Just What is "Adding Value" Anyway?

Liz Ryan

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CEOs proclaim it, corporate managers repeat it, and HR people say it over and over: it's the “value-adding" employees who make the difference in a company's ability to serve customers, to compete the in the marketplace, and to create shareholder returns. But what does it mean to “add value" on the job?

A manager recognizes a person as “adding value" to the team when, after this person has worked in a function or been responsible for a process, the function, or process, is BETTER. It's not a matter of doing your work every day - that's expected from everyone, and doesn't mark you as an exceptional employee. Adding value is a matter of having the Midas Touch, so that the things/relationships/processes you touch actually improve. Here are some examples.

"I worked as the front desk manager, and our customer response ratings got twenty-five percent better in my first six months on the job. Turnover dropped to almost zero, and overtime went down. "

"I worked as the catering sales manager, and our sales results doubled over the previous year. "

Adding value means improving tangible results. What's most important to your boss, the person who is evaluating your performance? Pick a metric that matters, and blast it out of the park. Getting the job done every day is the table stakes - that doesn't move the company forward. To add real value, you have to IMPROVE the job, so that when someone asks you, “What's in your wake?", you can tell them.

An obvious way to get a feel for adding value is to rewrite your resume every year. In fact, for me, a resume-revision exercise is a lot more useful than the standard annual employee performance review. After all, you're supposed to have accomplished important things on the job every year - shouldn't those show up clearly on your resume? The relevant question is not “did you come to work and get your work done this year?", but rather “What's working better, in your area of the company, than it was this time last year?" That list of improvements - that's where your value was added.

At the same time that you're reviewing the value to the company, spend a minute thinking about what the company has added to YOUR value - your marketability to employers, in other words. Even if you're not planning to change jobs any time soon, it's great to know that the value you add in internal process improvements, customer relationships, incremental sales and other areas comes back to you in increased hire-ability. Now THAT'S a win-win situation.

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 HR executive, an entrepreneur and a workplace expert. She leads the online community WorldWIT (http://www.worldwit.org), the world's largest online network for professional women with 80 chapters worldwide. Liz lives in Boulder, Colorado.


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