Retaining the Unsung Office Champs

Regardless of your field of business, all organizations have key personnel without whom they cannot function. The mistake most business owners make is assuming those client-facing stars are the only key personnel. Of course, the employees who directly achieve the business’ mission statement attract the most attention from the boss, in the form of bonuses, raises, and company-wide recognition. Those employees get the kudos, the pats on the back, the hearty handshakes, and most of the time, they deserve it. After all, where would the company be without those experts?

These superstars are solely responsible for the success of their firms, right? After all, they keep the clients happy. But what about the day-to-day operation of the office? For the most part, these key players have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Those crucial tasks are performed by the office support staff. The titles vary from company to company, but may include secretary, receptionist, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, human resources administrator and so forth. They know the ins and outs of nearly everything that goes on with clients, vendors and employees. They know who to call when something goes wrong and who can deliver a fancy dinner for an unplanned client meeting in 45 minutes.

The support staff often goes completely unrecognized. When the time comes for raises, they get the bare minimum and bonuses are nearly non-existent. They are generally included in office parties, but usually only because they have planned it all and need to clean up when it’s over. They take the brunt of the frustration from the team stars and always end up running around to compensate for someone else’s lack of planning. If they take a day off, things quite often go to hell in a handbasket; a week off, and chaos erupts.

So why the glaring disparities between the superstars and support staff? The first reason seems to be an age-old clich√©: You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. If everything is done everyday, meetings planned, office cleaned, appointments set, clients greeted, mail retrieved, fridge stocked, coffee brewed, people come to expect it. If the person responsible for performing all those tasks (and hundreds more) is suddenly not there, then his/her absence is noticed because it affects others. Then there’s a flurry of activity (panic) in trying to perform all the tasks that were not done. When the support person returns and everything goes back to normal, the rest of the office forgets because they no longer have to worry about it. And there is reason number two – we all forget. When you were a child and your mom put dinner on the table, you didn’t truly appreciate it. If your mom was sick and dad had to order take out or fix dinner himself, you noticed the change and were concerned. As soon as mom was better and the routine returned, you stopped noticing.

This analogy holds true for the support staff, and so they are the most under-appreciated, unrecognized folks in the office. Thanking them regularly, offering bonuses when they go above and beyond, providing regular raises and competitive wages will show how much they are valued and how critical their roles are to the success of the company. Recruiting and training are more expensive in the long run than reasonably compensating those on whom your company relies so heavily.

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