How to Use Employee Benchmarks

Employee engagement surveys are a great way to gather employee feedback that can help improve culture at your organization. When using employee surveys, it’s important to have comparison data so you can track how you’re doing over time.

There are generally two ways to compare your data—to your own results year-over-year or to a benchmark. Year-over-year data shows you the impact of any actions you took as a result of a previous survey. Benchmark comparisons give you the added context of how your organization is doing relative to your peers.

With employee engagement survey questions that are benchmarkable, you can see how you compare at the specific question-level and in your overall engagement score. Depending on what employee feedback platform you use, you should be able to access employee benchmarks within the tool. But not all employee benchmarks are created equal. To find the best employee benchmark to use, look for one that can answer “yes” to the following questions:

1. Does the benchmark use real and current company data?

With current data in a benchmark, you know that you’re getting the most accurate picture for comparison. You likely wouldn’t want to compare how your employees in 2018 are feeling compared with how employees in the industry felt in 2012. The workplace is changing rapidly, and it’s important that you have a benchmark that can keep up. Also, ensure that the data in a benchmark is real customer data, not data purchased from a panel or collected by market research providers.

2. Does the benchmark include a diverse range of companies?

“It’s actually better to look at the diversity and range of companies in your benchmark rather than the absolute number of people,” says Jason McPherson, Chief Scientist at Culture Amp, which aggregates data to offer the leading benchmarks in the employee engagement industry. With a mix of people from different companies, you’ll get a better representative sample of the many kinds of organizational cultures that exist. Also, check to see if companies you admire are included in a certain benchmark, then you can see how you’re stacking up.

3. Are you competing for talent with companies in the benchmark?

Rather than looking solely at industry-specific benchmarks, expand your data to include industries with similar talent pools. As Jason says, “Many people only want to look at industry-specific benchmarks. This is problematic as it limits the pool of data that you can access and can compromise the robustness of the benchmark. It’s often better to look at where your people are coming from and going to and benchmarking against those industries instead.”

How to Best Use an Employee Benchmark

While it can be tempting to focus on getting your engagement score from 70% to match your benchmark’s 72%, hitting the benchmark shouldn’t be your ultimate goal.

Before making a benchmark score a priority for a certain question, you should dig deeper within your data to see if it matters most to your people. “If work-life balance is less important to your people than flexibility, then focusing on moving work-life balance from 62% to 65% will be a poor allocation of resources,” Jason shares.

Benchmarks, like these 2018 employee benchmarks, give you an idea of how you’re performing relative to peers in your industry or geography. Use them as a guide for comparison, but don’t get too caught up in the numbers game. Focus on taking action on your employee engagement surveys in the areas that will have the most impact at your organization.

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