When you invest money, you want that investment to grow, right? You certainly don't want it to LOSE money, nor do you want it to just sit there, never earning an extra dime. That's why it's an investment, right?
That's how bosses look at employees. Employees take time, money and energy. If you're not giving your boss a return on his or her investment, should you be kept around simply to warm a chair?
It's a question I explored in this week's column for Gannett:
The most successful employees know they have to start at the bottom. Not the bottom of the career ladder – but the bottom line.
“People may say that they get ahead because they are the only ones who know how to do a certain function, or because they know office politics and they get along with everyone. But the truth is, that’s not how a business functions. It’s what you can do for the bottom line that really matters,” says Larry Myler, a business strategist and consultant.
Myler says too many people who found themselves laid off in the last year didn’t make sure they were continually offering specific examples of how their contributions made the company money – or at least saved it money. The result, he said, is that it was easier for management to make the decision to slash a job they didn’t see as really critical to the company’s survival.
“No matter what your job is, what you do impacts the bottom line. You have to always keep your priorities on making sure what you do helps the company, and you have ways to prove it,” Myler says.
In his new book, “Indispensable by Monday,” (Wiley, $24.95), Myler offers several suggestions on how to show your worth:
· Before submitting a proposal, do your homework so that you can show that the time and expense needed to implement it would be worth it. Don’t focus on personal gripes, but instead prove through facts how it helps the organization, such as improving customer service or it lines up with the company’s overall strategy. Make sure you submit your proposal in a professional way using “profit proposal” software found free online.
· Look for costs to cut. Maybe you can’t figure out a way to generate extra money, but companies are always looking for ways to cut expenses. For example, with a little research you may discover alternative sources of power or a way to manage peak power times. Perhaps you learn that workers within the company are willing to do the landscaping as part of their job, saving the company the cost of mowing services.
· Catch mistakes. While you want to make sure you’re doing work that is as error-free as possible, you can become a critical employee if you’re able to stop ineffective or defective work by others. If you view even one mistake as critical to the company’s bottom line, management will begin to depend on you more and more.
· Hang on to customers. “Let’s say you are a receptionist and you learn from talking to a customer who calls that they’re unhappy with a product and want to return it. But in working with the customer, you find a way to only give them a partial refund, and they’re happy. You’ve just kept the customer from leaving, and saved the company money,” Myler says. “You’ve just saved a deal. That’s important.” Keeping customers – or getting unhappy customers to return to your company – is a big plus for your career, he says.
· Know what you cost. Many older workers were stunned when they were laid off , and Myler believes some of them may have become lax in making sure they were contributing to the bottom line. The higher you are in the organization, the more you cost, and the more “precarious” your position becomes because your salary and benefits take more from the bottom line, he says. That’s why it’s critical to make sure you’re finding ways to pay for your position by either generating more business or finding cost savings, Myler says.
· Document it. Make sure you get credit for your contributions by sending e-mails or making reports that show when you made the suggestion. This not only helps your current job, but can be key proof for future employers that you can deliver what you promise on your abilities.
What else can you do to make yourself more valuable on the job?