If you want industry-specific benchmarks for your employee survey, you probably already understand that benchmark data are important, but you may not fully appreciate why and how benchmarks are critical.
Believe it or not, the primary purpose of benchmark data is NOT to compare your organization to other organizations. For the most part, benchmarking on an employee engagement survey has relatively little to do with the types of companies that the benchmarks are based on.
Benchmarking works a lot like a handicap in golf. Amateur golfers with different skill levels have different handicaps. When golfers play against one another, each person's final score is adjusted by his or her handicap. This allows players with different skill levels to play against each other on equal terms, and to determine winners and losers not on an absolute basis, but rather, on an adjusted basis that accounts for each person's skill level.
Every item in an employee survey has its own natural "behavior" or "handicap". Some items tend to get higher scores and some items tend to get lower scores. This can be due to the way an item is worded or it can have to do with the topic that the item addresses - or both. Benchmarking eliminates these natural differences between items, which allows you to compare scores across items. Benchmarking also tells you whether those scores are high or low.
From a high-level perspective, the differences in benchmark data across industries are generally quite small compared to the differences between different companies, as illustrated in the two charts to the right.|
The first chart shows how different industries score on the two primary factors of engagement - Engagement with the Organization and Engagement with "My Manager". The blue circle is the average of all companies.
What is notable about this chart is how unremarkable most of the industry differences are. The obvious exception is Manufacturing (more on that below).
The second chart shows how individual companies within a single industry compare to one another. Each number on this chart is a different high-tech company.
Now those slight differences between industries (first chart above) start to look pretty insignificant. Even manufacturing, which stands out in the first chart, would get lumped in somewhere close to the middle if we placed it on the second chart.
In other words, when we look at the big picture, industry differences just don't matter very much. If engagement in an organization is high, low, or somewhere in between, it will show up that way regardless of whether we use global benchmarks or industry-specific benchmarks. Sure, there might be a few borderline cases near the center that will tip slightly above or below average based on which benchmarks are used, but the primary takeaway in either case will still be, "about average".