By Christine Schaefer
Did you know that a sense of patriotic duty has been shared by Baldrige examiners as a top reason they volunteer countless hours each summer to evaluate the performance of U.S. organizations applying for the Baldrige Award? What is it about the Baldrige Award process or the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence) that inspires such patriotic engagement?
With our nation’s Independence Day approaching, I have been thinking about this question. Recalling survey data that associates higher salary satisfaction with use of the Baldrige framework, I see a connection.
To review, late last year increased employee satisfaction with salary emerged as another likely benefit for organizations that use the Baldrige framework. The source: data from ASQ’s annual salary survey of its member organizations. Those results—published in the December 2016 issue of ASQ’s Quality Progress—showed both higher satisfaction with salary and lower dissatisfaction with salary among employees of organizations that use the Baldrige Criteria. (In the excerpted table below, see the fourth row from the bottom, in particular.)
Given these results, people not familiar with the Baldrige framework might assume it requires that organizations pay high salaries. But that is not the case: the Criteria are non-prescriptive by design. So how exactly does an organization’s use of the Baldrige framework evidently lead to such results?
First, within the workforce-focused section of the Criteria known as category 5, there are questions addressing employee benefits and policies—which, of course, encompass monetary compensation for most organizations (except where workers are all volunteers). Specifically, the Criteria ask organizations (at 5.1b), “How do you support your workforce via services, benefits, and policies?” In response to this question (which counts as an “overall requirement” in relation to scoring for a Baldrige assessment), organizations using the Criteria aim to have a systematic, well-deployed, integrated, and continuously improved process in place to address this area of performance.
But the beneficial impact of the framework on employees could be traced to more than a single or even a few Criteria questions. Other questions in the workforce-focused section of the Criteria ask organizations how they provide for employee performance management, learning and development, and career progression, all of which, if effectively addressed, would boost employee satisfaction.
What’s more, use of the Baldrige framework is an indicator of an organizational culture that fosters quality and excellence in all key areas. Baldrige Award recipients have credited the comprehensive framework with helping them create an organizational culture that cultivates high-performance work and an engaged workforce.
Speaking of organizational culture—rooted in mission, vision, and values—this is where I see the connection between the apparently high engagement of the Baldrige Program’s hard-working yet unpaid volunteers and the higher satisfaction with salary found among workers whose organizations use the Baldrige framework. I think that the satisfaction revealed in the ASQ survey data may have less to do with employees’ salary levels than with their commitment to their organizations’ aims and ideals. In a similar vein, the Baldrige Program has annually benefited from the free labor of hundreds of volunteer examiners at least in part because these unpaid workers believe they are fulfilling a patriotic duty in helping organizations in every sector of the U.S. economy improve their performance, ultimately strengthening the quality of life for millions of people.