As a coach, I work with clients on the ‘being’ side and the ‘doing’ side of career, leadership, life. The ‘being’ side focuses on who you are, on self-reflection, self-awareness, development. The ‘doing’ side focuses on intentional actions we take as a result of our work on the ‘being’ side. This guest blog was written by one of our clients. His focus is on the ‘doing’ side of being a valuable employee. We are currently working together on the ‘being’ side and understanding more deeply how this external affirmation of feeling valued is woven into his career and life. I’ll be interested to see a follow-up blog once we have finished our coaching to see if his perspective shifts in any way. Development work is fascinating . . . we continue to grow and evolve daily. Enjoy the read! He has some good actions in the blog that may resonate with your situation.
Two months ago I started a new job – sales & marketing for a technology company. Previously, I was at my last job – a technology company – for 5 years. My new job is so much better than my last, but I’m struggling to feel like I’m a valuable employee.
Then it hit me…
I was so unhappy at my last job because I no longer felt like a valuable employee. In other words, I no longer saw the value that I was bringing to the company.
What does “value” mean, here? Value, to me, is the fruit of your labor or the resulting benefit the company receives from the work I did. Since I wasn’t directly selling or directly manufacturing products, I have to look at how my activities positively impact that selling or producing.
I never realized how much my job satisfaction depended on my sense of the value I contribute. Now that I look back on my previous job and look ahead at my new job, I thought it was important to share how you can increase your job satisfaction by adding value at your company. If this is also an important component of your job satisfaction, read on.
First, let’s look at how not “adding value” can affect you.
Activity doesn’t make you a valuable employee
I left my last job for a few reasons:
- My career progression stalled and, after 5 years, there was no sign of a promotion.
- After a large re-org, I didn’t feel confident in our leadership’s ability.
- Internal processes were unclear and I didn’t feel I was adding any value toward our goals.
My company was trying to make a big shift and I looked forward to the challenges of setting our internal processes and goals. However, upper management took on the first wave of these changes and wasn’t progressing very quickly. As a result, many of us were no longer able to see the connection between our work and the goals we set out.
Thus, I was going crazy because I couldn’t see the impact – the value – in my activities. It made me feel like I wasn’t a valuable employee and that is an uncomfortable state for me.
It was too much too handle!
I struggled with “being a team player” versus my own sense of self-worth. Considering all the factors, it was time to actively job hunt.
Solving work problems creates value
I was fortunate to get a number of interviews – often I was in the top batch of candidates. What excited me was the challenge in front me – growing the company through digital marketing and working closely with the sales teams on demand generation.
One opportunity stood out.
A job opportunity came along where I was needed to, essentially, solve problems. There were issues in the type of marketing programs that were running and the type of leads generated. On the sales side, there were issues with knowing how to approach leads and generate sales.
Here’s why I loved it:
- It would be easy to see the impact of my work.
- I would have the ear of upper management.
- Effectively solving problems is the best way to move a head in an organization.
- I was impressed that the company was aware of their problems and willing to address them.
It isn’t easy to solve work problems
Maybe you see this next part coming…
In my new role, I have a steep learning curve. The frustrating part is wanting to see my contribution on day 1. It doesn’t matter that expectations are low for me right now – I’m new and aggressively learning their products, internal processes and systems. But that is busy work and doesn’t feel like I’m a valuable employee who is contributing.
There are barriers to creating value by solving problems in organizations:
- You can’t solve problems on your own – you need others and you need them to prioritize your items.
- The solution may not be obvious nor limited to one symptom. Then you wind up having to solve multiple problems.
- Your solution is just too big and isn’t something that your management is ready to sign up for.
- If you do have buy-in from your boss, there are challenges in finding the right partners and aligning with other similar initiatives.
It was looking back at my last 9 months on the job that made me realize I have to push through and find ways to add value to the company and, most importantly, consider myself a valuable employee.
How to add value at work
So let’s get to it! What can you do to feel like a valuable employee, contribute “value” to your company and wind up loving your job?
