Blog Articles

How to Plan Your Annual HR Department Budget [+Template]

Creating a realistic budget, from start to finish

Elle Mason

by Elle Mason - October 31st, 2022


HR professionals are always looking for ways to do more with less. After all, the HR department is responsible for many critical functions within a company, from recruiting and onboarding to benefits administration and payroll.

Download the Free HR Department Budget Template

As an HR professional, you know that managing your department's budget is one of the most critical aspects of your job. But what exactly is an HR department budget? How do you create one? And how do you make sure that you're staying within your budget? Read on to find out.

What Is an HR Department Budget?

An HR department budget is a document that outlines the expected costs of running the HR department for a given period, typically one year. The budget allocates funds to different areas of the HR department to ensure that the department has enough money to cover its operational costs and meet its goals.

At the core, every budget should cover two main types of expenses:

Fixed costs

Fixed costs remain constant regardless of how much the company produces or sells. For example, if your company leases office space for its HR department, that lease payment would be fixed. Similarly, businesses usually classify payroll and benefits as fixed costs because they don't fluctuate based on production levels.

One of the best ways to limit and reduce budgets is by finding low-budget alternatives that offer the same results minus the hefty price tag. This can be by using freelancers for seasonal jobs and projects instead of hiring a full-timer, working from a co-working space occasionally instead of having a fixed office space or finding an alternative tool or software that is free rather than paying a large budget on a tool that does the same exact thing.

Denise Hemke
Chief Product Officer at Checkr
Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer, Checkr

Variable costs

In contrast, variable costs are costs that vary directly to the company's production or sales levels. For instance, your HR department's office supply needs will scale as the team grows. Therefore, office supplies are considered a variable cost.

Why Do You Need an HR Budget?

An accurate HR department budget is critical to ensure the department has the resources to function effectively. Without a budget, it would be difficult to track and control spending, which could lead to overspending and potentially putting the entire department at risk. An HR department budget can help with long-term planning by providing a roadmap for future growth and expansion. It's one of the surest ways to avoid financial stress that negatively impacts everyone (especially employees). It can help HR teams:

  • Prevent understaffing of employees– which causes employee burnout.

  • Prevent over-hiring of employees – which leads to disengaged and underutilized talent.

  • Prevent or reduce turnover – which can rise when people can't rely on their employer's consistent pay.

  • Support employee attraction – by allowing teams to understand what they can offer upfront.

  • Support talent management – by allowing teams to understand what roles they'll be able to fill and how those roles can help meet the department's needs.

What Should You Include In an HR Budget?

HR team salaries and benefits

The HR team budgets for your company should include salaries and benefits such as overtime pay, medical insurance, life insurance coverage (including dental), and retirement contributions. These may be in addition to any other perks you offer, like free food or frequent leave.

Hiring and recruitment needs

Your department may spend money on advertising, job boards, relocation costs, or conducting background checks before interviewing prospective candidates - all of which have their role in keeping your hiring processes running smoothly.

Planning an HR budget can be less daunting once you know departmental needs and goals. The best thing to do is to meet with each team lead individually and discuss with them their plans for the year ahead. Include asking about wish list items - what would they desire if there was no budget, for instance. This will give you a clearer idea of wants. Ensure the basic needs of each department are met and then consider budgeting for special items.

Jarir Mallah
HR Specialist at Ling App
Jarir Mallah, HR Specialist, Ling App

Talent management, development, and training

The HR department manages, develops, and trains its employees. This can include turnover costs, travel expenses, workshops, courses, certifications, and ongoing employee education.

Employee experience and engagement

Some HR budgets include funds for initiatives, events, or programming designed to build culture, atmosphere, or employee recognition.

DEI initiatives

More and more businesses recognize diversity, equity, and inclusion as critical investments. HR teams can factor initiatives into their annual budgets, like staff training or improvements, to make the hiring process more inclusive.

Employee safety and wellness initiatives

Many HR budgets are expanding to include programs to ensure employees feel safe and healthy. These can range from providing healthy snacks in the office or reimbursing workers for exercising outside their work hours.

