Every employee I speak to wants to know what they are worth. What they should be asking is how do I make myself worth more? Yes, employers want to ensure they are paying a fair market rate for the job being undertaken, but ultimately your worth to a company comes down to your individual contribution to profit.
Or, how good is your hand?
Employee salaries are a bit like poker. In the song “The Gambler”, the lyrics go:
“You have to know when to hold em’, Know when to fold em’, Know when to walk away, Know when to run.”
Look at Texas Hold Em, for example. Each player has cards in their hands that only they can see, and there are five cards in the middle that every player can use to make the strongest hand possible. The game should be about who has the best cards, but it instead becomes about who represents the best hand. Bluffing and playing strong when you are weak is a common practice. You sometimes need to make others at the table think you have a pair of aces, when maybe you may only have a pair of two’s.
When you want to work out your salary, or your individual contribution to profit (your worth), you need to work out what you are holding.
Ranking your cards or contribution to the bottom line could be as follows:
You are in a profit centre management-based role. Your job is about making investment decisions and shaping revenue streams. Without you, the business is not having any revenue growth. The strongest hand.
Your position involves creating sales and securing revenue. A strong position as all businesses need sales to survive.
Not bad but not as strong as others. You are most likely in an important position, managing real risks and ensuring products or projects are delivered in line with cost, quality and time requirements. Most likely managing a team of people and external providers.
Not a great position, even a pair of Aces can be knocked off pretty easily. You are most likely in a supporting function, not creating any improvements, just doing as you are told. Important but you need to do more than what is expected to have a stronger hand.
To be of greater value to any business you work with, you should take the opportunity to understand how the business generates its revenue, and assist with this endeavour where ever possible. Trying to create efficiency around the cost of doing business should never be forgotten, but without revenue you are just burning cash. Once you understand how you can contribute to grow revenue, your value as an employee goes up commensurably. You are no longer seen as an overhead but rather a valuable contributor to the bottom line.
Take the time to figure out your hand and how to make it of greater value. If you try and bluff to have a win, without taking the time to understand where you sit at the table (and getting paid a big salary without making the contribution required), you are playing a dangerous game.