When organisations review their global workforce program, we are often asked questions such as 'what do others do in our industry?' 'What policy benchmarking data do you have?'. But, are these the right questions to ask? Should the onus be placed on following 'the norm' when workforce talent and business strategies of organisations can be so varied.
To answer, let's look at the good, the bad and the downright ugly of market benchmarking...
- Your organisation is sending someone abroad to work for the first time, and you don't know where to begin! Should you be uplifting salary or paying a COLA? In this situation, you just want to move people in the simplest and most effective way possible. Benchmarking can help you understand any unfamiliar mobility jargon and the global mobility landscape more generally.
- My word of warning here is to not assume that 'the norm' is necessarily right for your organisation. For instance, 28% of organisations measure assignment success for the employee using job performance ratings during the assignment1, but this may not fit with your employee wellbeing agenda, where additional more holistic measurements are required.
Benchmarking certainly has its place but it is important to be wary when applying it to your organisation or relying on it too heavily.
- Taking benchmarking at face value. For instance, on average a full time global mobility advisor manages 50 assignees2 but as there are so many variances within programmes and differing operational models, how can you usefully compare that average to your approach?
- Since the scope of the mobility operation can vary considerably across organisations from in-house management to a fully outsourced vendor model; more manual processes versus deployment of sophisticated technology; low-touch more automated approaches with little to no contact from the mobility team to a more high-touch, personalised model. Understanding where you sit within these ranges is an important consideration when looking at benchmarking averages.
I'd therefore urge caution when reviewing benchmarking data, and advise that you fully understand how your model and organisation culture compares to the organisational data provided, particularly if you are using it to develop amendments to your programme.
- As the name of this section implies, the picture here isn't always pretty. Imagine you've been deploying employees around the world for a number of years when you come across benchmarking data and perceive that you are not 'on par' with other organisations. Perhaps you have just one policy covering all moves, which is below the norm. What do you do? Do you create new policies to 'fit in'? This could be both costly and unnecessary.
- Simply following benchmarking data might mean you are trying to solve problems that you don't actually have. I would encourage you to first evaluate your program to better understand what works well and what needs improving, after all you've been sending employees abroad for years and thus have the knowledge to really investigate any programme challenges (good data analytics can help you with this!).
- Once any problems are identified and fully understood, and by that I mean thoroughly researched and deliberated, then look to see if any benchmarking may help your solution decision making. Taking the earlier example, you may find that adding additional policies isn't necessary at all and perhaps you just need to provide some additional communications for the policy you do have in place!
All in all, benchmarking does have its place but my word of advice is to remember that its role is not to provide you with a solution, but to simply give a useful perspective on how organisations approach global workforce management. It is imperative that before any changes to your global mobility programme are made that you understand the root cause of any problem and fully investigate whether the changes you implement do actually solve the central problem.
And you know, it's okay to be different and not follow the benchmarking norm when making programme changes. It is being different which sets you apart from your competitors and it's this difference which means your mobility programme is more likely to be closely aligned to your business and talent strategies.
I'd love to hear your experiences of using benchmarking data to help decision making. Was it good, bad or ugly?
1 AirInc 2016 Mobility Outlook Survey
2 AirInc 2017 Mobility Outlook Survey