I make no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of Tom Peters. Tom Peters is one of the worlds leading management thinkers.  He is what many people describe as a ‘guru’.  He Introduced me to the term Work Worth Paying For.

I first came across Tom’s work when I was at University. Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution and In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies were on my reading list.

In 2003 I attended a conference where Tom was the speaker. I have never seen as many people totally absorbed into what Tom spoke about.  Tom presented slide after brightly coloured slide with random facts, words and quotes – everything a PowerPoint presentation shouldn’t be. But it worked.

It worked because it was vibrant, energetic and passionate. Ever since then I was sold on his ideas. At that conference I quickly realised that you don’t have to work for yourself or be the boss to be able to implement great ideas.

Being a guru, Tom doesn’t live in the real world. That’s no offence to him. But he doesn’t sit in a cubicle and he doesn’t work at a computer all day keying in information and hoping that if you stare at it long enough it will make sense.

But that doesn’t mean his stuff is less valuable

That’s a big problem really, because most people when hearing his ideas laugh and say. “yeah, well that’s all very well, but it would never work here”.

And that’s a shame.

When I attended that conference all those years ago there must have been 600 people in attendance. At approximately $1000 a ticket, you can do the maths…..

600 people from different organisations all over the UK. Some Government departments, some from private companies. That’s 600 senior people taking notes, discussing the exciting cool things that Tom had to talk about then, went back to work the next day full of excitement.

Then did precisely nothing at all with the knew knowledge they had learned the day before.

Why didn’t they do anything?

For some people they will have got back into the office and got caught up with the stuff that had piled up in their absence.  For others they will have looked back on a nice day out and the interesting people that they met. For others they didn’t know where to start. So they all did nothing.

We all know that change isn’t easy. Jill Chivers wrote on this very blog an article on 5 Secrets to Changing Any habit.

The key to success in implementing a hot new idea is with a hook or a path to follow.  My hook from that conference all those years ago was Work Worth Paying For.

What is Work Worth Paying For?

In it’s broadest sense, Work Worth Paying For is work that people would pay you to perform. If you have your own business, you’ll know exactly what this means. It means that the customer doesn’t pay you for your nice offices the fancy management away days, the internal reports, or those lovely company cars. There’s another term for that and that’s called overhead.

But that’s not to say you can or you should totally eliminate overhead. You can’t cut back on health and safety and you should invest in training to ensure that you’re the best at what you do. But everything else? That’s fair game!

So, just imagine that it costs your employer $100k a year to employee you. That’s your pay, employment taxes, training and the costs of heat, light and power and your computer and workstation. Basically what it costs your employer for you  sit at your desk and update your Facebook status or surf the web for 8 hours a day. That’s $2k a week or $50 an hour.

Now if you think about the work you do, think about how long it takes to produce.  That 2 day report – that just cost $800. That 10 person meeting for 2 hours and resolved nothing? $1000.

How to tell what work is worth paying for

Not sure if your boss values a particular peice of work?

Ask them!

A word of warning though: If the work you do is not valued very highly then the chances of you getting paid a lot are very small.  What’s more, if the work you do isn’t valued, then sadly, in these lean times, you won’t have a job for very long.

Try to focus your efforts on the work that is valued the most highly by the recipients of your work.

When new work comes your way, think about how long it will take you to do it.  Then give them an estimate  as to how long it will take, e.g.  “it’ll take me about a day, is that ok?” Quite often you’ll be surprised that people will stop think about their request and say “actually, I don’t really need it that badly”.

You don’t necessarily want to quote a $ cost to people, at least not initially, as they’ll think you’ve gone mad.

4 Point Checklist to Get Started

So here’s a 4 point checklist to get started:

  1. Work out how much it costs to employ you by the hour (as a quick rule of thumb, double your salary, then divide by 52 weeks less your holidays, and then divide the whole lot by 40, or whatever number of hours you work to get your hourly cost per hour)
  2. Look at your diary or schedule and the work you have to do and then ask yourself if you’d pay for that time to produce that work
  3. Talk to your boss about it and see what they say.
  4. Think of everyone you pass information to as your customers and how you can help them more

Over time, with the help of your customers, you should be able to spend more time on Work Worth Paying For and less time on overhead.

Constantly asking your customers for feedback and what they value will help you produce more Work Worth Paying For and consequently increase your value to the organisation.

Plus, if you know you’re doing worthwhile work, then you’ll be much more motivated to do a great job.

So, what do you think? Is your Work Worth Paying For?

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