Chapter 4: Think Quantification
I know what you’re thinking: “What have I done that’s going to amaze and impress my employer? I did not invent the iPhone, I’m not an expert in exchange-traded funds, I have not cured cancer and I can’t prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster. So what makes me indispensable?”
Let me explain with a real-life story. When you finish reading this story, you won’t need to ask that question ever again.
It was one of the most profound experiences of my job search counseling days, the day I met Dave.
Dave was a payroll clerk looking for a payroll clerk job. To be candid, his resume was boring. I mean watching-paint-dry boring. Payroll clerk here, payroll clerk there—that was it. Dave and I huddled for 45 minutes while I coaxed and cajoled him to come up with at least ONE accomplishment that he was proud of. He could not think of anything he felt was worthy of mention but I was relentless, almost to the point of badgering.
Finally in exasperation, Dave dropped the bomb that the first payroll he had done for “Gigantic Global Energy Company” had involved 6,000 paychecks and that he had completed it alone, on time, with zero (ZERO!) returns.
Think about that. Six thousand checks embodying that many employees’ pay schedules, hours, overtime, vacations, sick days, withholding, etc. without a single mistake. And he did it on his first payroll at a brand new job. That is spectacular.
When I asked Dave why he had taken so long to come up with this astonishing accomplishment, he quietly and simply said, “Because I was just doing what I was supposed to do.”
And therein lies the lesson. Most of the time, your accomplishments are not earth shattering feats. Most of the time it is the stuff you do—and do well—as a normal, maybe even routine, part of your daily work life.
Many people, especially those who are not in sales, have trouble figuring out how they can quantify their value.
Think about the organization you work for. How many people do you think are actively involved daily in generating revenue? Except for sales-centered businesses like real estate and car sales, a majority of companies are comprised mostly of folks who support the sales function: front-end admin, manufacturing, service providers, inventory, shipping, billing, payroll, etc. So you are a long way from alone in the business world if you do not directly generate revenue.
The fact that nothing happens until somebody sells something is accurate but once something is sold, it takes a lot of people working together to make the delivery.
What this means is that most people don’t sell but their services can still be quantified in dollars and percentages. How would an employer know what to pay you if your value could not be quantified?
Quantifying Your Value
Let me explain. You were hired because someone believed you would produce more value for the organization than you would cost it. There are only two ways that can be done: make them money or save them money and it is in the second regard that you do not have to be a revenue generator in order to be valuable to your company.
Your pay includes not just your hourly wage plus taxes, social security and benefits (add about 30 percent for this—called burden—to your rate) but also your part of the costs of equipment, hardware, software, phone systems, support staff, legal, inventory, facilities, utilities, advertising and marketing, printing, insurance, licenses, business taxes and more.
Every CEO and chief financial officer know exactly their cost per man-hour—that is, the average total cost to provide all the elements necessary for a company to perform their operations per employee, from the CEO to the shipping floor including the expenses listed above that have to be paid just to open the doors each day. If the business is not bringing in, at minimum, that much revenue plus a cushion called profit, they cannot continue to operate.
You remain valuable to a company, and therefore employed, when your accomplishments continue to surpass your portion of the company’s costs in you.
Said another way, as long as the revenue determined to be generated by you exceeds the costs associated with employing you, you will remain on the job. Another point for your consideration is that the more you are paid the more value proportionately you are expected to deliver which, of course, makes sense.
A company can gamble on paying an entry-level employee $30,000 per year in the hopes that that person will quickly come up to speed and begin generating a respectable $45,000 or more in value. Such an employee would just pay for him- or herself with the employer taking the risk that with additional training and experience this staff member will increase their value to the company.
The same cannot be said of an employee earning $150,000 to $250,000 or more a year. Depending on the industry, this person must generate at least six to 10 times (ideally, more) their pay rate in order to be kept on staff. So if you have been with your company for a longer period of time, your ability to present factual accomplishments about your professional value off the top of your head or in a formal statement is that much more crucial than younger employees simply because you earn more. And in today’s world of big data, your performance is more easily monitored for the value you deliver.
You should be familiar with the term Revenue per Employee or RPE. In 2013, for example, Apple’s RPE for full-timers was $2,130,000! Business owners/corporations know these numbers. You should too. Long term employees especially should know and understand their industry values.
A word of advice for my younger readers: Don’t be complacent due to your youth. The one irreversible truth in life is that you will be old much longer than you will be young and you will get there much faster than you think. So pay close attention now and begin the habit of tracking your accomplishments and cultivating the ability to assert your value.
SOFT SKILLS ARE HARD TO COME BY
Notice in the section above that I used the term “value” and not “production.” An employee can have an intangible value that you can’t put your finger on but will be recognized by an employer.
What I’m talking about are soft skills, and not everyone has them. Just because you can’t quantify your contributions to the organization in dollars and cents as easily as a sales person, you can describe other value you bring to the job. Perhaps it is your ability to work with people, the way you can schmooze (but not sell) potential customers in the lobby or your amazing ability to put people at ease in, say, a doctor’s office.
It might be savings realized as a result of your knack for doing things more efficiently or your extensive knowledge and common-sense ability to blend new and old company systems that make you more valuable. Or maybe you go beyond your competency as a store manager and knock the ball out of the park as a customer favorite—the person people seek out when needing how-to advice.
These are intrinsic values that not everyone is capable of and with them, you significantly contribute to the overall mission and goals of a company.
So if you are one of those people who work their fingers to the bone on the non-revenue-generating side of the house, figure out what you do best to contribute and be able and prepared to say how your personal skills outside the job description make you invaluable to the company.
A WORD FOR REVENUE GENERATORS
In my career as a job search expert, I rarely worked with sales people because they already speak the language of achievement using terms such as goal, quota and plan on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Get my drift? That’s a lot of accomplishments tallied, presented to supervisors and required to keep the job.
Nevertheless, it will pay off for you to begin tracking your accomplishments year over year in detail because at some point in time you are likely to move into management, and I promise you will not be able to remember all that you are achieving right now. The information you deem important enough to collect at this point in your career will be invaluable to you later in your quest to move up the corporate ladder.
Now that you know some of the ways you are valuable to your employer, it’s time to prove it.
Next week’s installment: Chapter 5, “Sourcing Your Accomplishments” from PROMOTE!