Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


The Official Baldrige Blog

Best Practices for Weathering “Staffing Storms” (Part II)

Group of co-workers standing together in conference room.
Credit: - Yuri A/Shutterstock

In the recent article “The Perfect Storm of Staffing Shortages” in the Winter 2022 edition of Arkansas Hospitals magazine, Kay Kendall discusses the “throes of a staffing storm” facing organizations today.

In terms of health care, she writes, “Data from several recently published studies suggest that the nursing shortage is projected to intensify in the next 18 months, with one-third of nurses planning to leave their jobs by the end of 2022. While pay and benefits are cited as two of the conditions leading to this exodus, the reasons nurses cite for leaving are burnout and continually working in extremely high-stress environments. Projections indicate these aggravations will only be exacerbated as shortages stress health care staff who choose to remain.”

She then asks readers about staffing plans for their own organizations: “What’s your plan? Do you know the specific underlying causes of your . . . staffing shortages?”

Reading this inspired me to go to the application summaries of recent Baldrige Award recipients. As Baldrige is all about benchmarking, what can be shared about best practices in staffing? Do role-model organizations know if their workforce members are engaged enough to stay? And if not, why not?

[Note: The examples below are from recent Baldrige Award recipients in education, nonprofit, and business. Part I of this blog covers health care recipients.]

The Charter School of San Diego

The Charter School of San Diego photo showing a male student graduating.
Credit: The Charter School of San Diego

Two-time Baldrige Award recipient (2015, 2021), The Charter School of San Diego (CSSD) uses an employee engagement survey to determine the key drivers of workforce satisfaction and engagement, which are also key inputs into its Strategic Planning Process. Of 15 drivers identified, workforce members rank these in order of preference. The top three are presented below, but the organization's results for all drivers outperform both the national norm, as well as other organizations who participate in the national survey. 

The top three drivers of engagement ranked by employees are

  • clear expectations
  • two-way communication
  • meaningful work assignments

What are some ways that the organization focuses on those drivers?

Charter School of San Diego graph from 2021 shows consistent high performance for clear expectations.
Figure 7.3-19 Beyond Feedback Engager: Clear Expectations from The Charter School of San Diego's 2021 Baldrige Award Application Summary.
Credit: The Charter School of San Diego

A senior leader communication plan includes more than 40 different ways that seniors leaders engage in two-way communication with workforce members. Focusing on clear expectations, each workforce member’s performance is set, communicated, and managed through an individualized scorecard tied to a strategic initiative. A Collaboration and Knowledge Management System and Organizational Performance Measure Review are used to ensure that those expectations are shared and met.

CSSD cross-trains 100% of its workforce members for multiple positions. It also integrates professional development through Altus University, its own professional development program. To support career progression, CSSD offers a Fellows program (modeled on the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program) to develop future leaders. Twenty-one out of the 23 staff members represented on its organizational chart progressed from instructional or support staff positions and have an average of almost 15 years of service.

CSSD supports its workforce with services, benefits, and policies that exceed those of its competitors. For example, its base compensation schedule is 5 percent above the San Diego Unified School District, its parent organization. CSSD’s benefits package—100% employer-paid for eligible employees and all eligible dependents—far exceeds those of industry standards.

Mid-America Transplant

Mid-America Transplant employees preparing to send out a donor organ.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

One of the core competencies of two-time Baldrige Award recipient (2015, 2021) Mid-America Transplant is relationship management excellence. Utilizing its Communication Process, the organization routinely promotes that every role in the organization contributes to the success of the mission.

Multiple workforce survey cycles have validated the highest-scoring survey attributes and key drivers that engage the workforce. With an understanding that high employee engagement can help save more lives, Mid-America Transplant identified four main areas as key drivers of employee engagement:

  • work-life balance
  • competitive salary
  • clear two-way communication
  • rewards and recognition

What are some ways that the organization focuses on those drivers?

Figure from 2021 Baldrige Award Application Summary of Mid-America Transplant showing workforce engagement by work system.
Figure 7.3-11A Workforce Engagement by Work System from Mid-America Transplant's 2021 Baldrige Award Application Summary.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Action plans have been developed for each driver. In addition, the organization performs an analysis of current and future workforce needs and reviews capability and capacity information, along with onboarding, stay, and exit interview data. Senior leaders also conduct Mindful Minutes, one-on-one conversations between staff members and their direct managers to ensure that the organization benefits from the knowledge assets of the workforce. These regularly scheduled Mindful Minutes have preset questions designed to elicit specific feedback regarding strengths and pain points within the work.

