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As per one of the famous magazines of HR leaders, shadow contributors in workplaces are on the rise. Their ratio has doubled since the pandemic. It makes HR leaders to realign and reengineer their recognition programmes. 

According to the AWI or Achievers Workforce Institute, organisations have literally never appreciated or recognised these contributors. Their numbers rose from 10% to 17% in the last two years. 

Such stats and more related to the shadow contributors and their rising breakthrough performances are paramount to note. 

HR leaders must gauge that the more they recognise such contributions, the more they will lead their workforce to unlock their discretionary efforts. 

Long story short, workers engage more, remain happy consistently, and achieve great feats with less effort. That is when the recognition programmes are more inclusive, frequent, and thoughtful. 

So, let’s decipher these shadow contributors as these are on the rise and see what modern organisations do to make them a core part of the teams. 

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How do we define shadow contributors in workplaces?

These workers are the ones who never get the recognition for the work and output they garner. 

They are often working at the backend or at the support level for the executives or the pathfinders of an organisation. 

Why may these shadow contributors be on the rise?

There is a great disconnect between the recognition of employees and the output they produce. Various online research studies on employee recognition programs conclude the same. 

Other reasons for rising shadow contributors might be:

  1. Culture difference: 

Employees might not be actively getting visibility from the top level contributors. There must not be a culture of equal and shared responsibility and recognition. 

  1. Lack of tools:

Organisations fail to use interactive, mobile-ready, and intuitive performance management tools with live insights. Thus, they fail to recognise the rightful contributors from the start. 

  1. Differences in perceived value:

Employers might have completely different perceptions of the outcomes to achieve and breakthroughs to unlock. 

Workers might not be aware of such expectations. Thus, it creates a greater difference between the perceived value of excellent performance benchmarks. In other words, there could be an increasing chasm between expectations and reality. 

  1. Lack of recognition strategies:

One of the primary reasons for the increase in shadow contributors is the lack of recognition programs and strategies. 

Organisations failing to recognise and appreciate talent from various fronts land up with increasing shadow workers and contributors.

5 benefits of shadow contributors in your organisation

Let’s discuss the benefits of the shadow workers in your organisation:

  1. Hidden talent:

Shadow contributors are no less than the hidden talent in your workplace. Recognise them on time to tap into their maximum potential and drive unprecedented results. 

  1. Accountability:

Shadow workers and contributors are more accountable. These people are good researchers, support system executives, and enablers of mundane work. They have immense potential and accountability to give updates on time. 

HR leaders and reporting managers do not keep chasing these workers. They themselves are responsible enough to close tasks on time and not fret over milestones or outcomes. So, these are the best workers to follow a protocol and ensure deliverables are met on time. 

  1. Internal talent mobility:

Shadow contributors are your go-to source for scouting talent. You don’t have to train them on the products or services you offer to a great extent. They are familiar with it already and know their way around the culture you're building. 

  1. Pool of discretionary efforts:

These workers have found something in your business to work towards. They are going the extra mile to achieve their goals and targets. Most importantly, they are supporting others in completing their tasks or mentoring them in the right direction. 

Thus, you can always expect them to think out of the box and work around problems in a different way. 

  1. Great teamwork and coordination:

Shadow contributors in workplaces are the catalysts or bridges between two or more team members or departments. They can easily equip multiple transferable skills to glue different teams having distinct personalities and experiences. 

Such traits make them great and excellent team players. They always bring back the focus onto the common organisational goals for everyone in the team. Such team players could become great coaches, mentors, and leaders later on. 

How to promote and recognise these shadow contributors?

Let’s now study the top ways to recognise, appreciate, evaluate, and promote these shadow contributors in workplaces. 

Here’s how you do it when you invest in smart HR management software like ours:

  1. Set purposeful and business-driven goals

Your workers and employees must have goals, OKRs, or KPIs that align with business growth. Do that when you set KRAs or KPIs, especially when using the AI Suggest tool we offer. 

This tool generates you a complete template for the industry-level KRA in seconds. Save time in research and invest it where it matters the most. 

