The CBI has launched an HR benchmarking tool it will sell to British companies to help them catch up with the productivity levels of their French, German and American competitors.
The service, known as Headstart, measures HR practices known to have a direct link to productivity and enables companies to compare their performance with market leaders. It is also available to the public sector.
For £1,200 the CBI provides a facilitator who gathers a team of 12 from the organisation, ranging from the shop floor to the boardroom. They are asked 73 questions relating to leadership, employee development and involvement and job design and have to agree on a success rating between one and five.
The presence of staff prevents managers awarding higher marks than deserved. The answers are fed into a computer to show weaknesses and successes and how the company compares to others.
John Cridland, director of HR policy at the CBI, said Headstart differs from other benchmarking services because it measures qualitative results rather than quantitative ones such as absence and turnover rates.
"CBI members believe the best way to plug the productivity gap is to learn from market leaders. Benchmarking is the best way to do that but until now there has not been a specialist HR benchmarking tool of this kind. This fills that gap," he said.
Mike Nicholson, HR director of Naafi, which already uses a benchmarking service, said Headstart would be a useful addition as a qualitative tool.
"My only reservation is, if you are talking to just 12 people, how representative their views will be. We have 4,500 staff. Twelve is a very low proportion."
Tim Rothwell, best value adviser to local authority personnel group Socpo, said benchmarking HR is already well developed in local government because of preparation for Best Value.