It’s clear that Six Sigma pays. This issue’s Benchmarking feature (iSixSigma Magazine, May/June 2005) presents a positive picture of the average annual salaries of Six Sigma professionals around the world. Black Belt and Master Black Belt salaries increased 5.4 and 5.3 percent respectively since last year – climbing to $74,000 and $98,000. In the United States, the averages are $98,000 and $108,000. What is more impressive is that the highest salaries for these positions are up to double the averages.

Numbers like those can, and do, encourage students, employees in other fields and those who already aspire to be quality professionals to give a Six Sigma career a closer look. This is good news not only for prospective employees, but perhaps surprisingly, for employers also.

Anyone who has been involved in the rollout of a Six Sigma deployment understands the importance of anticipating and addressing organizational resistance. A typical strategy to reduce resistance in a business is to bring the employees with highest potential into Six Sigma roles. By choosing to assume the challenges of a Black Belt or Master Black Belt position, these individuals substantiate the importance of the initiative. Their choice encourages other employees to make similar choices in support of Six Sigma. Further, recruiting high-performing employees into the roles demonstrates management’s commitment to the program.

What does this have to do with Six Sigma salaries? Well, recruiting top employees, particularly into new and broader roles, means paying top salaries.

Although Six Sigma is technically a quality program, Belts take on a wider array of responsibilities than professionals from the traditional quality field. Six Sigma Belts not only solve problems, they lead, coach, manage conflict, mentor, motivate and influence at all levels of the organization. They work in every function, from the finance department, to the sales force, to the shop floor, to the back office. And Six Sigma Belts tie their actions directly to the top and bottom lines of their organization’s financial statements.

The result is that companies are saving money and growing with Six Sigma. In a past issue of iSixSigma Magazine, we calculated the average hard financial benefit from a Six Sigma Black Belt project to be $188,000 (“BB Return on Investment,” January/February 2005). This number does not take into account any “soft” savings, such as customer satisfaction improvements or risk mitigation.

Assuming most Black Belts can accomplish three to five projects per year, a single Black Belt can conservatively return more than $500,000 to an average company. What CEO wouldn’t be interested in a five-to-one return on investment?

It is clear that Six Sigma is a payday not just for Black Belts and Master Black Belts, but also for the companies that employ them and the shareholders to whom those companies are accountable.

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