The Importance of Benchmarking – what does ‘good’ look like?

13 July 2022

Tags: Monitoring & Accountability

So you have built your data analytics system but how do you know if your organisation’s results are reassuring or a cause for concern? In this blog, Richard Hanson, Associate General Counsel - Ethics & Compliance of Smiths Group plc looks at ways to compare and make sense of your information.

Stimulate some discussion. Share the results with your stakeholders. What would they anticipate the numbers to look like? Are they impressed or disappointed by the real numbers? At Smiths, we ask employees whether they think ‘leadership clearly communicates the expectation that all Smiths business will be conducted ethically’. We decided that 60-70% agreement would be good since the question requires a lot of proactivity on the part of leadership. Instead, our numbers were tracking in the mid-90s%. We decided to focus our improvements on other areas.

Measure yourself against your peers. Benchmark yourself against comparable industry statistics. Internal stakeholders’ attention is often drawn to whatever the lowest score is, even if it is a good score. Reduce worries and the creation of low-value work by providing the results in context. Leverage your network and share data amongst your peers when industry benchmarks cannot be found. At Smiths, we plugged gaps in our benchmarking by asking IBE for their expert view or by making a composite benchmark across peers in the IBE Business Ethics Network.

Measure across time and areas of the business. Measure whether your scores are improving or getting worse. Spotting when awareness of our whistle-blowing line is waning, we can choose when to refresh our poster campaign and what messages should be conveyed. Compare whether the results are stronger or weaker in different areas of the business, i.e., divisions, regions, etc. Engage with the business, ask questions and spread best practice when spotting outliers, e.g., what is going on in Country A that our leadership in Country B could be replicating?

Do what is meaningful, don’t just follow the crowd. It is tempting to replicate the measures of others. You will always know where you stand in the pack. But are you asking the questions and gaining the knowledge that is relevant to you? Many industry surveys ask about whistle-blower line awareness. At Smiths, we ask whether people know how to use the whistle-blower line. This is a more challenging question but it shows how effective our message is. We find that fear of speaking up falls when people understand more about how the system operates.

Put your data into context by creating benchmarks. If they do not exist, create them with your stakeholders. Defend ‘low’ scores and identify outliers for attention and learning opportunities. Measure what is meaningful and will improve the business. Know where to apply future focus, resources and business discussions. 


Richard Hanson
Richard Hanson

Associate General Counsel - Ethics & Compliance, Smiths Group plc

Richard Hanson is Ethics & Compliance Associate General Counsel for the engineering multinational Smiths Group plc. Following obtaining a Law & Politics degree, Richard joined the BAE Systems’ graduate management training programme before returning to the law and qualifying as a solicitor. He has experience working for FTSE 100 companies in commercial, legal and compliance roles across EMEA and APAC. He specialises in business ethics and investigations, third party risk and anti-corruption, data analytics and compliance systems design.