One of the best pieces of advice for managing an HR department budget is to make sure that you are always aware of what the current costs are for the department. This includes looking at things like salaries, benefits, and other overhead costs. Additionally, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the organization's goals and objectives are for the HR department. By aligning the department's budget with these goals, it will be easier to manage and stay within the allocated budget. Finally, it is also important to regularly review and adjust the budget as needed in order to ensure that it is still relevant and accurate.

Tzvi Heber
Founder, CEO & HR Head at Ascendant Detox
Tzvi Heber, Founder, CEO & HR Head, Ascendant Detox

HR software, tools, and technology

HR budgets should account for software and technology that make the department run efficiently. This includes expenses like laptops, automation software, cell phones, data storage, and more.

How to Create Your HR Budget

Define your goals for the upcoming year

Does your company have aggressive expansion goals that will require an increase in headcount? Of course, this should be factored into the budget – including how you'll manage onboarding, experience, and retention for the new employees. On the other hand, your company might not have people-related growth plans, so you'll only need to consider accounting for regular turnover. Gather data from the previous year

Analyze and forecast workforce growth

How many employees do you project you'll hire next year? What is your projected cost of benefits? What is your projected turnover rate? Using last year's data, create an updated budget or budget proposal that has factored in these questions. 

For example, suppose you have a lower projected turnover rate due to engagement and retention initiatives that were successful in the last two quarters. In that case, you'll have an easier time justifying increased investment in those areas. Calculate how much you'll need to budget for each goal

Allocate funds to specific HR needs

It would help if you thought about the future needs of your department when allocating your HR budget. What new initiatives will your department be undertaking in the coming year? What new technologies will you need to implement? What additional staff will you need to hire? Is your onboarding process as efficient as it could be? By considering future needs, you can ensure that your department has the resources it needs to succeed in the years to come.

Don't let your L&D initiatives stop at the department doors. While building development plans for other teams, it's critical to remember that your HR team should be afforded the same opportunities to rise. By developing talent from your team, you can fill more senior HR roles and save on recruitment costs. An HR employee that develops with you will have an intimate understanding of your company culture and help you save thousands on external recruitment.

Maximilian Wühr
CGO & Co-Founder at FINN
Maximilian Wühr, CGO & Co-Founder, FINN

Create different tiers of plans

Ideally, you should have a conservative plan, a safe plan, and an optimistic plan. Your conservative plan should be the essentials your department needs to function. Employee salaries, pay, standard benefits, etc., are key here. You can use this if the organization's financial outlook shifts negatively. 

The safe plan can be the standard plan: What do you need and what would you like to offer, assuming everything goes similarly to how it's gone in the past? And lastly, the optimistic plan: If the company does even better than the financial projections estimate, what would be your budget in an ideal scenario? Having all of these laid out in advance ensures you have a strategy and plan to manage it regardless of what occurs.

Present the plan to leadership and get approval

Once you've determined and finalized a budget, it's ideal to decide who within senior leadership can review and approve it. You can also make this person (or team) aware of your key 1-3 top goals to help ensure that the budget remains intact and that the funds flow as allocated in the plan. This can also ensure budget security in the event of future restrictions, as you'll have other advocates speaking on your department's behalf.

Revisit and adjust as needed throughout the year

You've probably put a lot of time and effort into creating your department's budget for the year. But what happens if things change? What if you get more employees than expected or have to deal with a string of unexpected resignations? Suddenly, that carefully crafted budget doesn't look so realistic anymore.

That's why it's essential to revisit and adjust your HR budget, at least quarterly, throughout the year. By doing so, you can ensure that your department has the resources it needs to be successful regardless of what unexpected changes come your way.

How HR Software Can Help You Manage and Automate Your Budget

Managing an annual HR budget can be daunting, but using the right tools can make it much more manageable. HR software can help you automate and track your budget and keep track of employee data and performance. 

If you're looking for a comprehensive solution to help you manage your entire HR department, we recommend taking a tour of GoCo. Our software makes life easier for busy HR professionals like you, so you can focus on what's important - ensuring you have happy, healthy, and productive employees!

Subscribe to Beyond The Desk to get insights, important dates, and a healthy dose of HR fun straight to your inbox.

Subscribe here

Fully automate manual HR tasks with GoCo.