HR Practices Metrics

How to Measure

Measurement of HR changes is generally focused on an examination of actions being taking to address pain points and the resulting impact on the organization and its employees. Actions might include:

  • Conducting salary and equity assessments, with a focus on benchmarking salaries to the market based on job skills and competencies required (not just to other nonprofits).

  • Designing and implementing changes related to stable and flexible schedules, remote work options, 4x10s schedules, changes to paid leave, and other scheduling changes.

  • Establishing or increasing retirement match programs or a home buying incentive benefit.

  • Setting up internal tuition assistance, loan forgiveness, or other upskilling incentive programs for frontline staff.

  • Developing internal career progression that includes upward mobility opportunities for continuing in direct service and moving into management.

  • Developing and funding "shadow roles" for BIPOC staff where an individual is compensated as they learn about a role a level up.

Qualitative data, such as the number of individuals by role, promotion rates, cost of hiring, retention, and benefits information are usually tracked by the HR function and can be examined pre and post implementation actions such as the above. Information on training or productivity metrics may be maintained by a program office or a compliance function.

In addition to quantitative data available in HR systems or program office records, qualitative data may also be required to better understand the current state and the impact of any change. The collection of qualitative data can occur through a variety of methods, described in more detail below, and at different stages (e.g. pre implementation, while in progress, post-implementation)

Common Mechanisms for Collecting Qualitative Data from Employees

  • Focus groups: Small group conversations around a specific topic that are intended to create understanding, surface insights and foster connection. Generally focused on dialogue rather than specific data points.

  • Surveys: Common types include a) opinion and satisfaction surveys, which measure employee views, attitudes and perceptions of their organization (also known as "climate surveys") on a variety of topics; b) culture surveys, which assess how employee views, goals and priorities align with the organization or its departments; and c) engagement surveys, which measure employees' commitment, motivation, sense of purpose and passion for their work and organization.

  • Stay Interviews: Generally, a structured discussion that a leader conducts with an individual employee to learn specific actions the leader can take to strengthen the employee's engagement and retention with the organization. Usually focused on learning what motivates employees to stay engaged. Often highlights what is going right with the intent of further supporting or expanding what is working.

  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. Usually organized around a shared characteristic, such as gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle or interest. In a more formalized structure, ERGs might support a worker board or council that brings together particular sets of worker representatives (e.g., LGBTQIA+ representatives) and their employers in an official capacity to help set and enforce workplace standards. See more in the Empowerment Lever session.

  • Third-party tools: Insights available through sources such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or similar tools. Information from these tools is generally not attributable to a single individual and may include current or prior employees. Trends identified through these tools might directly inform communication campaigns, training and workshops to build job quality through direct worker engagement.

Qualitative data is particularly critical to understand and measure employee thoughts, perspectives and concerns about purpose, meaning, environment and culture. The engagement techniques above can be used to understand questions such as:

  • Do individuals feel that their skills are valued and applied? Is skill development encouraged and rewarded?

  • Do individuals feel they have autonomy over their work and how it is performed?

  • Does leadership foster an inclusive, collaborative culture?

  • What inequities are present, both current and over time (trends)?

  • Are the organization's/project’s purpose, goals and strategic plan clearly defined?

Sample Measures


• % of employees below living wage

• % of pay required to meet basic needs (based on local estimates for food, shelter, etc)

• Pay gaps between subpopulation groups, as compared to each other or to industry standards


• % of benefit cost covered by employer vs employee (premiums + deductible); cost ratio of cost to wage earned

• Benefit use, by level and demographics

• Average amount saved in retirement plan by specific milestones (e.g., 1 year with company, 5 years with company)

Learning and Development

• % of workers that advance from low wage to higher wage roles, by demographics

• Distribution of awards, by role and demographics over time

• % of management comprised of population subgroups (e.g., black women)

• Promotion rates, by demographics and level

• % of frontline managers promoted from within


• Turnover rates

• Productivity trends

• Retention rates

• Absenteeism

• Use of leave

Tips for Measuring

  • Get specific about your desired results, and use your logic model to connect the dots between your activities and your goals.

  • If existing activities do not directly support your goals, question whether they can be changed or replaced.

  • Create feedback channels to collect inflight insights both on how the process is working but also the initial results that the change is driving.

  • Involve the workers early and often in the design of new processes, procedures or benefits. This helps align new approaches with worker needs or interests.

  • Consider piloting new practices with one team or office before rolling it out across the organization. This provides time to consider the learnings, address unintended consequences and truly engage staff as part of the process.