Reward and Recognition

Our organization is starting to have a very constructive discussion about rewards and recognition for Black Belts. (Green Belts, hold on, you’re next.) We canvassed our current Black Belts and- as you might guess – the variation was wider than the mean!

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Ideas started fromcertificates, pins, and belts… through public recognition at organization-wide events… through project bonuses… and ended up at preferential promotion after specified criteria were met and the person had been in the Black Belt role for a certain amount of time.

One individual felt that reporting to the hospital President was the most satisfying aspect of the job, while another said, essentially, “forget the trinkets, just give me project bonuses.”

Related to this discussion is the appropriate reward/recognition structure for Green Belts, other team participants, Process Owners, and Project Sponsors. We wonder whether there should be a series of certificates and pins, or should we use the belt structure (white, yellow, orange, etc.), or should we give gift certificates / tote bags / padfolios, and/or public recognition?

While we work to get to organizational consensus on these issues, I wonder whether any of you would like to share your thoughts on successful (or unsuccessful!) recognition programs for Lean Six Sigma project team members. Do we need to reward differently than we recognize? Or are these just two different aspects of the same issue?

Comments 4

  1. BGBB

    This is a subject that I am currently wrestling with. When we originally set up 6S, the interviewees were told that there was no pay raise, but rather the job was seen as a developmental step. Those who joined with a pre-existing management bonus kept that, whilst those arrived without a bonus, remained without.

    Now, a couple of years on, I am the MBB and looking at cycling one BB out, and looking for ways to make the job attractive enough to spark interest for a replacement.

    One idea is to use an exponentially decaying curve of reward level vs total project savings. This is a cumulative figure, so that a project that delivers, say, $50K – attracts a reward of $1K, and one that delivers $1M, attracts $20K. These sums will get split across the team, based on work and effort. We look to treat BB’s & GB’s the same in this regard.

    Recognition comes from having the CEO etc publicly ’making a fuss’ of engaged belts. We name names in regular comms documents – whilst causing a little embarrassment, when coupled with financial reward – I am sure that we will spark more than a little interest to find that new BB, but also in raising the game on our other GB’s who currently are not that engaged.

    Would be interested if you see the above as a reasonable way to go.


  2. Sue Kozlowski

    It’s very positive that you are looking at recognition in terms of getting active participants in front of the CEO. We are just in the process of discussing what we want to do for the BB, GB, team members, process owners, and project sponsors who actively use and promote our Lean Six Sigma. We have lapel pins for belts who finish training classes and complete 2 projects.

    In terms of getting face time with leaders, we’re planning a "graduation" ceremony for our current class of 45 Green Belts with executive participation; considering recognition at our annual "Values in Leadership" day which all managers & above attend; and possible an "Award of Merit" recognition for those who go above & beyond. Plus, recognition at site leadership meetings throughout the year.

    Related to project bonuses, in our healthcare organization we are challenged with valuation of projects (the "hard green" vs "soft green" dollar issue) so I’m not sure how we could provide that on an objective basis; we’re still having discussions around that topic.

    For new Black Belts, we give raises that probably average 5% because the BB role is considered a promotion within the organization; and we’re just developing a pathway that opens the possibilities for increases when certain criteria are met (projects, but also teaching, mentoring, and contribution to strategic goals).

    It certainly looks like you are moving the right direction. Thanks for sharing your efforts.

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Gary, your comments are right on. While it’s fun to debate intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards (i.e. motivation), the fact is that most of us need a balance of internal satisfaction and external recognition if we are going to stay at a particular job for very long.

    And I love your comment about "if [your] current employer does not wish to recognize [you] others will." We have lost a few Black Belts to other organizations – sometimes for intrinsic reasons (closer to their home) and sometimes for extrinsic reasons (more money). So we are challenged to constantly ask for feedback from our Black Belts about the balance between those two modes of recognition/motivation.

    Thanks for your insightful comments.

  4. Gary Burger

    I understand your dilemma with recognition. When I was encouraged to obtain my Black Belt I was told that there would be monetary benefits involved. Well, the fact is that all I received is more work. This of course becomes a source of frustration not of fulfillment. However I realize that even if my current employer does not wish to recognize me others will.

    So the problem that you will eventually face if you do not recognize those who strive to excel is how to keep them. Many organizations do not feel that Lean Six Sigma is a fad and will pay to have employees who have “drank from the kool-aid.”

    Recognition does not have to always be monetary. I know one organization that gives each member of an event of any sort a knit shirt and then has a monthly “shirt day.” If you do not find a way to recognize people you had better be prepared to lose them.

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