Benchmarking: What’s all that about?

Measuring your people is a great thing to do. But how do you know if you are doing well? Sure, you can track your recent months results and see if you are improving. Or even comparing to the previous year to take seasonal trends into account. But how do you really know if you are doing well or not?

Benchmarking allows you to compare your company to like companies, whether it is in industry, size or location. Where internal comparisons can show improvement, the benchmark can show whether improvement is necessary to keep in touch with your competitors.

Data will be gathered from the program participants with group results available once the numbers are crunched. The report will generally show program averages, and usually the median, quartiles and the range of submitted results. From there you will be able to see if you are the norm, or an extreme in the group.

So what do the results mean? The key to getting the most out of a benchmarking program is to understand your organisation and where you might differ from others. Maybe your location, or business model means that you have high turnover and being above the median is not a big deal. Perhaps you know that you can improve absence, so rather than using the median as your target, perhaps the first quartile is more appropriate. Understanding your organisation, your data and the metric definitions will ensure that you are in the best position to make full use of a benchmark program.

It is also important to consider what program you want to be part of. Cost, sample size, organisational relevance, any additional benefits are all considerations. There are programs run by various consultants, and there are formal sector programs. It might also be worth your while setting up an informal group with your local or sector networks. By setting up your own group, you can tailor the metrics, or add in other more relevant surveys (for example, what initiatives people are implementing, what the big issues are for similar organisations).

Which ever way you go, there is definitive value in knowing where you sit in your sector. The more you know, the better informed you are to make strategic decisions.


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