Benchmarking has long been touted as a valuable tool for businesses and I couldn’t agree more. Of course, a saw is a valuable tool as well, but you wouldn’t use it to perform surgery or slice a loaf of bread. My point is that tools are great, but only when they’re used in the way they were intended. This is where a lot of confusion and disconnect occurs when people look at benchmarking.
When it comes to benchmarking, I find many people think of surveys and benchmarking studies as synonymous, but that is not the case. Surveys gather information and, at best, spit out an aggregate, one-size-fits-all report of results. On the surface, it’s easy to see how many equate surveys and benchmarking studies since benchmarking also starts with gathering data. However, true benchmarking goes well beyond gathering the data and building reports and focuses on the business analysis and intelligence of the data to affect change and inform decisions. Once you can move users beyond the ‘survey mentality’ the differences become quite clear.
One of your member companies is considering moving from a straight time off program to a full PTO program, but has no idea if others are offering it, what the right number of days off should be and if the number of days should vary based on years of service.
You point them toward the Compensation and Benefits study your association recently completed. Using data from the study, they compare their current plan offerings to those offered by organizations of similar staff, size and demographics. The study provides the information on how similar organizations consider time off based on years of service and by position categories (e.g., exempt and nonexempt positions). By analyzing what their peers are doing, your member organizations can be confident that their new program is competitive in the industry, will be positively received by their staff and has been well thought out and documented. This is using data as a tool - this is benchmarking.
Moving members and customers from a survey mentality to a benchmarking mentality is the key to driving home benchmarking value. There must be an understanding that meaningful business solutions will not come from simply collecting and reporting data, no more than a house will be built just by owning a hammer. Benchmarking is a powerful business tool when it’s used as it was intended. It is up to you to educate and show your members and customers how that is done.