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The UHR Welcome Center is open 8:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

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.


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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

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 if 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

  • Organizational structure
  • Staffing levels
  • Salaries
  • 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
  • Turnover

Benchmarking Resources and Websites

Below are a few of the many resources available to the UI Human Resources community for benchmarking:

Benchmarking can be done with other colleges/divisions on campus and private industries. Additional benchmarking resources include:

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. Note: you must be a member of SHRM to access this article.

Contact your senior HR leader for guidance in accessing information on the sites listed above. Please contact Organizational Effectiveness at 319-335-2687 or with questions or suggestions about the benchmarking toolbox.