One of the great historical sports debates is the definition of a league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Does the MVP have to be on a team with a winning record? Or can he simply be the best player statistically regardless of his team’s winning percentage? In the business world of old, companies would choose an Employee of the Month, hang their picture on the wall, and give them a prime parking spot for a few weeks. This practice is no longer commonplace but each employer will find their Most Valuable Employee (MVE) and recognize them above their co-workers. To become an MVE you must identify the traits your company values and contribute meaningfully in those areas.
Value what your company values. Most people have a predetermined definition of what makes a good employee. However, it’s shortsighted to set goals based on your definition of an MVE. Meeting your employer’s expectations of the ideal worker is what makes you standout. Though you may prefer spending an extra 2 hours adding transitions and music to a slide show deck, your leadership may value that time being spent compiling detailed statistics you can use during your presentation. Take time to study the goals put forth by your company or specific department. Many people gloss over ‘annual goal’ emails from leadership but they contain valuable information on ways to increase merit raises and bonuses. If the opportunity arises, ask leaders what traits they value and consider chatting up the office gossip who may know management’s performance goals which are often tied to their bonuses. Some companies stress quality over cost so extra time is well spent polishing project work. Others are more bottom line focused and would prefer that time be spent starting up the next project. Look for creative ways to streamline processes and save your department money. Become a vocal and active participant in achieving company goals to prove your value as a worker.
Go above-and-beyond your job description. Everyone in an organization has well-defined responsibilities. Job number one is to fulfill those tasks efficiently with quality. While employers appreciate people who meet those expectations, they usually reward those who go above-and-beyond to make the company better. Most organizations are short-staffed and don’t have the budget to streamline existing processes and tools. Talk to leaders about where deficiencies lie and put in the extra effort to remove them. Consider which processes are critical to your department’s work-flow. Write down the process steps, redesign it removing inefficiencies, and present it back to leadership. This is but one example of going outside the scope of your work to be recognized. Management rewards innovators and change agents so become an employee that not only fulfills his duties but positively influences the company’s direction.
Ensure the right people know your name. Organization leaders aren’t afforded the time to search for people who are differentiating themselves from the pack. To be recognized as an MVE your name must bubble up to leadership but it doesn’t happen organically. Be a tireless worker, let the results speak for themselves and you’ll be recognized accordingly. This is one of those expressions that sound nice but are wholly inaccurate. If your intelligence and effort led to a successful outcome make sure people know you played a part in it. When interacting with your manager or leadership, let them know what you’re doing and how well it’s going. It’s not self-aggrandizing to mention the project you just finished up and that you were pleased about it coming in under budget and with positive client feedback. Also, ask questions that show your bosses you welcome new challenges. “I’m interested in more of a leadership role with the company. What characteristics and experiences should I develop to get me there?” Questions like this make it clear you aren’t demanding a new position but that you are interested in advancement and are willing to work towards it. Becoming an active member of after-work organizations or work-sponsored volunteer groups will also give you the opportunity to network with leaders. Actions like these will put you top-of-mind when management meets about promotions, merit increases and bonus payouts.
In our age of pay-for-performance compensation structures, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Just doing what’s expected of you no longer cuts it for those seeking advancement and new challenges. The extra time and effort spent in a rewarding career can be beneficial but make sure you do it in a smart, thoughtful manner to achieve Most Valuable Employee status.