The purpose of the Benchmarking Toolbox is to provide the University of Iowa HR community an overview of benchmarking best practices to help enhance HR strategy and initiatives.
The term benchmarking as it relates to human resources refers to the need to compare standards set by a department, unit, division, or college with those of comparable institutions or stakeholders. Benchmarking can be done through survey, phone calls, email, purchasing information, or using internal data available.
Benchmarking is a mechanism for measuring processes, practices and results against the competition to improve performance.
Benchmarking is a way of comparing performance measures of two or more organizations/teams. It can be applied to any metric or function in a unit, department, or college. The intent is to compare your processes and approaches to other like organizations. Benchmarking can be internal, using other areas within your organization, or external, looking at organizations/teams outside your organization.
Benchmarking is the process to identify those teams, departments, divisions of an organization, or comparable organization which are doing well (i.e. efficient and/or effective), and study their practices. Through analysis it is then determined which practice or procedure produces the best results. A plan of action is set to determine where improvements can be made so that the practice or procedure is then adapted/adopted by your teams/departments/divisions with a view for improvement. For benchmarking to be most effective, it requires a regular and continuous review to ensure organizations are achieving the best results.
Benchmarking should be implemented as a structured, systematic process. In most cases benchmarking is best-practice-oriented and is part of a continuous improvement program that incorporates a feedback process. Benchmarking requires an understanding of what is important to the organization and then measuring performance for these factors.
Additional information about benchmarking and how to conduct benchmarking systematically can be found on the iSixSigma website.
Common Reasons to Benchmark
There are many reasons that HR professionals benchmark. For example, benchmarking can be used to compare staffing levels of a unit or college to that of others in the university or with outside competitor colleges. This allows the leadership team of the organization to determine they are in line with their peers in terms of direction and strategy. Benchmarking may create a case for change in the organization. For example, benchmarking staffing levels and positions with competitor colleges, you might identify that other colleges are hiring more social media specialists to help improve their online presence for students. This could create a case for change to develop a new social media position, provide in-house training for current social media staff, reorganize technology unit to better align functions, etc., in order to improve online presence and increase student enrollment.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), HR professionals generally benchmark to:
- Improve internal performance
- Defend current performance
- Defend and improve performance
Topics to benchmark both internally and externally at the University of Iowa could include:
- Organizational structure
- Staffing levels
- Career development throughout the faculty/staff life cycle
- Work Schedule
- Work Environment
- Flex schedule trends
- Engagement and retention
- Best practices for policies, procedures and programs
- Health and productivity
Resources Available for Benchmarking at UI
Below are a few of the many resources available to the UI Human Resources community for benchmarking:
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
- American Association of Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE) – contact the Provost office for more information
- US News & World Report Academic Insights
- Web Caspar (National Science Foundation)
- Data Digest (comprehensive information about various aspects of the University of Iowa)
- Big Ten
- Official UI peer group
- Regents comparison group
- Ad hoc data may be requested through the Office of the Provost Information and Resource Management office, which collects, analyzes, and reports on a wide range of institutional data. Their office can also gather external information using their data alliance with other institutions. The UHR Compensation and Classification unit regularly benchmarks university salaries and classifications in support of recommendations for Professional & Scientific salary adjustments as well as for individual adjustments in pay level. You can contact the Compensation and Classification office at email@example.com.
- UI HR professionals have access to employee data which may be useful in internal benchmarking through UI Employee Self Service using HR Queries. Note, the level of access assigned to the HR professional will determine the scope of the data sets available for query.
Where to Start
There are many different ways to benchmark. SHRM has a great article that demonstrates how to align your benchmarking efforts to the strategic vision of the organization. You must be a member of SHRM to access this article.
Links to Benchmarking Sites Used by the HR Community
Benchmarking can be done with other colleges/divisions on campus and private industries. Additional benchmarking resources include:
- UI Provost Comparison Group
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)
- American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
- HR Leaders on Campus (including UI Compensation and Classification)
- The 100 members of the Vizient University Health Consortium
- Action OI
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- LEAD1 survey
Contact your Senior HR Leader for guidance in accessing information on the sites listed above. Please contact Organizational Effectiveness at 319-335-2687 with questions or suggestions about the benchmarking toolbox.