The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

, ,

Perspective and Benchmarking

systematicHR Avatar

In my eyes, there are three components of being from California. First, you must always be on a diet. Second, you must always bee too fat. Third, you must have a therapist (shrink for those of you in New York), who tells you that you have an eying disorder (if you are from Orange County, there is a fourth, you must have had plastic surgery). I, unhappily, qualify for all three of those conditions, and am therefore a perfect Californian. After all, it is the land of Hollywood where image is everything. So yes, i am on a diet. I have a food diary that I enter my food and calories into on a daily basis. Those of you who know me, know that I love to eat and some of you may even frequent my food blog. But nevertheless, I am always watching my weight and my caloric intake (I do weigh myself 4 times a day). I am also considerably overweight in California standards ht is. I’m sex feet tall, and at the writing of this post, I’m 157 lbs. Most people would consider me stick thin, and perhaps I’m a bit on the lean/lanky side for the general population. But in California, and especially since I’m a cyclist who needs to be light in order to go up any hills in my way, I really need to be 10 pounds lighter. My race weight in college was a scrawny 142. And back to that comment about weighing myself four times a day. You can see the point about the therapist.

While all of the above is unfortunately a true commentary about the mental state of “Dubs,” it goes right to my point about perspective. The truth of the matter is that as a once competitive cyclist (and I was pretty darn good in my prime), every pound actually counts. I don’t try to lose weight for the sake of losing weight, but to beat my local riding buddies up Mt. Tam on the weekends. Owning. Ridiculously nice bike, there isn’t much more i can pay to drop a pound or two there, so its up to me to be a tiny bit leaner. I could compare myself to the population at large and realize that I am borderline underweight, but indeed, i don’t care to compare myself to the general population. I care about what other competitive athletes look like, and when I look there, yep, I’m fat.

I often talk to clients who want me to help benchmark them against the market. I totally agree that it’s good to know where you stand, just like i know I’m borderline underweight against the general population. But when it comes down to it, that didn’t really tell them much. For example, if an agricultural or a manufacturing company ran at less than 50% of market for employee self service adoption, they might react negatively to it. But the truth would be hat they are probably expected to lag the market in adoption a bit. On the other hand, if you were a services firm or a large consultancy at only 75%, I might tell you that you are lagging, even though you outperform a large majority of organizations.

The truth is, that while its good to know, that is all it is. Good to know. You don’t really know where you stand unless you benchmark yourself against other organizations that matter to you. In some industries, this data is notoriously easy to get. There are existing surveys, or you can ask a consultancy to run a specialized survey for you, something i have done for clients many times. In other industries (hotels and hospitality for example) organizations are so secretive about their data that its all but impossible to get real data from competitors. The best you can do is hope to find a consultant at has worked with enough industry organizations to give you anecdotal data (beware of the consultant that might actually share data in a highly private and secretive industry – they will do the same for you data).

I get enough requests to benchmark to standard industry measures that i think it deserves saying that you need to be really careful when you use certain sources that will go unnamed. Just like its absurd for me to say that I’m fat unless you compare me abasing a very specific population, it’s also absurd for many organizations to look at themselves against every other organization in a survey rather than a smaller subset.

Tagged in :

systematicHR Avatar

4 responses to “Perspective and Benchmarking”

  1. systematicHR Avatar

    This is the perfect example of what happens when you create a post on the iPad and assume that the spell check is as good as Microsoft. Sorry Apple – one point for MS.

  2. Lexy Martin Avatar

    Hey Wes, I sure hope you are not referring to CedarCrestone as “certain sources.” We do deep benchmarking with very explicit benchmark groups chosen by our customers to yield a direct competitor list (although we do not identify who they are to keep anonymity), same size/industry/service delivery stance including vendors of choice, and a stretch benchmark category. It helps our customers make decisions on apps to deploy next; potential value in terms of headcount, reduced costs; and prospective changes to service delivery approaches. It also helps them if they find they are underspending to get increased budget. And Wes…you as fat cracks me up!!

  3. systematicHR Avatar

    Lexy – I was actually thinking of a couple of specific organizations, and CedarCrestone was absolutely not one of them.

    Now, that narrows the field to…..

    Oh – btw – I’m on a new diet – I was down to 152 in 4 days!!! 🙂

  4. […] HR APRIL 18, 2011 Perspective and Benchmarking often talk to clients who want me to help benchmark them against the market. You don’t […]