Adding Value: Balancing Characteristics

On a regular basis, I hear people talk about needing to have employees add value.  By adding value, I am referring to how an individual increases the efficiency and effectiveness as well as ultimately the profit of an organization through his or her personal contribution.  As we increase our team’s ability to add value, the higher the probability we meet our organizational goals, deliver excellence, and please those that we serve.  We are all expected to add value through our efforts in the workplace.  Although it would be nice if every employee only possessed characteristics that contributed to the positive value, most of us are a mix of characteristics.

An unhappy, disengaged, or overly needy employee, no matter how talented or capable does not add enough value through his or her contribution to offset the impact of the negative characteristics in the long run.  How many of us have worked with a coworker that was a real star at performing the tasks and duties of his or her job, but was unbearable to deal with on a personal level, could never work with a team, or undetermined efforts to share recognition?  How many times have we made the observation that someone would be great at specific job if only he or she did not have this or that characteristic?

Given this challenge, what can a high performing organization do?  In the most simple sense, an organization can attempt to hire the very best “value adders” or contributors with the least detractors for the least possible cost.  In order to do this, three requirements need to be met:

  • Know that you have
  • Know what you want
  • Ensure that we hire correctly

Know What You Have

Figure 1: Characteristics and Adding Value

A first step in addressing the mix of characteristics among your employees is to identify those that add or subtract value.   Each of us possesses characteristics that add positive, negative, and neutral value.  While positive characteristics increase productivity, negative diminishes overall value.  Neutral characteristics are those that neither increase nor decrease value in the workplace.  Figure 1 illustrates the linkage between the three characteristics.  There is some overlap that occurs between positive and the other two areas, but for the most part each is discrete.   Utilizing a simple definition of productivity as the standard and an inventory of characteristics, each employee can be measured.

Know What You Want

The culture, resources, structure, and type of work performed all dictate the characteristics most desirable to an organization.  We all want employees that are punctual, dedicated, engaged, and knowledgeable.  However, what about the more variable characteristics like creative, entrepreneurial, autonomous, or innovative? In most 21st century jobs, these are highly valued characteristics while in others they might be less important.  As leaders, we need to know that most important characteristics and how best they can be complied.

Ensure That We Hire Correctly

Most of us could create a list of the most desirable characteristics in our workplace and even make a list of who possesses those qualities.  However, my experience has been that most of us do not take the next step and hire based on those desired characteristics.  Most of us fall in the trap of “the person is close enough” or “he or she has this characteristic that is really needed.”  I recently worked with an organization that had done just that over the last five years.  They needed professionals with advanced skills in the sciences and as they found new employees they tended to overlook or even ignore more negative characteristics.  Although the IQ of the staff was well above its competitors, the organization was failing to meet most of its overall performance objectives due to interpersonal conflict and little teamwork.

Adding value is critical to individual, team, and organizational success.  Over the next several posts, a few more ideas will be added our discussion that will help increase overall value.

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