasing ROI on Human Capital

PwC Saratoga publishes an executive summary every year that picks out noteworthy new data from its US Human Capital Effectiveness Report.  The report covers more than 200 unique metrics related to the effective management of human capital from more than 300 organizations in 12 industry sectors.  The average organization in this year’s report has yearly revenue of $5.5 billion and 19,500 employees.  While PwC Saratoga gathers information globally, this report covers data from US operations only.

This executive summary is not a difficult read – it includes some case studies – and it contains some pretty sobering statistics.  For example:

The revenue per FTE (full-time equivalent) has been declining steadily since 2008 –  by 18% — and has only marginally improved over 2006 levels. During the same time period, labor cost per FTE has grown nearly 14%:

It doesn’t take an MBA to understand that when costs rise and revenue falls:  you have a big problem.  And when labor costs rise and productivity declines, HR has a big problem.

The continued growth in labor costs per employee could be surprising to some given the relatively flat increases that trended during the recession.  According to this survey data, however, even during the darkest days of the recent recession, compensation costs per FTE (without healthcare or other benefits) increased year over year.  Surprising no one, though, health care costs increased year over year with the exception of 2009-2010.

The bottom line is that while the all-in cost of labor is going up, the revenue produced by that labor is decreasing, thus the diminishing ROI of human capital in the U.S.

While this might look like bad news for HR – do they really understand the dynamics of business? – it actually creates the beginning of the business case for increased investment in workforce planning, productivity and engagement.

Turning these trends around will take clear-eyed assessments of the current state, deep knowledge of solutions and the ability to connect the dots between multiple organization and environmental dynamics, compelling fact-based business cases for new investment and the courage to take bold action.

Want to be a strategic business leader?  This may be your best opportunity yet!



Filed under Average Wage, Business Case, Business Success, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, FTE, Full Time Equivalent, HR Credibility, Human Capital ROI, PwC Saratoga

“Survey Says…”

I was talking to a friend in the research/analysis business the other day and she lamented that there didn’t seem to be a firm understanding of the definitions of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) or Head Count in the HR world. Specifically, she shared that when research firms like hers send out surveys to HR professionals there frequently are demographic questions that include asking how many FTEs are in the HR function in their organization.  My friend has been frustrated by the frequency of responses that show the confusion between the definitions of FTE and Head Count and how that impacts the ability make accurate conclusions from the rest of the survey responses.

Here’s the thing:  I know that HR professionals know the difference between FTE and Head Count. But somehow, when surveys need filling out, confusion reigns.

I’ve spoken to a number of HR folks over the last couple of weeks and asked what the head count in their HR department was. They quickly came up with a number and the answer usually started with “…around…”   Then I asked what their budgeted FTEs were.  Regardless of the size of the organization, the answer started with, “well, I’m not sure. I’d have to look that up.”

HR people know head count, that’s for sure – or can come pretty darned close.  But they first ask if you want them to include temps, interns and other “off the budget” people. They literally count heads. Which, of course, is correct. Thus the term, Head Count.

If you ask for FTEs, they are frequently not sure. FTE seems to require preciseness; head count, not so much.  Maybe it has to do with the budget.  Budget-related = official:  “I’ll look it up.”  Not budget-related = unofficial:  “I can get close.”

Here’s  how SHRM defines FTEFTE is an abbreviation for full-time equivalent, which represents the total labor hours invested. To convert part-time staff into FTEs, divide the total number of hours worked by part-time employees during the work year by the total number of hours in the work year (e.g., if the average work week is 37.5 hours, the total number of hours in a work year would be 37.5 hours per week x 52 weeks = 1,950 hours). Converting the number of employees to FTEs provides a more accurate understanding of the level of effort being applied in an organization. For example, if two employees are job sharing, they constitute one FTE.

So there is a difference; and sometimes it’s a big difference.

The next time you receive a survey from SHRM, a research organization, or your C-suite, and it asks for FTE information, don’t confuse Head Count for FTE – and go ahead and look it up!


Filed under C-suite, China Gorman, FTE, Full Time Equivalent, Head Count, HR, HR Data, SHRM, Survey