Companies find ways to recognize quiet performers

They are high on performance but prefer to lay low — getting things done and outshining others without making noise and demanding pay hikes. High performing low-profile talent is a prized asset in companies, and increasingly companies are looking to find ways to keep this pool happy.

Companies across industries — from mobile operator Vodafone, financial services firm Edelweiss Financial Services and travel portal MakeMyTrip to carmaker Maruti Suzuki and software firm SAP Labs — have either devised differentiated strategies to identify and acknowledge top performers who keep a low profile, or follow a pay for performance culture strictly on merit where personality types don't matter.

Vodafone, for example, has a programme called 'Global Hero' to acknowledge its low profile-high performers among managers, executives and frontend staff. Every quarter, Vodafone India recognizes two such employees for their outstanding performance. And from among their eight quarterly 'global heroes', two are nominated to be their annual global heroes and are invited to London to be felicitated by group CEO and HR director along with global heroes from its operations across the world.

"Given the macro-economic environment and hyper competitive nature of this industry, the market for the right talent has perennially been on the boil. It has become incumbent for telecom operators today to be sharper in the way talent with the right skill sets in customer facing and frontline roles is retained, rewarded and recognized," said Ashok Ramchandran, director HR, Vodafone India.

Edelweiss, which has a three-pronged strategy to take care of promoting a low profile performer to leadership depends a lot on the culture of an organization employees who like to keep a low profile or talk less, recognizes low profile high performers through evaluation based on data and demonstrable achievements. "This helps to recognize the achievements of an employee while rewarding the performance with very little dependence on self-presentation," said Maneesha Thakur, group head, HR, at Edelweiss Financial Services.

Through Edelweiss Titans, employees, regardless of their hierarchy can either self-nominate or get nominated by their colleagues for living the Edelweiss values. "These awards bring to the forefront employees who may not be very high profile but are value champions as the nomination process requires employees to list out their achievements backed by data," Thakur said.

So, what's the potential of low-profile high performers? Are they leadership material? The answer is, yes, they can be leaders.

Padmaja Alaganandan, leader of PwC's people and change practice, cites the example of AG Lafley, chairman of the board, president and chief executive of Procter & Gamble (P&G), who is known to have maintained a relatively low profile in his second innings at P&G. Lafley had retired in 2010, but was called back by the company board last year as chief executive after his replacement Bob McDonald failed to drive sales and profitability of the FMCG giant. But promoting a low-profile performer to leadership depends a lot on the culture of an organization, Alaganandan said.
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