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HR Is One Pillar of the Baldrige Award

August 1, 1993
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was created in 1987 to recognize companies that excel in quality management and quality achievement. The eligibility criteria are so comprehensive—the judges scrutinize nearly every management system in a company for quality—that only 17 companies out of 399 applicants have received the award so far.

Of the seven examination categories (otherwise known as the seven pillars of Baldrige) Human Resources Development and Management ranks third-highest in point value, having a total of 150 out of 1,000 possible points. Human resources clearly has a role to play in all seven categories, however. Such activities as training and development, for example, can influence such categories as Leadership, Strategic Quality Planning, and Customer Focus and Satisfaction.

Christopher Hart, president of the TQM Group in Boston, says that he believes that the Baldrige award criteria are an appropriate starting point for any organization embarking on TQM. Why? "Because the Baldrige framework was designed specifically for flexibility," he explains, "so it could be used to assess the quality efforts and systems of any type or size firm."

When evaluating the HR function, Baldrige judges examine how companies enable the work force to develop to its full potential. In doing so, they ask companies to describe their approaches and provide proof of positive results in the following categories:

  1. HR Planning and Management.
    How are the firms' overall HR plans and practices integrated with their overall performance goals, and how does HR address the needs and development of the entire work force?
  2. Employee Involvement.
    What are the means available for workers to contribute effectively to meeting the companies' performance goals and plans?
  3. Employee Education and Training.
    How do organizations determine what kind of education and training employees need, and how does the training support organization plans and employee growth?
  4. Employee Performance and Recognition.
    How do the companies' employee-performance, recognition, promotion, compensation, reward and feedback approaches support the attainment of the companies' quality goals?
  5. Employee Well-being and Satisfaction.
    How do the companies maintain a work environment conducive to the well-being and growth of all workers?

In conducting an independent assessment of HR using the Baldrige criteria, Hart recommends that professionals adopt the perspective that HR is an independent contractor serving the organization. "This will help you come up with a more objective answer to the question, 'How well are we really doing in satisfying our customers?'" Hart explains.

The award's emphasis on HR activities not only clarifies the role of HR in quality efforts. According to Hart, it also can help professionals make the case for a better allocation of corporate resources to the HR function.

Personnel Journal, August 1993, Vol. 72, No.8, p. 48J.