EASLEY — The decade of the 1980’s saw the beginning of a trend in American business, the loss of jobs to foreign nations, and the Baldridge Award was conceived to push management and owners to improve or be left behind.
The award is given annually to recognize performance excellence and was envisioned as a standard of excellence to help U.S. companies attain world-class quality. A lot of manhours and experience go into such a lofty goal, including Baptist Easley Hospital’s Chief of Staff, Betsy Beam.
Beam is a member of the Baldridge Program’s examiners, volunteering an average of 1,200 hours per year in an effort to assist businesses, government, and organizations improve their overall quality of products and/or services.
“The Baldridge program is about taking your organization, whether it be Baptist Easley or local council or government, to that next level,” Beam said. “The journey can run anywhere from two to 10 years and most won’t attain the Baldridge Award level, but it’s not about the awards, as prestigious as they are.”
Beam, as part of the Baldridge examiner team, visits organizations within the program and she and her teammates prepare an across the spectrum analysis.
“As an examiner I go in each year with a team and look at the company top to bottom, side to side, and at the end we give a feedback report, usually around 25 pages,” Beam said. “The report outlines what the organization’s strengths are and what we call opportunities instead of weaknesses. An area with room for improvement is an opportunity to get better.”
How seriously do these volunteer examiners take their role in the program?
“Ritz-Carlton has won the Baldridge Award twice, and this is a very big honor,” Beam said, stressing the difficulty of becoming a multiple winner. “Even in either of the years they won, there were 35 opportunities for improvement identified. This is a very difficult journey for any organization, but it’s well worth it as changes become obvious.”
Recognizing the implications of the Baldridge Program and its outreach efforts, Congress has increased its scope since its inception to include education, healthcare, and nonprofit sectors. Despite the nature of the program, any employer would have to think twice about having its Chief of Staff spend 1,200 hours on a volunteer basis with other businesses and organizations, but not for an organization which is experiencing the program first hand.
“Baptist Easley developed a Community Advisory Board as a result of the program, and still continues to use it even now,” Beam said. “We choose former patients, competitors’ patients, local business owners, and local government representatives and bring them together every other month to listen to what they say. What is it we do well and how can we improve?”
So why does Beam do it?
“I’m passionate about it, I enjoy making a difference and I feel like what we do does touch people’s lives, even people we never see,” Beam explained. “In a way, especially when it comes to the employer I’m lucky enough to have, who sees the value in what we do, I feel like I’m giving back to the community.”
On April 15 Beam was recognized for her work as an ambassador of the Baldridge Program and her dedication to her work as an examiner.