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Talent Benchmarking - Just another fad?

Talent Benchmarking - Just another fad?

‘Big Data’, ‘Talent analytics’, ‘Benchmarking’, etc.; we seem to be continuously bombarded with these and similar buzz words nowadays, but what do they actually mean? And can these new practices be of any help to you and your organisation?
Smart organisations have long relied on benchmarking (i.e. comparing their business processes and performance metrics with industry bests or with best practices from other industries) to help make strategic business decisions. In the same way, the talent data gathered in selection processes and in assessment centres could enable organisations to make better, evidence-based workforce decisions as well.


In today’s New Normal economic climate, many organisations are facing the challenge of coping with a rapidly changing environment that requires stronger talent than ever before. Organisations are therefore now spending large portions of their budgets on their people, but how effective are these workforce investments? Analysing how your people perform in comparison with employees in other organisations or industries can provide critical insights: it might enable you not only to understand how high you should be setting the bar for your workforce, but also to highlight the areas where talent management processes need to be improved in order to gain a competitive advantage.


Depending on the specific needs of your organisation, talent benchmarking can provide valuable knowledge.

For example, at Hudson, we have noticed that many of our clients worry about the strength of their sales force, since these are the people that build trust with customers and ultimately generate revenue. Talent benchmarking can provide knowledge about the strength of a sales force above and beyond the data generated during individual development and assessment centres, by allowing clients to view the information in the context of external data points.
With our global Assessment database, we are able to uncover the specific competencies that are most often assessed for sales functions in particular markets. Moreover, it is possible to pit the mean competency scores for your sales force against the relevant benchmarks. Such comparisons can reveal the relative strengths and talent gaps of a sales force compared with the rest of the market. This will provide valuable information for optimising your recruitment & selection process for new sales people and/or the development of your current sales force.
Another major concern for most organisations in the current post-recession era is their leadership pipeline. The essential skills needed to be a competent leader today differ greatly from those required by the previous generation of leaders. Hudson recently carried out a study into what is required of emerging leaders in this changed landscape and was able to identify the key factors that emerging leaders must possess in order to be able to drive change. Talent benchmarking makes it possible for organisations to compare their leadership talent against the leadership benchmarks for these key factors, allowing them to assess whether their internal leadership potential is sufficiently strong or whether they will need to invest in development and/or external recruitment.


This all sounds promising, but some people may object to talent benchmarking on the grounds that the specific competencies that drive top performance in one organisation might not always be what is needed in another. Others may argue that if all players in a market modelled their competency frameworks on one another’s, none would be able to set themselves apart competitively.
Certainly, if not used wisely, benchmarking can be misleading and even counterproductive: the largest drawback lies in the fact that benchmarking often fails to recognise the unique strategic and operational contexts that greatly influence the results organisations can achieve with their talent management practices.
Therefore, organisations should not use benchmarking to compare themselves with model organisations without first critically evaluating whether this model is a relevant point of comparison. Organisations need to be clear about purpose of benchmarking before starting, and they must take the time to reflect on their particular challenges and strategic objectives: benchmarking can genuinely add value, but only when it is based on clearly defined criteria and a follow-up plan has been put in place.

Jeroen Bogaert, Director R&D 

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Hudson’s InTALENTgence blog is a qualitative source of HR-knowledge. Read and share interesting stories with insights on current HR issues and trends. Blog posts are written in Dutch, French or English.


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Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.


Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.