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The Official Baldrige Blog

What's Up with Patriotic Volunteers and Satisfied Employees?

A table showing the 2016 ASQ Survey Data described in the blog.
Credit: ASQ

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 Progressshowed both higher satisfaction with salary and lower dissatisfaction with salary among employees of organizations that use the Baldrige Criteria. (In the excerpted table featured in this blog, 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[2]), “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.

And the beneficial impact of the framework on employees can 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. Perhaps the satisfaction revealed in the ASQ survey data has 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.           

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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Christine, What a beautiful and thoughtful message. Happy 4th of July to you, your family, my Baldrige staff colleagues, and our extended family of dedicated volunteers. You are all wonderful and forever in my heart! Harry
Thanks a lot, Harry--best wishes to you and your family, too. And I also wish a happy holiday to the Baldrige Program's amazing volunteers!
The volunteer time that examiners devote to excellence award programs is indeed admirable. It makes quite a statement, with respect to social responsibility, if one was to calculate the hours spent by professionals all over the world. That said, I suspect it is quite a well kept secret that deserves to be shared.

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