Worried About Losing Your Job?
8 Simple Steps To Keep Your Paycheck Coming
You hear about lay-offs in the news every day.
Survival of the fittest? No. Survival of the smartest.
If I scanned a local newspaper or watched the news in any town across the globe on any given day, I'd hear about lay-offs. Some companies are large, and make front page news. Others are small, and earn a mere mention in the back pages of a local paper. Either way, the implication for employees is huge. Very few people can afford to lose their job without feeling significant financial concern and burden. The responsibility of a house, car, insurance, healthcare, and family expenses is overwhelming for most people even while they're working.
You may hear from so-called experts that it's a crapshoot as to who stays and who goes during a lay-off. Sometimes factors outside of your control impact your job status, but the choice as to who stays and who goes is never completely random. Leaders in every organization use a distinct set of criteria to determine the value of each employee when making these very hard decisions. Understanding what makes you valuable to your organization is the key to staying employed and protecting your paycheck.
What steps can you take today - to be the employee who stays when others go?
I'm sure you want to believe that you're valuable to your employer. Are you? How do you know? How do you increase your value over time? When it comes to determining employee value in the workplace, there are certain universal truths that apply almost without fail across companies.
Some of the factors that make you valuable to your employer are obvious, but several are more subtle. If you understand these value factors, you can start taking steps today to make yourself more valuable. The more valuable you are, the more likely you are to keep your job.
8 Simple Steps To Keep Your Paycheck Coming
1. Strive for the top 20%.
The old adage that you need to "work hard to get ahead" only tells half the story. The fact is that hard work isn't the point. Good work is the point, which sometimes requires hard work. I've met so many people who believe if they just work hard they'll be valuable to their employer. It simply isn't true. You earn value by doing good work. To protect your paycheck, you have to go even one step further. Don't do good work. Do great work. If you fall in the bottom 20% of performers, you are at high risk of losing your job. If you fall in the middle 60%, you feel safe but you aren't. You're still at risk. Only if you're in the top 20% of performers in your company, the "A" players, are you safe if a lay-off occurs. You're highly valuable if you're in that top tier of performers and your employer will want to keep you. Strive for the top 20%, and you're much more likely to keep your job. Out-perform the majority.
2. Make yourself indispensable to your boss.
Whether you like it or not, your boss has considerable influence over whether you keep your job. One of the ways to be sure your boss doesn't write your name on a list for termination is to be absolutely indispensable to him or her. To do this, identify something that is really important to your boss, and do it exceptionally well. Take on responsibilities your boss hates, and own them fully. Learn a skill that's lacking on your team and use it frequently, to the benefit of your boss. Note: You don't have to like your boss to do any of these things. Even if your boss doesn't particularly like you, you'll still make yourself much more valuable.
3. Play well with others.
If you don't get along well with others, you put a target on your back. (This is not always true for executives, but that's a different topic for a different day.) Your ability to collaborate well with others is always a consideration during lay-off discussions. Unless you have one-of-a-kind product knowledge, or outside relationships that are key to the success of the business, you need to play well with others. This doesn't mean you avoid all conflict and show love to your colleagues. Simply be respectful of your peers, communicate productively, and work well with others when your projects require it. Don't be a troublemaker, don't complain unnecessarily, and manage your relationships responsibly, like an adult.
4. Make or save money.
If you make money for your employer, you're valuable. You drive the company's revenue. Your value is hard to challenge during lay-off discussions. Even poor behavior in several other areas is forgiven if you make money for the company. If you find ways to save the company money, you're also valuable. If you're in a position to make money, by all means do it and do it well. If you aren't, be creative in finding ways to save money however you can. Examples include less travel, less expensive supplies, or deferred purchases when the company has a specific time period it's trying to lower expenses. Whether you make or save money, you only earn value from it if your efforts and results are known. Document what you do, including the contribution your efforts make to the company's bottom line. Show focus, responsibility, and results financially, and you're very likely to be safe when others aren't.
5. Step up and show initiative.
One of the "swing" votes when your company considers your overall value is whether or not you show initiative. Leaders want and expect employees to go above and beyond their assigned responsibilities, to take on new projects or volunteer for company initiatives. You may think you're too busy to do any more than you already have on your plate. Think again. If two people perform their responsibilities well, and one shows initiative and the other doesn't, guess who will keep their job if it comes down to a choice? Don't go crazy here and sign up for a ton of extra responsibilities. Pick something that matters to you and get involved. Redesign a process, help evaluate a new software solution, or participate in a task force. It's important and it matters.
6. Be committed, but not crazy committed.
It's important that you show commitment to your job and to the company. Your manager wants to know that you want to be there, that you plan on staying, and that you're respectful of the company. Show that level of commitment in your words and actions, but don't be so committed that you try to do more than is humanly possible to demonstrate commitment. (I'll admit, I am horrible at this.) If you notice that you're consistently the first one in, the last to leave, and the only one powering through a weekend of work, you're crazy committed. Don't get me started on not using your vacation time. Align your "effort" with the norm of your team, or do whatever amount more that's needed to put you in the top 20% of performers. Just don't go crazy. While it seems illogical, crazy commitment doesn't increase your value to your employer. Over time, you become burnt out, your work relationships suffer, and your commitment is forced vs. authentic. Great intentions, gone awry. Your overall value decreases. Go for committed, not crazy.
7. Be attractive to others.
Companies are run by people. They aren't exempt from natural human tendencies. If you're relevant in your industry, your skills are in high demand, and you're a competent professional... you're attractive to more than just your own employer. No company wants their talent to go work for a competitor. So while you show your commitment to your current company, be known in your industry. Attend industry events, join online forums, and form relationships with customers and vendors in your industry. Be known and be relevant to whatever extent you can. Learn new skills and adopt new technologies. Be someone who appeals to other employers. It makes you all the more valuable to your own employer. It's like dating in high school... only the stakes are higher.
8. Stay healthy, mind and body.
The life blood of any organization is its workforce. It's important to any company's success that people show up and give 100% every day. Reliability is important and increases your value to your employer. Stay healthy physically so you can be present and avoid calling in sick more than is expected. Stay healthy mentally so you can give your best when you're working. If you're overly stressed by your responsibilities or mismanaging your relationships with colleagues, you can't do your best work. If you're distracted by various drama in your life or you have unreliable childcare that leaves you scattered and asking for favors, you can't do your best work. You get the point. Be fresh, focused, vibrant, and present for work - consistently. If your employer can count on you with certainty, your value goes up.Bottom Line
A respected colleague once told me "Don't fall in love with your company. They can't love you back." Gone are the days when your company would take care of you for 50 years and buy you a gold watch for your valuable years of service. We don't live in those times, nor do any of us likely want to.
Most of us, however, do want to have confidence that our job is safe until we choose to leave it. We want to protect our paychecks and provide for our families. To keep our jobs, we have to be viewed as valuable to our employers.
Take the time to think about how you'd rank in value at your company. Then start taking steps to increase your value. Strive to be better than good enough. Be indispensable to your boss. Play well with others and establish strong relationships with colleagues. Find ways to make or save money. Show initiative to leave it better than you found it. Be committed to your company, all the while staying relevant and connected to the broader industry. And protect your health at all costs, so you can be fully present and maximizing your value every single day.
Distinguish yourself at work, and you're more likely to keep your paycheck coming. The good news is that you'll also reap rewards far more than just the paycheck.