Making Yourself a More Valuable Employee
Recently our training manager at Veterans United Home Loans presented management curriculum on Maximizing Value. The focus was on creating added value through customary avenues like time allocation, resource management, efficiency, and process improvement. We also highlighted a critical, yet often neglected area associated with Maximizing Worth. Namely, modeling behaviors that keep your role and team’s contribution an unmistakable ingredient of your organization’s success.
So, how do you become the employee or team that your organization fights to keep? Here are ten behaviors to make yourself more valuable at work.
1. Treat your manager and co-workers as you do your customers.
You know what good customer service is about from your own experience. It’s about being cheerful, flexible, prompt, and reliable. Work at delivering good customer service every day to your manager and co-workers. Give them reasons to want to work with you and not with someone else.
2. Maintain a positive attitude.
Everyone has good and bad days, but the people we appreciate for their consistency and enthusiasm don’t let their bad days ruin ours. They choose their attitude. And they choose to make it positive. You can, too. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:
- Make a list of the good things in your life or keep a file of accomplishments you’re proud of. Look at it when you start to feel down. Take yourself back to that time of the accomplishment; think about how energized you became, and why. This can help you get back to that positive state of mind. The momentum gained from this exercise should generate further momentum.
- Remind yourself that problems at work aren’t all about you. Look at them as opportunities to fix something, not as criticisms of you. Don’t take it personal.
- Spend time with people who have positive attitudes, both to get an emotional lift from them and to observe how they deal with challenges.
- Make an effort to be pleasant and easy to work with, even when you’re not feeling that way inside.
- Avoid the “blame game.” Instead of finding someone to blame when there’s a problem, focus on ways to fix it.
- Be honest with yourself about what’s causing a negative attitude. Watch for symptoms of stress and think about what is causing it. Get help when you need it.
3. Focus on productivity.
Work at becoming as good as you can be at the most important functions of your job. Produce results that are highly valued. Look for opportunities to do work more efficiently, to improve quality and customer satisfaction, and to save the organization money. Make a point of offering new ideas that could enhance the business. Strive to get more work done by being efficient, overcoming procrastination, and reducing interruptions. Try to understand the work style of your co-workers and of other groups you work with.
4. Be an agent of change, not an obstacle to it.
Employees who embrace positive change and help make changes happen are appreciated and valued by their managers. They also have a head start in learning new work processes and finding out how their skills and talents fit into the changed organization. Be an employee who suggests changes to improve efficiency or quality and who helps to figure out how to make those changes happen. Notice problems at work, but instead of complaining take steps to find a solution. Help co-workers accept changes, too, by drawing their attention to opportunities that change can bring.
5. Build connections.
Make friends at work and with people doing similar work at other organizations. Have fun and help others have fun at work. Make yourself the kind of person others want to work with. Help out when your help is needed, teach valuable skills, and share work-critical information. Let people know about interesting articles or studies that you find. Network to make connections with people who can give you new and different work and teach you valued skills. Volunteer for committees or special events as a way to work with new people. Attend industry functions and trade association meetings when it’s appropriate. Meet experts in your field and ask them for feedback on your work or ideas about problems your organization is facing. Know your employer’s policies about online networking so that, if your organization permits, you can benefit from both “offline” or face-to-face networking and from joining networking sites on the Internet.
6. Communicate clearly and directly.
Being a clear, direct, and thoughtful communicator can help you stand out as a valued employee. Share information that others need to know, and share it efficiently. Use e-mail when discussion isn’t needed. Call or talk in person if an issue truly needs to be discussed. Be prepared when you go to meetings so that you don’t waste people’s time. Get right to the point; eliminate unnecessary details. Always thank people for their time and their help.
7. Keep learning.
If you’re doing the same work in the same way you did it two years ago, chances are you’re being left behind. Take the time (your own time if that’s what’s needed) to learn new skills and to stay current with any areas of special expertise. Keep any licenses or certifications up-to-date even if you’ve moved into a managerial or other job that doesn’t require them. Stay informed about the business you’re in. Consider taking classes or professional development seminars. Commit to reading at least one book or professional journal in your field each quarter. As you gain new skills and knowledge, let your leader know. Find ways to use what you’re learning in your work.
8. Seek and welcome honest feedback.
Understand how your manager and others in your organization see your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you improve your knowledge and skills in the way that would help your employer most. Ask your manager, “What is the most important thing I could do to make myself more valuable to our organization?” Or, “What college classes would help most in my current job?” If you feel uncomfortable talking with your manager, consider requesting a confidential meeting with your human resources (HR) department and asking for clarification. Keep in mind that employers often place a very high value on aspects of performance, such as attendance and punctuality, that employees may see as less important.
9. Make your value visible to others.
“Market” yourself to make sure that your value is noticed. Make sure your manager knows what you do, and especially what you do well. Your performance review is an appropriate forum for listing your accomplishments and explaining the challenges you’ve overcome. Regular one-on-one meetings with your manager are another. Make your value more visible by volunteering for high-profile projects, where your contribution will be noticed as part of an important effort. Offer to be a coach or mentor to new employees. Ask to represent your team or department on cross-functional teams. As you learn new skills, teach your co-workers. They’ll appreciate the help in solving the work problems they face, and it will give you a reputation both as a source of expertise and as a valued team member.
10. Be flexible.
In an up-and-down economy, employers may place a higher value on employees who have the skills and mental flexibility to do more than one job. Be ready and willing to take on some or all of the tasks of a co-worker who is absent or on leave or who has been laid off or furloughed. If your current skills or knowledge wouldn’t allow you to do this, make it a top priority to gain a few new ones.
We know that in today’s workplace, hard work and effort are no longer enough to assure success or even to guarantee continued employment. Advances in technology, innovations from competitors, and changing customer needs have pushed organizations to be adept at changing focus and direction. This almost always means changing requirements for employees. Accomplishment at work is no longer just about working harder. It’s about working differently, and ensuring your continued value. Modeling these ten behaviors is a great way to build your workplace security and team’s success.
If you’re interested in reading more on this subject check out a book called, “Getting the Job You Want” by David Roper.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.