Do Your Employee Rewards Efforts Overlook the Employees Who Sustain Your Success?

Posted on July 10, 2012


Kill the fatted calf! Larry just landed the Murphy Account! Ring the bell! Mary Lou brought us the new accountant to take the place of Bob. When it comes to rewards and recognition it is often those who accomplish the spectacular who are the recipients of the most lavish expression of praise.

Like sports team, organizations will often applaud the stunning achievements of a few while overlooking those who consistently excel in their less noticeable roles. It’s the goalkeeper who shuts out the opponent who gets her name in lights. The quarterback who throws for 300 yards in a game is lauded. But what about the goalie’s teammates who prevented shots on goal or the linemen who gave the quarterback the time needed to pass?

Think about who gets rewarded in your organization. Perhaps it’s the District Manager who leads a turn-around team. Or, maybe it’s the Office Coordinator who plans the picnic of the century. In some organizations it is always Larry who lands the new account. We know our heroes—they step outside the usual and perform the highly visible.

Yet what about those whose steady commitment allows the organization to maintain success? Michael Watkins, in his book, “The First 90 Days,” calls it Sustaining Success. He writes, “As for rewarding sustaining success, people seldom call their power company to say, ‘Thanks for keeping the lights on today.’ But if the power goes off, the screaming is immediate and loud.”

Behind every successful organization is a team of employees who sustain success. We have teams like this in our firm; one is our Client Services Team. They rarely travel to a client meeting. They don’t have the luxury of dining out with vendors. They aren’t responsible for prospecting for new clients. They don’t have to dress for success. All they do is sustain our success–they keep the business going.

How do they sustain success? They are on the phone and computer communicating with insurance carriers, clients, and employees of clients—simply resolving issues and calming nerves. Daily answering phone calls of employees who need immediate access to a doctor. Calming upset employees who don’t understand why an insurance carrier would refuse to pay for a prescription. Making sure a client’s new employees are properly enrolled or their terminated employee is placed on COBRA.

Sure, we have Account Managers who bring in new business, successfully renew accounts and gain the trust of our clients as they lead them through annual enrollments and carrier negotiations. They are indispensible. They are visible. They are critical to our success—but so are the teams who spend their days working in spreadsheets, gathering information from clients and compiling carrier quotes. One of the points I want to drive home in our firm is that the reason our sales team can speak so confidently of our services is they know there is a highly competent team behind them sustaining success.

 Success in any organization is a team accomplishment where each person has a role. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”

While I don’t recommend calling the power company to express our appreciation for keeping the lights on, we would be wise to find effective ways to express appreciation to the unheralded employees who are sustaining our success. Therefore,

Here are 7 tips on how to reward the employees who sustain success:

  1. When the highly visible are recognized for a “win,” acknowledge the work of the support team
  2. Include all employees in bonus programs
  3. Build and maintain a culture of appreciation
  4. Provide team lunches for departments made up of employees in support roles
  5. Encourage management to verbalize and write thank you notes
  6. Offer opportunities to work on special projects
  7. Provide flexible work hours

How do you reward the employees in your organization who sustain your success while operating out of the spotlight? Use the comment section below to offer your suggestions or to comment on how to increase the effectiveness of employee reward efforts.


Jack Bruce  lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and four children.

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