Benchmarking for Team Success: How Keeping an Eye on Your Competitors Can Revitalize Your Organization
The traditional way of thinking held that successful businesses forge their own path, creating personnel management policies along the way, fine-tuning them as necessary and discarding those that don't work out. Today, however, hospitality industry experts say that this ad hoc approach is inefficient at best and, at worst, excessively reckless. Long-term business success is now defined by a more considered, deliberate, strategic approach to personnel management.
Of central importance in this newly-emerging paradigm is the practice of benchmarking. In essence, this process involves taking a careful look at how others in your industry are approaching certain practices and policies -- and then taking a long, hard look at how your organization measures up to current industry standards. After getting a feel for your organization's place in relation to competitors, you complete the benchmarking process by recommending adjustments to your practices and policies.
Why Bother with Benchmarking?
Today's business landscape is more aggressively competitive than ever -- and today's workforce has more labor market information at their fingertips than at any other time in history. If your organization's HR policies and practices are too complex and costly, you may be draining resources and momentum that could be better directed elsewhere. On the other hand, if your HR policies and practices are behind the curve, you could be fighting a losing battle when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented employees.
For most businesses, HR benchmarking is a great way to ensure that you can achieve and maintain a position of competitive advantage in your market. These basic guidelines will help you kick-start the benchmarking process.
Ask the Right Questions.
There are thousands of data points that you could conceivably compare in your benchmarking assessment, but in order to maximize the utility of the evaluation process, it's vitally important to focus in on the variables that matter most to your organization. Are there gaps or shortcomings you want to address? What are the areas you think need improvement? Common variables in HR benchmarking include benefits and compensation, leave and absenteeism policies, staff training and development practices, and recruitment and retention strategies.
Compare Apples to Apples.
Even the most carefully designed benchmarking assessment won't do much to improve your performance if you're not looking at organizations that are at least somewhat similar to your own. The best matches for benchmarking are competitors that are roughly comparable in location, market, and size. In some specific circumstances, "out of the box" assessments that look outside the industry for fresh ideas can be helpful, but for the most useful information, stick to analyzing the performance and practices of leaders in your own field.
Use Accurate, Detailed, Recent Data.
Google is great, but for a comprehensive benchmarking assessment, you're probably going to have to dig a bit deeper. Start with an Internet search and then fill in the blanks with information from academic and business libraries, government labor statistics, surveys, public filings, trade associations, professional publications, site visits, and vendor partners. The more recent and complete your data, the better your chances of improving your organization's performance with up-to-date insight on best practices in your industry.
Act on Your Findings.
Some companies complete the benchmarking process only to wind up unsure of what to do with the information they've obtained. After your analysis is complete, take a slow, measured approach to developing recommendations for new policies and practices. Consider carefully what will and won't work in your organization's circumstances, and don't forget to consider your unique organizational culture. Then -- and only then -- develop a plan for the gradual implementation of proposed changes. Schedule periodic re-evaluations every three to six months to track your progress and reprioritize your goals as necessary.
When used properly, benchmarking can be a great way to improve your team's performance and help your organization stay competitive. A carefully-designed assessment process is the key to getting the most out of your benchmarking effort.