Promote or Perish

by Chris Arlen on November 10, 2014

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Promote or PerishOrganizational support departments live in job justification mode all the time, all day, every day.

Procurement, HR, Legal, IT, Real Estate & Facilities, Safety & Security, and other cost centers support the real stars of their firms; sales, marketing and operations.

And while support departments provide necessary infrastructure and support for firms to survive and thrive – they never seem to get their fair share of accolades.

Sure, individuals get bonused on departmental performance, but rarely is the departmental reputation highly valued inside the organization.

And why does that matter?

Because support departments want to:

  • Recruit & retain the best and brightest talent available
  • Avoid being the first & frequent source for budget cuts
  • Avoid bureaucratic molasses to readily add service scale & scope
  • Include early input into the hero departments’ strategic initiatives
  • Build esprit de corps & pride among their own
  • Earn performance based compensation
  • Gain upward career mobility & job security
  • Recognition Requires More than Performance

Let’s face it, support departments are expected to perform, to carry out their responsibilities effectively and efficiently, and continually improve. It’s just a given, or someone loses their job.

But even performing exceptionally well doesn’t mean the department will be recognized as a valued contributor.

Many hard-working managers slave away on weekends and skip vacations to deliver exceptional results. Surely, they think, their effort will be seen upstairs – and they’ll be rewarded. However, life’s experience and human nature proves that expectation wrong.

Add to Departmental Skill Sets

If support departments want to be more fully valued, then they must take a page out of academia where “publish or perish” is career advice for professors to continually publish research to gain tenure and secure their future.

Support departments must do similarly, they must “promote” their contributions and achievements, or “perish” in the silence of the status quo.

For support departments this means promoting without looking self-serving, which is in addition to the normal performance reporting.

Promoting is raising visibility within the organization – while doing the intended job.

2 Promotional Avenues

Support departments have two ways that are always open to them to promote their contributions to their firm:

  1. Reporting Upstream
  2. Communicating Policies & Procedures

1. Reporting Upstream

Gaining the trust, confidence and support of higher ups is crucial to a department’s recognition and reputation. This means support departments must do more than their mandatory reporting – they must propose a value add report to senior executives.

First, consider what the upstream bosses need to know.This requires a savvy understanding of executives’ corporate focus and their time challenges.

You’re looking for departmental information that has strategic value, more than transactions from routine reporting. Hopefully, you’ll find information that changes monthly that you can communicate upstream.

Once the content has been identified, the information must be presented in a hyper-concise, recipient preferred medium, and visually appealing manner. This could be in an HTML email, secure web page, PDF, etc.

The goal is to regularly share dynamic, meaningful information in a laser sharp communique to keep you on the senior executives radar screen.

2. Communicating Policies & Procedures

All support departments have policies or procedures for the smooth running of the firm. These are built in opportunities to promote while fulfilling a department’s mission.

Instead of draconian messaging about users’ compliance or death, a more effective approach is using engagement and humor.

How that manifests itself will vary by each firm’s culture, and more importantly by the creativity of the support department.

To promote departmental policies or procedures effectively try:

  • Committing budget & time to developing a communications plan
  • Defining the department’s service brand (the promise you keep – not the ones you make)
  • Using the service brand in all messaging for consistency
  • Establishing a Key Performance Indicator for assessing promotional progress and/or awareness


Promoting a support department’s value can seem an unnecessary burden. But without it, the firm will take departmental contributions for granted, and the department will miss out on the many positives it deserves.

And who wants to work for a door mat?

“Promote or Perish” was first published on LinkedIn, 10/31/14

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