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Rule 4 - Benchmarking your survey

February 28, 2011

So, now we are continuing with our Rules of Engagement – creeping to Rule 4 which is all about looking at benchmarking your survey data.

It is often the case that when looking at survey providers benchmarking is a consideration, which some believe is a ‘must have’. Many organisations want to know how they compare to their closest industry rivals and want to know that the survey provider holds data on industry specific groups.

I first want to refer back to my previous blogs on defining employee engagement where I stated that there is not one all encompassing definition of employee engagement that is used by all organisations. It may be that each organisation requires a slightly different twist on employee engagement definitions and so various items will be included, removed or rewritten as necessary from the employee engagement item database. At Employee Feedback we hold a substantial amount of benchmarking data which we can use to compare clients with a norm for each item – thus the underlying change in definition does not make such an impact due to core items remaining unchanged between organisations.

However, there is a troubling issue with employee trend data according to David Bowles, ex Vice-President at Hay Group. He suggests that many of the large survey giants holding data on employee engagement differ in terms of their overall reporting of trend data – some suggesting employees are more engaged now than before and others suggesting that there has been an overall decrease. What could be the possible reason for this, in some cases, quite large discrepancy? Well, Bowles suggests that a lack of definition along with varying response rates to surveys may be possible reasons for the overall discrepancy in employee engagement trend data.

So where does that leave us in terms of benchmarking then? Well, it seems that the general consensus of many of those working in the employee engagement survey field is that ‘we might not have the answer...we have one answer, our own’ . Therefore, the only trend seeming to be taking place is that clients are being encouraged to not rely on benchmarking data but develop their own internal benchmarking data where the focus is on the client’s results and how they compare internally across divisions, locations, departments etc.

At Employee Feedback, we would concur with this view. Whilst we are, of course, happy to provide comparison norms from our extensive benchmarking library, we would also suggest to clients that the real focus of the survey is on the results provided which outline where the differences and similarities lie, from where action plans can be drawn and internal benchmarks used to monitor progress over subsequent survey processes.

Bowles has found that by focusing on client scores ‘on an absolute basis... they all found that so valuable that they did not miss the one thing which some believe is a “must have” in this business…the external benchmark’.

So, for rule 4, it is important to think about your need for benchmarking and what it is that you hope to achieve from this information being provided. Drill down on what it is that you require – an overall competitor score, scores for particular items and then consider what you would do with this additional knowledge, assuming it is based on the same item wording or the same employee engagement definition. It may be that as a result of a considered process that internal benchmarking is a more important goal and that external benchmarking norms, if required, are merely for curiosity purposes or not required at all. The key to this rule is be clear about what you want to receive at the end of the survey process in terms of data and be clear on what you want to achieve from this.

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