Benchmarking: The way forward is asking questions

Unless we adopt a questioning approach to everyday work
there can be no improvement. Yet many developments in corporate life and in
human resources in particular, come not from a positive desire for improvement
but from events or influences that force change. Sudden resignations,
takeovers, downsizing and legislation all come into this category.

Seeing ahead

A late New Year’s resolution might be to regain control over
the future of HR in our business and decide the path which we will blaze rather
than follow others.

Nowhere is it more important to have a good understanding of
the present and some vision of the future than in HR-related activities. So
practitioners should take time out to achieve this understanding.  There are several levels on which to do
this. Look at:

How much it costs to deliver HR internally

What do the customers want and how can HR meet their

How does HR compare, at a headline level, against
industry and best practice standards

Does HR meet legislative and professional standards

Are the HR processes and systems as finely tuned as
they could be to meet the developing demands of the business?

Each provides a starting point and potential for a stake in
the ground from which benchmarking measurements can be achieved.

Real improvements

Many professionals are turned off the concept of
benchmarking because they think they will have to spend an inordinate length of
time examining processes and meeting others to discuss different and often
inappropriate systems. This need not be the case.  In fact, the only areas that need in-depth analysis and external
comparison should be very limited in number and be readily identified when the
brief high-level studies have been completed. 

A topical example of the in-depth benchmarking process can
be drawn from several police forces which have formed a network to pursue the
government-sponsored Best Value initiative. 
By definition, therefore, the study needed to have low cost input and
high value output.  They started by
undertaking a familiarisation benchmarking exercise and quickly agreed to
conduct a detailed study of the issues faced in recruiting staff.

The outcome will help clarify the focus of future
recruitment effort and expenditure, and should prove to be a big step towards
achieving Best Value.

The immediate outcome from process benchmarking is a clear
view of where activities differ in terms of direction and detail, inputs,
outputs costs and benefits. Then the fundamental question “Why do we do it this
way?” can be asked and the real improvement begins.

By Derek Burn, Partner, MCG Consulting Group

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