Communicate these goals and KRAs from day one to your staff to avoid any gaps in skills and mindset to develop while completing assigned deliverables. 

  1. Make recognition meaningful

Employers need to learn, decipher, and implement the art of meaningful recognition. To do so, they need to include inclusive language while communicating. 

Some workers may not be satisfied with a word of honour. While, others might just be elated with a letter or private message from higher or upper management. 

Also, some organisations often give interim bonuses or incentives for stellar performances as a token of appreciation. It depends on the HR and company policy when it comes to appreciating and recognising shadow contributors with pride. 

So, it’s best that managers roll out timely employee appreciation surveys to know the ground reality of their shadow workers. They must know and have a pulse over what they need and how to deliver the same when it comes to appreciating the hidden talent. 

Interestingly, our HR management software offers you the best way to roll out surveys in simple clicks. Tempaltise and auto-save each letter in the HR manager or master from your admin account. Save time in creating, designing, and executing these surveys for actionable insights. 

  1. Integrate communication tools for instant appreciation

Implement a social intranet to communicate with your workers and employees at any time. Do not let geographical boundaries hamper your way to appreciate efforts when it matters the most. 

Tag them on the post, congratulate them in private or a streamed chat. This allows everyone else in the team to appreciate the genuine efforts of the shadow contributor. 

  1. Praise new skill set development 

Appreciate your employees if they are learning new skills and talents online. Provide them with an eLMS to upgrade their profile and improve their social and viability skills at work. 

Infuse the eLMS with our social intranet to get live updates on the quizzes, certification assigned on completion of the course, etc. 

  1. Assign projects with complete visibility

Give more visibility to your staff by letting them take charge of challenging projects. Read their historical data and know what type of projects they handled before. 

Assign more projects related to the same category and let them earn their dues on time. It makes them more entrepreneurial. They get content motivation to do better by receiving  in-time appreciation from the project approvers and reviewers. 

Check their utilisation of hours on the timesheets we offer. Know which project and client are more profitable because of the efforts and contributions of these shadow workers. Let them shine through this way without having to micromanage anyone. 

  1. Identify and raise stars with a 9-box grid

One of the best ways to handle shadow contributors is through the 9-box grid. It will help you separate rising stars from slackers or bad hires. You then know how to appreciate them in the long run, like:

  1. Giving them more raises and responsibility. 
  2. Giving them more projects with target-based incentives. 
  3. Giving them promotions with more responsibility to delegate accordingly. 

uKnowva HRMS has the 9-box grid along with live insights and analytics on which employee is the best contributor. With the help of these insights, you can then decide which is the best person to be the next protege in line for your designation. 


The blog post above teaches you the definition of shadow contributors in workplaces. It highlights their reasons to become popular these days in the HR world and ecosystem. Then, we read about the ways to handle and appreciate them with smart and future-driven HRMS like ours. 

Is your organisation ready to work with shadow contributors to convert them into overachievers with dignity and equity? If that’s yes, it’s time that you do uKnowva. 

Contact us here. 

FAQs on Shadow Contributors in Workplaces

What challenges do shadow contributors face in the workplace?


Shadow contributors often face challenges such as lack of recognition, underappreciation, and limited career advancement opportunities. Their contributions might be overlooked during performance reviews, and they may not receive the same opportunities for promotions or professional development as more visible employees.

How can organisations better support and reward shadow contributors?


Organisations can support and reward shadow contributors by creating a culture of recognition where all contributions are valued. This can include implementing peer recognition programs, providing opportunities for professional development, and ensuring that performance evaluations consider the impact of behind-the-scenes work. Clear communication about the value of all roles can also enhance recognition.

How do shadow contributors impact team dynamics?


Shadow contributors positively impact team dynamics by fostering collaboration, providing support, and often serving as the glue that holds the team together. Their efforts can improve team morale, enhance communication, and ensure that projects run smoothly, even if their work is not always immediately visible.

What are some examples of roles that shadow contributors might occupy?


Shadow contributors can be found in various roles, such as administrative assistants, project coordinators, IT support, HR specialists, and operations managers. These roles are critical to the functioning of an organisation but often do not receive the same recognition as more front-facing positions.

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