Improve communication and handoffs
Look for areas where information moves from one team to another and find out what improvements each side would like to see. For example,
Job requests from customer service to manufacturing…
Product specifications handed to marketing…
User feedback sent to operations…
Find out what each side needs, work with them on solutions, get buy-in from your management and work with those teams to implement. BONUS: record the before and after states so that you can measure the improvement!
Make a process easier for other employees
Most employees are needed to apply their knowledge to situations and react appropriately. Some people do it quite well yet others not so much. Find ways you can help those people do better. For example,
Give sales team new ideas for voice mails or emails they use…
Identify where training or mentoring can help someone develop their skills faster…
Move operational tasks from the marketing team to the operations team…
Coordinate an interlock meeting where two sides share projects and anticipate each other’s needs…
Empowering and enabling other departments goes a long way in making people more effective as well as happier in their role!
Improve adoption of the tools you use
Look at the different tools used around the company and find out if they are being fully utilized. If not, why not and can some changes be made to improve adoption? For example,
New sales tools that reps find complicated and no longer use…
Reporting systems or dashboards that never got enough attention for managers to remember to use…
An antiquated manufacturing process that is eliminated with tools available on the market…
Get to know that tool and detail out the list of challenges and shortcomings. More importantly, look at the benefits. Make the call to train users to adopt it and avoid the shortcomings, scrap the tool or find a replacement.
Delight a customer
Many companies focus on generating leads, converting opportunities, installing products, etc. Customer happiness is often a secondary consideration.
Identify clients who aren’t fully utilizing part of their purchase and reach out with help…
Run a report for your client success team that helps them address client issues proactively…
When you see issues a client has with a new product, create a new process to prevent that experience for other clients who bought the same product…
Customer success stories spread quickly and helping even just one client can have a large residual benefit to your company. Help where you see the need and make it contagious!
Roll out new ideas
New initiatives and solutions need support in getting them introduced around the company and used effectively. Look to fill in those gaps so good ideas don’t just sit on a shelf. For example,
Create a training to show the sales team how to use a new tool…
Share the work that another person/group is doing around the company and create excitement for it…
Format a presentation or create documentation or do the little things that will help an idea take hold…
Over time, new ideas get forgotten and lost. Get involved early and plan the full list of items needed and who should perform them. Convince one another of the importance and coordinate the execution.
Regular activities that will make you successful
At this point you probably see that there are lots of ways to add value. Hopefully, you can think of a few from the example above. If not, keep in mind these general activities you can do so that you will see ways to add value:
- Meet with stakeholders and understand what they do, where their frustrations are what the “art” of their role is.
- Study the details that your boss doesn’t have the capacity to learn and understand.
- Tap into the issues & problems that other individuals and teams are trying to resolve.
- Review your strengths and look at areas where you have domain expertise.
- Tell others that you want to hear about issues that they see.
- Present your findings to your management to review along with the research still needed or the solution that you propose.
These activities should be a regular part of your job – even if you aren’t specifically charged with them. You will quickly see ways to add value. When you start executing on them you will feel like a valuable employee and others will see you as one!
Why is adding value important?
Employees who wait to be told what to do and then and spend their day simply executing those tasks are missing out. They are missing the thrill and satisfaction that comes with trying something new and making a difference that they can be proud of. Adding value beyond simply doing your job builds confidence, makes your resume shine and opens up desirable opportunities.
Adding value is also important to your boss. Your boss isn’t just trying to execute his or her job. They are trying to crush their quota, improve their efficiency, and exceed expectations. Your boss will notice when you go beyond expectations. This is the process of getting a promotion – very few people get a promotion just by doing what they were told.
You don’t need to stay in your lane
My last point is to think like your boss or your boss’ boss or even your CEO. Don’t limit your perspective to what is in front of you. Approach other areas with curiosity for how you can do your job better, even how your whole team can. It isn’t easy to find the time to work in areas outside of your listed responsibilities but that’s where opportunities are waiting for you. Opportunities to have more fun, love your job, make a difference and… oh, yes… feel like a valuable employee.
Amy Wolfgang is a career coach who founded Wolfgang Career Coaching and co-founded Coaching 4 Good. She brings over 15 years of corporate and coaching experience to help organizations boost employee engagement while simultaneously helping her clients excel in their careers. She is a certified PCM (Professional Career Manager) and has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
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