Human Resource Accounting

Human Resource Accounting is the process of assigning, budgeting, and reporting the cost of human resources incurred in an organization, including wages and salaries and training expenses.

Human Resource Accounting is the activity of knowing the cost invested for employees towards their recruitment, training them, payment of salaries & other benefits paid and in return knowing their contribution to organisation towards it's profitability.

The American Accounting Association’s Committee (1973) has defined Human Resource Accounting as “the process of identifying and measuring data about human resources and communicating this information to interested parties”. HRA, thus, not only involves measurement of all the costs/ investments associated with the recruitment, placement, training and development of employees, but also the quantification of the economic value of the people in an organisation.

Flamholtz (1971) too has offered a similar definition for HRA. They define HRA as “the measurement and reporting of the cost and value of people in organizational resources”.


Human Resource Accounting (HRA) is a new branch of accounting. It is based on the traditional concept that all expenditure of human capital formation is treated as a charge against the revenue of the period as it does not create any physical asset. But now a day this concept has changed and the cost incurred on any asset (as human resources) should be capitalised as it yields benefits measurable in monetary terms.

Human Resource Accounting means accounting for people as the organisational resources. It is the measurement of the cost and value of people to organisations. It involves measuring costs incurred by private firms and public sectors to recruit, select, hire, train and develop employees and judge their economic value to the organisation.

According to Likert (1971), HRA serves the following purposes in an organisation: It furnishes cost/value information for making management decisions about acquiring, allocating, developing, and maintaining human resources in order to attain cost-effectiveness;

  • It allows management personnel to monitor effectively the use of human resources;

  • It provides a sound and effective basis of human asset control, that is, whether the asset is appreciated, depleted or conserved;

  • It helps in the development of management principles by classifying the financial consequences of various practices.

Meaning of Human Resource Accounting

Human resource accounting is an attempt to identify and report investments made in the human resources of an organisation that are not presently accounted for under conventional accounting practice. Basically, it is an information system that tells the management what changes overtime are occurring to the human resources of the business, and of the cost and value of the human factor to the organisation. The system may serve both the internal and external users, providing management (internal users) with relevant data on which to base recruiting, training and other development decisions and supplying investors, lenders and other external users of financial statement with information concerning the investment in and utilisation of human resources in the organisation.

Accounting is a man-made art and its principles and procedures have been evolved over a long period to aid business in reporting for the management and public. Of the four factors of production, viz., man, money, material and land, the last three of them are amenable to conventional accounting, but the first one, i.e., the human resource has not been subject to such accounting. Over the last two decades the idea of accounting for human resources is gaining active consideration.

Much of the work on accounting for human resources focused primarily on development or validation of HRA concepts. The traditional practice of treating all expenditure on human capital formation as an immediate charge against income is not consistent with the treatment accorded to comparable outlays in physical capital. The American Accounting Association strongly critised the practice of assigning a Zero value to an asset and stated that ‘Costs should be capitalised when they are incurred in order to yield future benefits and when such benefits can be measured.’

Management of any concern continuously strives hard for obtaining maximum efficiency. In order to measure the effectiveness of any firm the normal method is to examine financial statements. These statements include balance sheets in which physical assets such as cash accounts receivables, inventory and plant are recorded. These statements normally do not mention the productive capacity of the workers or goodwill of the company.

HRA is the art of valuing, recording and presenting systematically the work of human resources in the books of accounts of an organisation. Thus, it is primarily an information system, which informs the management about the changes that are taking place in the human resource of an organisation.

Human Resource Accounting definitions

“Human Resource Accounting is the process of identifying and measuring data about human resources and communicating this information to interested parties.” - American Accounting Society Committee on HRA

“Human Resource Accounting is an attempt to identify and report investments made in human resources of an organisation that are presently not accounted for in conventional accounting practice. Basically it is an information system that tells the management what changes over time are occurring to the human resource in the business.” - Woodruff

“A term used to describe a variety of proposals that seek to report and emphasize the importance of human resources – knowledgeable, trained and loyal employees in a company earning process and total assets.” - Davidson and Roman L Weel

“Human resource accounting is the measurement of the cost and value of the people for the organisation.” - Eric Flamholtz of university of California, Los Angeles

Objectives of HR Accounting

The objective of HRA is not merely the recognition of the value of all resources used by the organisation, but it also includes the management of human resource which will ultimately enhance the quantity and quality of goods and services. The main objectives of HR Accounting system are as follows:

    • To furnish cost value information for making proper and effective management decisions about acquiring, allocating, developing and maintaining human resources in order to achieve cost effective organisational objectives.

    • To monitor effectively the use of human resources by the management.

    • To have an analysis of the human assets i.e. whether such assets are conserved, depleted or appreciated.

    • To aid in the development of management principles. and proper decision making for the future by classifying financial consequences of various practices.

    • In all, it facilitates valuation of human resources recording the valuation in the books of account and disclosure of the information in the financial statement.

    • It helps the organisation in decision making in the following areas:

Direct Recruitment vs. promotion, transfer vs. retention, retrenchment vs. retention, impact on budgetary controls of human relations and organisational behaviour, decision on reallocation of plants closing down existing units and developing overseas subsidiaries etc.

Advantages of HR Accounting

Human Resource Planning anticipates not only the required kind and number of employees but also determines the action plan. The major benefits of HR accounting are:

    • It checks the corporate plan of the organisation. The corporate plan aiming for expansion, diversification, changes in technological growth etc. has to be worked out with the availability of human resources for such placements or key positions. If such manpower is not likely to be available, HR accounting suggests modification of the entire corporate plan.

    • It offsets uncertainty and change, as it enables the organisation to have the right person for the right job at the right time and place.

    • It provides scope for advancement and development of employees by effective training and development.

    • It helps individual employee to aspire for promotion and better benefits.

    • It aims to see that the human involvement in the organisation is not wasted and brings high returns to the organisation.

    • It helps to take steps to improve employee contribution in the form of increased productivity.

    • It provides different methods of testing to be used, interview techniques to be adopted in the selection process based on the level of skill, qualifications and experience of future human resources.

    • It can foresee the change in value, aptitude and attitude of human resources and accordingly change the techniques of interpersonal management.

INDIA - Organizations which furnish HR related information in their annual reports

As far as the statutory requirements go, the Companies Act, 1956 does not demand furnishing of HRA related information in the financial statements of the companies. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India too, has not been able to bring any definitive standard or measurement in the reporting of human resources costs. While qualitative pronouncements regarding the importance of Human Resources is often made by the chairmen, in the AGM, quantitative information about their contribution is rarely recorded or communicated.

There are a few organizations, however, that do recognize the value of their human resources, and furnish the related information in their annual reports. In India, some of these companies are : Infosys, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL); the Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), the Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation of India Ltd. (MMTC), the Southern Petrochemicals Industries Corporation of India (SPIC), the Associated Cement Companies Ltd, Madras Refineries Ltd. , the Hindustan Zinc Ltd. , Engineers India Ltd, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Oil India Ltd., the Cement Corporation of India Ltd. etc.