How Do You "Add Value"?
Understanding How You Contribute to the Bottom Line
You were hired to achieve results. These results must contribute to the bottom line. If they don't – directly or indirectly – then how can your company justify paying you?
Just because you've been with an organization for a long time, or you don't make mistakes, this doesn't necessarily mean that you're adding real value. To add value, you need to make a significant positive impact on your organization's success, and, for most companies, this success translates to profitability.
Some organizations, especially in the not-for-profit sector and in government, measure success in other ways. Success may include things like helping people or improving the environment. Here, to add value and prove your worth, you must focus on the way your organization measures achievement.
Why is Value Important?
Life at work can be unstable, so thinking about the value you add is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. Experience is important, as are loyalty, dedication, and a strong work ethic; but none of these alone is enough to ensure that you continue to be employed in the future: after all, you can work long and hard at counting paperclips – but unless counting paperclips somehow adds to your organization's bottom line, all of that effort is likely to go unnoticed.
So, keeping your job is a key reason why you should be concerned about adding value. Particularly now, organizations need to be lean and efficient, so make sure that what you're doing creates value. And if it doesn't, figure out what you can do to contribute more directly to your organization's success, and do this urgently!
When you assess your job in terms of adding value, you also gain a better appreciation of your real priorities, meaning that you spend as much time as possible on daily activities that contribute directly to the bottom line. With this valuable knowledge, you can set goals and prioritize with much greater efficiency.
Determining Your Value-Added Contributions
Adding value to your organization's bottom line is both simple and complex. Essentially, you can do two things to do this:
- Increase revenue.
- Decrease cost.
You have a responsibility to contribute to the bottom line, because this is what allows you to get paid. Developing an awareness and desire to help your organization run as efficiently as possible is key to your long-term success.
For salespeople, it's relatively simple to measure how their work translates to financial success – but for others, it's not so clear. So, even if your work is far removed from directly generating revenue or decreasing costs, you should have a profit-and-loss outlook.
Start by analyzing your job description. What is your job's overall purpose? State this purpose in a way that relates to an element of the bottom line.
A project manager's purpose might be to bring projects to successful completion on time and on budget. The relationship to the bottom line is obvious. However, a receptionist might struggle to find that relationship. On the surface, the receptionist's purpose might be to answer phones and to receive and direct inquiries – neither of these shows "why" the receptionist position is important to organizational success. But if you state the purpose as "To receive and direct inquires, enabling staff to respond to customers in a timely manner and improve overall service," then the connection to the bottom line is easier to see. If the receptionist doesn't perform well, efficiency and service will suffer.
Once you link your purpose to the bottom line, evaluate all of your activities to determine their value potential. Focus on the activities that have the most direct connection to profitability: these are the activities you need to support and promote. Think about how you can complete these activities and add more value, and make sure that the people around you – and the people you report to – understand how valuable your work is!
Examples of Value-Added Contributions
These examples help you think about how you can add value to your organization:
- Example 1 – A project manager in a financial services firm is responsible for delivering the infrastructure for new products. How does this add value? It gives salespeople new products to sell, which leads to revenue increases. Because of this, the project manager can add value by delivering projects quickly and accurately, so that new products can be launched and marketed as soon as possible.
- Example 2 – An accountant is responsible for delivering management reports to senior managers. But how does this add value? Senior managers can make informed strategic choices. How does this add value? Senior managers can then discover and focus on the right products and markets, leading to revenue increases. So, the accountant's focus should be on clear, accurate and timely reporting. Examining current systems for efficiency improvements would also be a great value-added goal for the accountant to pursue.
- Example 3 – A personal assistant is responsible for providing support services to an executive. So, how does this add value? It frees the executive from small or routine tasks, meaning that he or she can focus on adding even more value with the time freed up.
Example 4 – A warehouse manager is responsible for ensuring that all orders are shipped on time, and that goods are properly packaged. How does this add value? Customers are satisfied. And what value does this add? Customers place more repeat orders, meaning that revenue increases.
Also, consider this job's impact on cost control: if products are improperly packed and there's spoilage or breakage, replacements must be sent, thus increasing costs. If orders are filled inaccurately, goods are returned and costs increase as a result of restocking items, and then shipping the correct ones. And if orders are mismanaged, this will lead to customer dissatisfaction and a loss of revenue.
When the warehouse manager focuses on order accuracy, his or her value increases because waste – cost – reduces.
Determine your approximate hourly cost to your company. It's usually a lot higher than you imagine, particularly once you include payroll taxes, office space, and equipment costs! Knowing this actual figure can really help you focus on value-adding priorities. Our article on Costing Your Time shows you how to calculate this.
There are often many ways that you can add value within your organization.
Start by thinking about profit and loss, regardless of your position, and question the value you add on a regular basis. Don't assume that merely showing up for work and doing what's expected will be enough to secure your success: with cutbacks or restructuring, you need to show that your work is well worth your compensation.
By taking a financially responsible approach to your work, you'll feel much more confident about your position and purpose.