For Martin Mucci, there are a number of traditional ways to benchmark how successful Paychex Inc. is as a company—percentage of annual revenue growth, operating income growth, dividend ratios. Then there is the walking-around test.
The Paychex president and CEO said a good part of the company’s success can be seen in the hallways, watching how efficiently the business is performing and how well its culture is permeating through to its employees.
“You can really benchmark how things are going by just walking around,” Mucci said. “We meet with our new training classes here in town and get a sense of what they think of the company, what brought them to Paychex, and how they measured us against competitors or competing offers.”
Benchmarking success is an important function for organizations across the RBJ 75 list of the region’s top employers, from public and private companies to non-profit organizations and universities. There are many common means of measuring success—including customer satisfaction, efficiency and employee retention—that cut across businesses and sectors. But the range of different types of organizations on the RBJ 75 list also brings a host of different methods for benchmarking success.
Karen Zandi thinks of nesting dolls when she measures success at Mary Cariola Children’s Center. As president and CEO of the non-profit organization, which provides education and support services to children with developmental and intellectual disabilities, she said there are measurements both large and small.
“At the highest level, the biggest nesting dolls are the metrics like financial stability and the outcomes of quality that we measure through things like parent surveys,” Zandi said. “And as you get deeper there are more and more specific measures, right down to whether a child was able to stand independently or use a communication device.”
Both the large and small benchmarks are important for the organization to be successful, Zandi added, especially when it comes to the development of each student.
“We have very specific goals that are written individually for each student, and we look to reach all of those educational and personal outcome measures,” she said.
For Mucci, outcomes are measured from three sides: clients, employees, and owners, or shareholders. From an employee perspective, the company looks at things like engagement, using both large annual surveys and smaller spot or poll surveys to measure satisfaction.
Those measures have sometimes uncovered new or emerging employee desires that the company has been able to accommodate, Mucci said.
“A few years ago, we started hearing more employees who said that they loved the company but wanted to work from home more, and we didn’t really do that much,” he said. “That has expanded more, and now we offer many more opportunities to work from home. That was a direct result of that benchmarking.”
Paychex uses similar outreach to track satisfaction of both clients and shareholders, Mucci said.
“We go to annual investor conferences, meeting with investors to get a sense of why they really want to invest in Paychex and also maybe why they wouldn’t want to invest,” he said.
Mucci performs some of this benchmarking in real time, receiving a readout of the company’s mentions on Facebook and Twitter.
“That gives you a really good idea of what’s happening on a real-time basis from clients and what might be their problems or questions,” he said.
At ESL Federal Credit Union, success can be measured through a strategy map with four layers, said Faheem Masood, the credit union’s CEO. At the bottom are the company’s people, tools and culture, which he said is the foundation for other success.
“We have all kinds of measures related to our people, the tools we provide them to be successful and the culture we foster,” he said. “We look at things like how much promotion we’re doing internally, which is an indicator that we’re doing a good job developing our own employees, and also things like recognition of the work they’re doing.”
To help measure this, ESL uses both an internal survey and one through the Great Place to Work Institute, which includes a host of questions.
“How people feel about working here is so central to our delivery of our products, and that really feeds into the next levels of success as well,” he said.
Above the first layer are processes, which include the credit union’s major functions.
“Our work is designed to deliver outcomes, so a process like applying for a loan can actually be quite complex and touches a lot of hands, and we do have a lot of measures related to that,” he said. “It can be things like accuracy and cycle time. For a customer it might be important to receive an answer on a mortgage in 48 hours, and we need to see how we are meeting that.”
There are also measures of success for stakeholders, including how much of a client’s business the credit union is responsible for, and at the top of the map are financial measures. As Masood noted, the success of the entire organization feeds upward.
“At the end of the day, if we have the right people, tools and culture, the right processes, and deliver for customers, it will bring the financial success of things like return on equity and assets,” he noted.
In a way, measuring success at Mary Cariola Children’s Center or any other non-profit agency is not too different than at for-profit businesses, Zandi added. While private-sector companies have shareholders, her organization has donors, and both are looking for the same thing—results.
“In the non-profit world, our donors are really our investors and in a large way almost like shareholders,” she said. “They invest in the organization and get something different as an outcome than what shareholders get. They get to celebrate that they are part of these kids’ outcomes and part of the organization’s success and growth.”
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