Using Benchmarking Data Wisely

Most organizations utilize benchmarking data in some portion of their business. In college recruiting, whether you are starting a program, improving your program, or evaluating your program, looking at what other companies are doing in this competitive market can be very valuable. But many organizations find that when they apply benchmark concepts or “best practices” they don’t see the kind of return they were expecting. This is largely due to the fact that it is hard to know how to take what works someplace else and apply it in your own organization. Don’t Just Copy What You Hear Or See It is tempting to take what you find and plug it into your company. For example, one organization may have great success in their internship program. The benchmark information you have indicates that this company provides mentors for their interns. The temptation is to assign mentors to your interns. However, before you do that, you should take into account what other factors make such a program successful. None of the programs, features, or processes you hear or read about that make college recruiting (or any other process) successful exist in a vacuum. They are all a part of a larger effort within the context of an organization and designed to achieve specific goals. While your company may benefit from a similar program, take some factors into account before simply adding it to your existing efforts. Look At The Total Context No program exists in isolation. Let us look at the mentoring example above to illustrate this point. Perhaps the company has a mentorship program which encompasses all levels of the organization and they have extended that to include interns. Participating in mentoring might be a part of management training for that company. Without examining the context in which these programs exist, you may miss the facets which contribute to their success. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> When gathering your “best practices” data, ask about the contextual factors. You will want to ask some of the following questions:

  • What other programs support the efforts of the program you are researching?
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  • How is this program tied into training and compensation for employees who participate?
  • Is participating or success in this program a contributing factor to later promotions?
  • How does the culture of your organization contribute to the success of this program?
  • When you first implemented it, what changes did you make then or later to ensure the success of the program?

Don’t Forget About Linking Strategy To Process One of the most important questions to ask is: what goals are you trying to further when implementing this program? While you may find an organization has successfully implemented a new element of their college recruiting program which has increased their acceptance rate or decrease cost per hire, it may not be a good idea for you to implement that program. First, see how what you are planning matches with your college recruiting strategy and overall business strategy. Every element of your college recruiting program should be moving your towards an intermediate recruiting goals which moves you towards an overall business goal. For example if your overall business goal is to be the leader in a specific type of technology, you may have an intermediate recruiting goal to attract computer engineers from a list of top-tier schools. If the best practice you are benchmarking will not contribute to that goal, you should re-consider adding it to your program. Rather than just copying what you see, you should be evaluating the program or initiative’s potential to help you accomplish established goals. Remember The Culture Factor Nothing has greater impact on the success of implementing a best practice than company culture. A program which is wholeheartedly embraced in one organization may be merely grudgingly accepted or totally rejected in another. It may have nothing to do with the program other than the fact that it runs counter to the company’s culture. Assess whether your culture will support the program you are proposing or what steps need to be taken to make it successful. Benchmarking is an important part of researching, evaluating and improving your program. This discussion is not meant to discourage the practice. Rather it is intended to ensure that you are analyzing what you find through the lens of your own business. One of the reasons these programs are a source for competitive advantage is they are difficult to imitate. Take what you learn and adapt it for your needs and organization. This will make your program a source for competitive advantage for your company rather than make your wonder why it is not working as well as it has in other organizations.

Maggie Ruvoldt (mer@FutureCollegeGrads.com) runs FutureCollegeGrads.com, a website devoted to helping students and employers find each other and to maximizing the internship and entry-level job experience for both. Ms. Ruvoldt also consults for organizations developing college recruiting and internship programs. Ms. Ruvoldt is also working towards completing the Masters Program in Human Resource Management at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations. More information about her work, consulting services, and job listings can be found at FutureCollegeGrads.com.

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