Unconventional Support

Support can increase the probability that an individual will contribute to the success of a group at her/his full potential. Webster’s Dictionary defines support as, “the act of showing that you approve by doing something; or to give help or assistance to.” Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work for and observe companies that took their role of supporting employees very seriously, and others that seemingly ignored all but basic support. It was no surprise that the results produced by these organizations seemed to be directly tied to their approach to support—the better the support the stronger the results. The key question now is whether those companies that offer traditional support are doing enough to meet today’s challenges? I believe the answer is no.

Traditionally, companies would offer employees a wide range of support beyond simple compensation. These included health insurance, retirement programs, savings programs, life insurance, vacation, and many forms of family support. In addition, many companies would provide support for employees to expand their skill sets both with company-sponsored training and tuition assistance for outside education.

In light of today’s dynamic business pressures, many companies are cutting back on support in the belief that belt tightening is in the organization’s best interest. Beyond questioning the failed logic of this assumption, I suggest four best practices of unconventional support that have been proven to help organizations succeed.

Meet the market – Companies that will succeed in the future are those that maintain a focus on market-based pay information as seriously as they focus on market shifts with customers—and pay at market rates. Your business success will be linked to the quality of your people. You can’t hide talent. With increased market transparency, you can bet that if you aren’t paying at market, your best employees will know about it.

Set people up – Encourage managers to take a more aggressive position in setting people up for success. In larger organizations, recognize managers who consistently enable members of their team to get promoted. Encourage co-creation of development plans that will ensure your employees have the skills they need to succeed. Remove obstacles that inhibit performance. Listen to your workforce—you’ll learn valuable information.

Supersize recognition – You can’t do enough, formally and informally, to recognize those people who excel. People feed off recognition. Both formal programs that publicly recognize performance (and, likewise, programs that recognize lack of performance) and informal efforts to recognize the day-to-day efforts of your team members will go a long way to building a cohesive and responsive team.

Create a retention problem – Announce that you co-own the challenge of increasing the value of each employee in your company. Tell people that your goal is to work with them to increase their marketability, and that you are willing to step up to create such a great environment that it will be undesirable for them to leave.

Unlocking employee potential is the biggest challenge facing companies today. Proper support is the key enabler. I’ve given you a starter set of nonconventional ideas to implement support, but there are many more practices that can help move this ball forward. Please share any ideas you have about support success strategies.


This is the second of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Insight
Unconventional Values