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12 ways to be an indispensable employee
Suman Chhabria-Addepalli
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August 08, 2007

One of the most difficult statements to digest but one that's very true (specially when it comes to work) is: "Nobody's indispensable!"

In today's competitive environment, where HR costs translate into one of the major expenses of a company, one must leave home with this thought somewhere at the top of mind, if not on our laptop's welcome note!

However, most companies find a way to hold onto their best or key players. So, without referring to situations as serious as downsizing, anyone drawing a salary need remember that his/her existence in an organisation is under scrutiny during every appraisal.

Right from the office peon who is made to multitask to the head honcho, everyone needs develop personal strategic plans to ensure that their bosses cannot afford to lose them. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

Become the chosen one
A winner is one who develops "fast-start" actions to make himself/ herself the favourite one in the eyes of the management right from day one. The good old analyising of one's strengths, weaknesses and how they can add value to the organisation sets the foundation of a long-term relationship.

"Can Do" what others won't
Employees who can get things done are highly prized in an organisation. "Can do" people rarely turn down a new assignment and always give their best despite possible initial rejections. They believe that new challenges improve their cross functional capabilities.

All employers want employees with good communication skills -- starting with 'willingness' and ability to listen. Business communication should be accurate and brief. No long winding sentences where short ones would work. Also, perhaps the most damaging error in communication skills is losing your cool or whining. However justified your complaints are, cool down and peacefully express yourself if you want to be heard at all.

It's not personal
This may seem a difficult proposition in a place where you spend most of your waking hours, but you just have to learn the art of being objective at work. In a growing organisation there are bound to be differences of opinion. The ability to stay focused on issues and remain impersonal helps you to stick to the work objective.

Says Vaishali Achrekar, marketing manager at one of the leading FMCG companies in Mumbai, "I always thought that my efficiency justified my anger at those who wouldn't deliver. It would naturally become personal when I lost my cool with my team. Finally, my appraisals revealed that my team was petrified of me. It was an eye-opener that without a team, my efficiency was of no use to anyone."

Be caring
Think of the favourite senior in your office and it is easy to point out that he/ she is someone who genuinely cares about people and so can get anyone to deliver.

Helping sincere colleagues from other departments too during bad days, and being empathic towards one's team is always recognised. Also, such people command leadership and fierce loyalty from their teams/ colleagues. Organisations would definitely not question such leadership.

Be proactive
Take responsibility for your career advancement. In a forever "right-sizing" workplace, don't expect anyone else to hold your hand and take you to heights you wish for yourself. In times of transition, individuals must be proactive and make themselves useful in related departments.

Puja Masand, wealth manager with ABN Amro Bank, started her career in banking as a junior level customer service officer. Her career graph has soared to unbelievable heights over seven years, with every team she worked with labeling her indispensable.

"Being in a service role I was good with people, and went that extra mile to solve any customer problem that reached my desk. Gradually, I won confidence of our top-notch clients and helped the bank achieve their sales targets for many new products," shares Puja. "I overshot sales targets for my team month after month, along with my other duties. It was a consistent performance, and I made sure targets didn't slip after a good month's performance. That's when my boss realised that I am capable of moving to a more pivotal role of wealth management."

Puja is now working on complete penetration of the banks existing customer base and customising products and services for high net worth individuals. She unfailingly manages to win a trip abroad every quarter as incentive on beating huge sales targets.

No chalta hai attitude
Employers don't like people who restrict their job profile. Take ownership of all your responsibilities by seeing your department as a profit centre (even if your productivity doesn't easily translate into numbers) and yourself as an integral driver of that profit.

Give your best to the company
Remember, it is positive attitude and experience that hold weight above skills, between two equally qualified employees.

Prashant Panday, deputy CEO, Radio Mirchi, selects three defined traits that make an employee valuable, in a high-growth competitive media environment. "Employees with a good (positive, helpful) attitude, energy (passion for their job) and an ability to successfully work in teams, definitely clinch the attention of top management," he says.

Health/ fitness
Health is key to reliability. Frequent absences or poor performance related to neglected health puts one on the short list when it is time to downsize.

Having said that, all companies generally have an acceptable dressing requirement. Most media companies don't enforce dress codes, but even the most fun-loving organisation will not take an employee dressed like a hippie seriously. The perception of whether or not you belong has more to do with appearance than you might think.

This is a rare commodity in times of frequent job jumping and three-month stints. Loyalty can be demonstrated through refusal to gossip, delivering high performance and sticking with a company through its highs and lows. You can also project loyalty by carrying out instructions as best you can, by disagreeing civilly and when you have been overruled, doing the job the way the boss wants you to.

Says Ankush Agarwal, founder and CEO of Mint International (a human resource consulting, resourcing and training organisation), "Today, while recruiting CEOs, middle and junior management levels, organisations are reference checking for high levels of integrity. They seek people with high energy who take pride in their work and have the capacity to make themselves feel like part of the bigger picture."

"Even during our corporate training sessions, we stress on qualities such as humility and work ethics, along with ownership for one's work, which goes a long way in forging a relationship between employer and employee."

Avoid bad blood
It is not easy for huge organisations to appreciate everyone all the time. This naturally leads to some dissatisfaction, which can be dealt with a talk with your immediate senior. However, if an employee chooses to proclaim and believe that he/ she is the only undervalued, overworked, underpaid professional, his/ her whining may boomerang to make the HR department feel that the office might be a happier place without them.


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