Which benchmark should we choose?

Considerations for Selecting a Benchmark

Benchmark comparisons are extremely valuable in providing some external perspective for an organization’s engagement survey results. This is particularly true for a first-time survey. Scores across the array of topics measured by a comprehensive employee engagement survey can vary widely. So, it is important to know what a “typical” score is for specific topics.

TalentMap maintains a wide variety of external benchmarks to provide clients with options to compare themselves against other organizations based on organization size (i.e., small, medium and large), sector (e.g., public, private, non-profit, etc.) and industry (e.g., financial services, healthcare, utilities, etc.). Selecting the most appropriate benchmark is very important but may not be as simple and straightforward as it might appear at first glance. Most organizations instinctually believe they should compare themselves against a benchmark of other organizations that are exactly like themselves. And there certainly are specific industries where that makes perfect sense because of the specialized nature and employee demographics of these organizations. A hospital, for example, is a highly unique environment that is populated largely by people with professional training and credentials specific to that industry – i.e., doctors and nurses. Comparing a hospital with a composite benchmark of other hospitals makes the most sense. Similarly, a financial services organization typically would choose to compare itself to others in the financial services sector, particularly given that these organizations are largely populated by white-collar employees.

But a precise same-industry benchmark comparison is not always the most appropriate choice. For example, an organization that has a highly specialized product or service offering but is comprised of job roles and people who could be recruited from or be lost to any number of other organizations or industries might select a more varied and robust benchmark comprised of similar-sized organizations across a wide variety of industries. As another example, some public sector organizations prefer to be compared to a broad benchmark that includes both public and private sector employees.

Regardless of the specific benchmark selection, it is important not to get overly obsessive about benchmarks. They simply provide a general reality check on what is a typical score for one issue versus another. The most valuable information a survey provides is how different parts of the organization compare with each other, how different subgroups of employees view the organization, whether the organization is making substantive progress over time and the identification of the most impactful issues on employee engagement using key driver analyses.

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