Workers should highlight their value to employers

Human resource experts suggest employees, especially those in Singapore, make known their achievements, but in a subtle way to avoid negative repercussions.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Being the quiet achiever can sometimes work against employees in the workplace, where workers are judged by their achievements and successes, according to a local-based recruitment expert.

Karin Clarke, general manager of Select Business Services, noted in a recent press statement how "very innate" it is in the Singaporean culture for employees to be modest and reserved, preferring not to draw attention to their accomplishments for fear of being seen as arrogant and pretentious.

According to Richard Talbot, general manager of recruitment company Sapphire Technologies Singapore, this trait cuts across all professions including the IT sector, in the island-state.

"We find one of the key reasons IT candidates look to change jobs is that they know they can achieve higher remuneration elsewhere, and their employer has not been forthcoming with a suitable increment," said Talbot in an e-mail interview.

However, he noted that IT professionals need to also understand how to best present their achievements to their current employer, in order to secure that promotion or pay increment they have been eyeing.

Tips to getting recognized at work

  • Communicate achievements and success clearly with your managers It may be a conversation that starts with "Just to update you on…", or copy them in on e-mail with positive feedback from customers.
  • Make decisions that benefit the organization first
    Management will recognize this, particularly if you communicate the reasons behind your decisions.
  • Strengthen your network
    Build strong relationships both with people in the organization and those in your industry or profession. This can build your profile and let you complete projects more efficiently and successfully.
  • Take the risks to succeed
    Take on projects/roles that are challenging but that will let you succeed. Many people fear doing this in case they fail, but it will work in your favor in the long term. Again, ensure your success is communicated to the right people.
  • Put your hand up for other projects
    Communicate your interests in other areas, and if there are opportunities to become involved, make yourself known.
  • Keep your records of success
    When it comes time to negotiating pay and asking for a promotion, having records of your achievements at hand will help to demonstrate your value to the company in real terms.
  • Dress for success
    The idea is to dress so you appear more professional and can take on a more responsible role within the organization.

Tho Lye Sam, human resource director at IBM Singapore, said in the past, technical individuals ranging from engineers to programmers, appeared to be less superior in their interpersonal or written skills compared to their business or sales peers.

"But we're definitely seeing less of this today," Tho said in an e-mail interview.

Increasingly, she said, employers are witnessing a new breed of employees who bring a mix of business, technical and people skills.

Tho added: "These knowledge workers will fuel the 21st century economy, and are definitely capable of presenting the best of their capabilities and competence--with the aim of sharing best practices, as opposed to being outright showy for personal glory."

Clarke said current global economic pressures make it particularly important now for workers in Singapore to make their value known in the workplace. This way, they can ensure they are recognized fairly and reap the rewards of doing their job well, she said.

"It is important that employees realize it may be time to work even harder and then communicate this success to the right people. Don't be shy to let relevant colleagues and managers know about what you have achieved," she added.

Boast the right way
But while employees should draw attention to their achievements, they should not do so blatantly.

"Some simple, subtle steps can be taken to make sure you receive the recognition you deserve," Clarke said. "It will make for a more positive work environment and will contribute to job security, career progression and show you are willing to take responsibility and ownership for your work."

"It could be as simple as copying in your manager on positive feedback from customers, or communicating the successful completion of a project or task. While it is not imperative to tell your peers unless you want to, making sure you tell the decision makers in your organization is essential," she said.

Tho said IBM encourages the sharing of best practices, and this involves putting the limelight on an individual, a team, a country or even a region.

"These are 'official broadcast' platforms to share an individual or a team's winning ways to the larger IBM community," she explained. "In addition, by celebrating performance and leadership excellence, we are able to encourage more of such desired behavior."

Talbot suggests employees who fear publicizing their achievements could work against them, consider taking a "reasoned approach".

"Of course, an employee who constantly talks about personal achievements all the time can be an annoyance, but conversely, employees that never highlight what they have achieved are easy to forget," he noted.

The individual should also recognize when to highlight an achievement to the manager, and when not to raise the issue. Talbot said: "An annual review would be a good time, for example, to highlight achievements."

IBM's Tho said: "Our employees are well aware that overstatements may look good in the short term, but are not sustainable in the longer term."

Clarke recommended that workers keep a record of their achievements, so they have documentation to support their case when it is time for salary negotiation or formal reviews. "It can be one of the most difficult conversations of your career, but discussing money with your employer is much easier if you can clearly demonstrate that your work has contributed to the success of your organization," she said.

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