Everyday Heroes


According to a 2016 Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM.org) article, people seek jobs they are passionate about doing and organizations that recognize their staff. Employee recognition programs are a great way to incentivize creative staff and encourage friendly competition among peers as a way to invest in the organization’s future.

While there are some great opportunities with various recognition programs, sometimes our greatest assets — everyday heroes — may never get a proverbial “shout out” about their contributions because their efforts often go unnoticed. Or, all too often the same people get recognized year in and year out, which may generate a “in group/out group” type of culture.

What is an “Everyday Hero?” Everyday Heroes are employees or other staff who go to great lengths to innovate programs, reduce financial challenges in their organizations’ budgets, serve as office admin and support staff, manage contracts with exemplary fiscal responsibility in mind, make sure you have the technology and tools to get the job done or simply step up to the plate to volunteer to take on a new project at work despite having a full load of priorities.

These people are also known as “individual contributors” who rally the team to exceed expectations and may never ask for a thank you in return because of an altruistic approach to their work.  Moreover, they never brag about their contributions because that is not their style. Everyday Heroes often jump into the fray, give it their all to support the team and move on. And yes, they sometimes fall under the radar when it comes to awards programs because they are selfless and fearless.

How do you make the effort to acknowledge the majority of everyday heroes? The book “First, Break All of the Rules” by Markus Buckingham and Curt Coffman suggests that good leaders create an environment that recognizes and rewards them. Consider using the tips below to get started.

5 tips to Recognize Everyday Heroes:

  1. Create a work culture that takes the time to say thank you to Everyday Heroes in creative, social and public ways.
  2. Encourage leaders to walk and talk with staff across the agency to learn more about individuals’ contributions to the organization’s success.
  3. Recognize everyday heroes in public forums such as town hall meetings, on social networks and in executive messages.
  4. Remember to say thank you to staff that do extraordinary work daily.
  5. Personalize the recognition. One of my favorite bosses in the federal sphere held staff meetings once a quarter and gave his team “everyday hero” awards based on their interests. He gave things like gift cards based on staff’s specific interests, movie tickets and wrote personal letters of commendation.

Who are the Everyday Heroes in your organization? Give them a GovLoop “Shout Out” for their accomplishments.

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Juana Williams

So very true! Thank you for your blog! I recently changed departments (4/1/16) and the new dept. has a large responsibility within the organization, but is still short-staffed. When we can manage to have a weekly mtg., I give out stickers. Sometimes they are govloop stickers and sometimes they are store-bought. One might think that adults wouldn’t like stickers, but I preface it with something like “we all did an awesome job this week, so pick a sticker”. Everyone looks over the stickers and picks one. Some stickers are on the covers of a notebook (so it can be seen) and others are on wall calendars. It is such a little thing and costs only a few dollars, but can brighten a hectic day.

Tracey Batacan

Juana, I appreciate your response. It sounds like you are truly taking the time to find heroes at every level at your office. Great job in recognizing your #Everydayheroes.

Dawn Connet

In our agency we have a 3 foot stuffed Batman that will appear at your desk when you have been a hero. A message is sent to the entire department describing the extraordinary efforts of the employee and everyone is encouraged to stop by and thank Batman’s new friend. Some folks don’t like to be recognized but for the most part people appreciate the recognition and there are quite a few selfies with Batman!

Tracey Batacan

Dawn, I liked hearing about your creative recognition efforts. Also, taking the time to ensure every feels appreciated is so important. Great job!