March 2024 TogetHR Times

Unsung Employee Heroes

by Kim Keene

In every team, there’s often an unsung hero, a mentor, a leader without the title, often referred to as the “unofficial” leader, the first whip, or the senior person. While formal leadership positions are crucial, it’s the individuals who naturally assume leadership roles that play a pivotal role in the team’s success. In this article, we explore the significance of this unspoken leader and how their influence can shape team dynamics and outcomes.

The term “first whip” is a colloquial expression that is often used in various contexts, particularly in political or organizational settings. While it may not have a standardized definition, its meaning is generally understood to refer to the person who holds a leadership or influential role within a group, team, or organization, even if their authority is not formally recognized or officially designated. The title of “first whip” stems from the late 1800s when it was known that the person that sat up front on horse drawn fire engines was usually the most experienced and probably the most important person, often referred to as “first whip”.

Guiding the Team through Experience:

The first whip or senior person is typically someone with a wealth of experience within the organization or industry. Their years of navigating challenges and learning from successes and failures make them an invaluable resource for the team.

New team members often look up to this individual for guidance, drawing on their experience to navigate uncertainties and make informed decisions.

Setting the Tone for Collaboration:

The unofficial leader can significantly impact the team’s collaborative spirit. Their attitude, work ethic, and interpersonal skills set the tone for how team members interact with one another.

By fostering an environment of mutual respect and cooperation, the unofficial leader contributes to a positive team culture that encourages open communication and idea-sharing.

Providing Stability in Times of Change:

Teams often undergo changes, whether in terms of personnel, projects, or organizational structure. The unofficial leader, being a constant presence, provides stability during times of flux.

Their ability to adapt and reassure the team can mitigate the impact of changes, ensuring that everyone remains focused on the collective goals and objectives.

Mentoring and Developing Talent:

The first whip often takes on a mentorship role, guiding and developing the skills of junior team members. This mentorship not only benefits the individuals directly involved but also contributes to the overall growth and sustainability of the team.

Investing time and energy in mentoring helps build a pipeline of future leaders, fostering a sense of continuity and resilience within the team.

Influencing Team Dynamics:

The unofficial leader wields a unique form of influence within the team. While their authority may not be formalized, their opinions and actions carry weight.

By exemplifying leadership qualities, the first whip can positively shape team dynamics, fostering a sense of unity, purpose, and collective responsibility among team members.


In every team, the presence of an unofficial leader is often the secret sauce that keeps things running smoothly. Their experience, ability to guide, and influence on team dynamics make them an integral part of the collective success. Acknowledging and empowering these unsung heroes can lead to more resilient, collaborative, and high-performing teams. While formal leadership structures are essential, it’s equally crucial to recognize and appreciate the significant contributions of those who lead by example, ensuring the team’s success on both a personal and collective level.

Who is your secret sauce?


Open Communication is Key for a Successful 2024!

by Christine Muller

TRUST is hard won and easily lost!  Employees are looking for leaders who prioritize open and honest communication.  They are seeking leaders who share their strategic vision with the organization.  Rebuild trust by encouraging your leaders to share both their vision with employees and to create new channels of communication – encouraging feedback.

The next generation of managers are HERE!  The generational power balance is shifting in our workplaces.  Members of Gen Y or now in their 30s and even 40s and are coming into upper leadership positions with decades of experience.  Meanwhile, Gen Zs are already managing teams.  As digital natives, Gen Zs have different expectations about communication, leadership, and culture at work.  They’ve grown up on social media and have a different social code.   They tend to question hierarchical top-down power dynamics and want to be actively involved in decisions that affect their work.  They encourage open, two-way communication and have different expectations and approaches for receiving feedback, delegating responsibilities, and creating workplace connections.  They seek a culture of documentation and research where they can see that decisions have been informed by data.

Collaboration between HR and IT – expect closer working relationships between HR and IT as they collaborate on creating work tech stacks that enable the workforce of tomorrow.  Workplace tech is about enabling work to be faster, smarter, and generally better.  The only constant factor is there is still only so many hours of work one can do in a day – so tech is especially key in enabling proficiency and productivity!   Streamlining processes to level up the workforce and enable better work is the future!

Brick and Mortar or Remote Work – While the office was once the place to get our work tasks done, and offsite was where we would connect – the office is now all about connection rather than task completion.   Organizations now need to create commute-worthy experiences when requiring employees to come into the office.  Leading with a focus on what employees can expect when together in person (why it’s worthy of the commute) will be far more effective than leading with an ROBI (requirement of badging in) policy.  Create experiences that can only happen in the office.  For example, sessions with leadership where employees can get real-time feedback.  

Pay Transparency – a significant component of employee experience is equitable compensation.  The EU Pay Transparency Directive adopted in January 2023 will shift employers into implementation mode in 2024.  The obligation to collect and report on gender pay inequity data, as well as provisioning for employees to see this addressed in cases of injustice, will strongly incentive employers to formalize career pathing, introducing leveling and pay transparency!    Prepare to have salaries and remuneration questioned.  Conduct a pay audit to highlight any pay inequality in your organization and create a plan to address discrepancies-don’t hope they’ll remain hidden.  

