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Article | EX Insights

Survey best practice: Selecting the right external benchmarks

Employee Engagement |Talent

By Andromachie Lella | November 23, 2020

In this article, we've identified three main categories of Norms. Each Norm offers a different perspective, and with over 300 to choose from, you're better equipped to benchmark the responses of specialized groups of employees, such as management levels and corporate functions.

When survey scores are very high or very low, it is often a tell-tale sign that something is going well or terribly. But in most cases, favorable scores will hover around 60% to 80%, making it hard to prioritize. Each question has its own natural floor and ceiling, so simply focusing on the lowest scoring topics would not be a good idea. For example, questions on pay and recognition will always have a lower score compared to questions on collaboration. Viewing scores in context is where external benchmarks come in, also known as the Willis Towers Watson Norms.

Norms help you prioritize areas for action and are a big contributor to our Strengths and Opportunities algorithm. They also catch leaders' attention and support the listening program's credibility. Each Norm offers a different perspective, and with over 300 Norms to choose from, it can be hard to narrow it down to the most important ones.

Country norms provide a cultural lens

We know from our decades of research that employees in certain countries tend to score more favorably on employee surveys. For example, Engagement scores in Colombia and India have consistently been higher than in Japan and Luxembourg, while the U.S.A. and Singapore tend to hover somewhere in the middle. These differences may be due to cultural, economic or labor market factors, or perhaps a combination of all, among others. Regardless, any global or multi-national company that sees variation in scores should control for country differences. This can be done by comparing each country's score to the relevant country Norm.

Industry norms help you be competitive

Additionally, our research shows that different industries excel and struggle at different things. For instance, manufacturers tend to do better at organizing work efficiently, while financial services organizations are very good at collaboration and information sharing. Understanding how you compare against your direct competitors helps you attract and retain both customers and talent.

Get inspiration from the high performers

No one wants to be just "average", so our High Performance Norms were created to serve as a stretch benchmark. They contain data from companies that have consistently higher-than-average performance in both the employee experience and their financials. When you are surpassing the industry and country Norms, or when you're setting long-term goals, these elite Norms help you prioritize and focus your efforts on where there's the most opportunity to grow.

In addition to these three main categories of Norms, many others exist to help you benchmark the responses of specialized groups of employees, such as management levels and corporate functions. In fact, with so many Norms available it's easy to get carried away and provide multiple Norms to managers. But, that can be confusing and counter-productive. Our recommendation is to provide a maximum of two Norms to managers, alongside clear advice on how they should be used. However, for your high-level organization-wide analysis, it is helpful to use additional Norms to help you fully explore the employee experience and tell a complete story to senior leaders.

Log in to Employee Engagement Software today to view our list of Norms or contact us for a demo.


Product Consultant
Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software

Andromachie supports Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software users through training videos, online help topics and the design of new features. When she’s not working, Andromachie loves to cook, draw and listen to podcasts. Follow Andromachie on LinkedIn.

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