Mid-America Transplant has committed to market-based salaries and assesses its market positioning. Its compensation system establishes competitive salary ranges and merit-based pay to reward workforce members for achievement of organizational goals and demonstration of behavioral anchors. In addition, Mid-America Transplant tailors its workforce support to meet the diverse and changing needs of its employees; for example, a 3% Safe Harbor contribution was converted so that workforce members had the opportunity to choose between a pre-tax contribution into their 401k, a post-tax contribution into a program to pay off student loans, or a contribution into a 529 education savings plan. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Mid-America Transplant leadership created an emergency relief fund for staff members facing economic distress.

A Communication Process keeps employees apprised of not only internal operational and process changes, but also external policies initiated by public health officials. As part of this process, the organization routinely emphasizes that every role in the organization contributes to the success of the mission.

Various reward and recognition practices honor workforce members’ contributions to organizational goals. In addition, a Sharing Lifesaving Success incentive plan provides financial rewards for high performance and customer and business focus.


MidwayUSA employees assembling orders in boxes to ship to customers.
Credit: MidwayUSA

Three-time Baldrige Award recipient (2009, 2015, 2021) MidwayUSA determines its drivers of employee engagement during its annual and anonymous employee satisfaction and engagement survey, where employees identify their key requirements, prioritize and weigh the importance of each, and assess how the organization is doing at meeting those requirements.

The top three key drivers have been identified as

  • competitive salary for my position
  • appropriate amount of work and time away from work for my position
  • advancement opportunities and growth within my position

What are some ways that the organization focuses on those drivers?

MidwayUSA figure from its 2021 Baldrige Award application showing satisfaction with competitive salaries.
Figure 7.3-6 Competitive Salary for My Position (ES&ES) from MidwayUSA's 2021 Baldrige Award Application Summary.
Credit: MidwayUSA

MidwayUSA uses a Compensation and Benchmarking Review process to ensure that it pays competitive salaries by benchmarking the pay range of each position. It recently created a specific hourly compensation strategy, and a Profit Sharing Process incentivizes high performance, loyalty, and alignment with the values and culture, allowing the organization to share up to 5% of company earnings each year with employees. In addition, the Million Dollar Club allows the president and chief executive officer to recognize customer service and logistics employees, who receive certificates, Bullseye Bucks, plaques, and cakes. In 2020, senior leaders provided all salaried employees with three additional floating holidays to thank them for 11,000+ hours of time spent serving customers.

MidwayUSA’s Employee Value Proposition and human resources strategy is to “be a leader in the area of compensation and benefits; well above average.” Benefit offerings are tailored to individual employee needs.

MidwayUSA has a “promote from within” operational strategy, and a Leadership Development Candidate Process ensures the development of future leaders through mentoring. Employee development plans are incorporated in the Performance Review Process. Career path posters depict training requirements, skills, and competencies desired at each level, and they include “depth charts” that identify employees who are ready for additional responsibility.

2023-2024 Criteria Workforce Focus

Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence Overview. The performance system consists of the six categories in the center of the figure (Organizational Profile, Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Workforce, Operations, and Results).
Credit: Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2023. 2023–2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®: Proven Leadership and Management Practices for High Performance. Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the Criteria for Performance Excellence® of the recently published 2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®, the workforce category asks how your organization addresses workforce capability and capacity and provides a workplace climate to support high performance. The category also asks how your organization engages, manages, and develops your workforce to utilize its full potential in alignment with your organization’s overall business needs.

Specific items in this category ask

  1. How do you build an effective and supportive workforce environment? and
  2. How do you engage your workforce for retention and high performance?

So, what is your organization’s plan to weather “staffing storms”? Do you know the specific underlying causes of your staffing shortages and how to engage your workforce members?

Related Blog

Best Practices for Weathering “Staffing Storms” (Part I)

2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

2023–2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®

The Baldrige Excellence Framework® has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence®, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

Related posts


Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as long as they are appropriate for a public, family friendly website, are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, misleading or false information/accusations or promote specific commercial products, services or organizations. Comments that violate our comment policy or include links to non-government organizations/web pages will not be posted.