2024 has the potential to be a year of essential progress in the workplace evolution.  Learn from previous years and tune into the requirements of employers and employees to create truly impactful and engaging employee experiences. 


Here’s a statistic that might cause your blood pressure to rise: In 2018, heart disease and stroke caused $147 billion in lost workplace productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Workplaces are a natural place to improve heart health. The chance of developing cardiovascular disease is 50% at age 45, which represents a significant portion of the workforce.

Professionals suggest that employers offer financial incentives, in addition to covering workers’ annual physical exams and reimbursing for heart-monitoring devices.

Bank of America encourages its employees to adopt heart-healthy lifestyles through continuous education, resources and benefits. It also urges employees to establish healthy sleep routines, stop smoking or vaping, eat a healthy diet, and carve out 150 minutes for physical activity each week.

Supporting heart health in the workplace may be as simple as offering health insurance if your organization doesn’t already do so. Access to good preventive medical care is extremely important for heart health, especially for employees with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure. Of course, even if employees have access to preventive care, they need to use it.

If your organization needs to remind employees about benefits related to heart health, a good recommendation is hosting a heart health workshop or sending a relevant email. Messaging might include reminding employees to schedule annual physicals and to talk to their doctor about the heart-related effects of newly prescribed medications.

Strengthening physical activity among your employees is also highly beneficial. Most office workers are sedentary during their workday, but even small amounts of physical activity can make a huge difference to health. For example, offices with nearby walking areas could encourage employees to take short walks over their lunch break or turn a meeting into a walk.

Your workplace might even sponsor a “friendly” walking challenge to encourage physical activity and build camaraderie, or it could supply a monthly wellness stipend to help pay for gym memberships or fitness classes.

Additional tips:

  • Set up a workplace gym.
  • Create flexible schedules so employees can more easily fit in exercise.
  • Focus on healthy food. While organizations don’t need to police employees’ diets or stop serving cake at office celebrations, they might consider providing healthy options at workplace gatherings, such as a fruit platter alongside a birthday cake, said Lau.
  • Host a contest for creating healthy recipes.
  • Offer onsite classes for people who want to give up cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • Set up blood pressure monitors at work.
  • Provide racks for those who want to commute by bike.
  • Spruce up stairwells to entice workers to use the stairs rather than elevators.
  • Stock vending machines with healthy food and beverages.
  • Conduct assessments to help detect risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Promoting heart health in the workplace doesn’t need to cost a lot. For example, local organizations such as public health agencies, hospitals and nonprofits will often provide speakers and materials for heart health efforts.

The workplace has increasingly become a focus for heart disease and stroke prevention management because, on average, people in the United States spend more than a third of their waking hours engaged in their work. Employers can take an active role in promoting employee heart and brain health by implementing best practices for lowering employees’ risk for heart disease and stroke.

Source: SHRM

Form W-2 & Payroll Direct Deposit Phishing Attacks

by Rhonda Anderson

As we have entered the 2024 tax season, the Internal Revenue Service warns HR, finance and payroll personnel of the spike in Form W-2 and payroll direct deposit phishing attacks.  

According to the IRS, the Form W-2 scam may be one of the most dangerous phishing email campaigns in the tax community. The most common form of a W-2 phishing scam is an email to an HR professional from a cybercriminal, impersonating an executive or employee, requesting W-2 information. Criminals are using advanced AI technology to spoof emails, so the message appears to come from legitimate sources. A simple search of your company’s website or social media may divulge who your HR and payroll personnel are. This could also be achieved by calling your place of business and asking who oversees payroll. All requests for Form W-2 information such as a missing W-2, should be verified by calling the employee and asking pertinent information that only the employee would have access to such as date of birth, last 4 digits of their social security number and the last address on file. 

A recent post from Ogletree Deakins by Rebecca J. Bennett and Danielle Vanderzanden, warned about a new phishing scam that employers should be aware of, because it has cyber criminals in real-time behind it, reinforcing the scam with quick replies via email. These scams are affecting employers nationwide without regard to their payroll portals or payroll service providers. This payroll direct deposit scam is once again, a spoofed email that mimics a familiar and trusted company or resource (employee), requesting an s-signature or survey. A link or website may be embedded in the email. The recipient of the phishing email may be directed to confirm their identity by providing their login credentials. The threat actors then use the employee’s login credentials to access payroll portals and reroute direct deposits. In some cases, employees themselves have been impersonated by a spoofed email, requesting their direct deposit account be changed. All requests for direct deposit changes should be confirmed by verbally confirming with the employee and preferably guiding them to the payroll portal if available. Advise your workforce of this scam. Direct employees to forward any suspicious requests to the IT or human resources departments, rather than replying. Instruct employees to refrain from supplying login credentials or personally identifying information in response to any email. Establish and enforce multi factor authentication requirements. Review and update the physical, technical and personnel-related measures taken to protect your sensitive information and data.


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