2 Ways to Tell If You’re An Essential Employee

I’ve had many conversations in my career with employees who “essentially” felt they were probably more important to the business than they really were.  You know who I’m talking about!   The ones who at some point let it slip: “This place would shut down if I wasn’t here” or “Let’s see how you do if I leave” or “I made this company what it is today”.  It’s usually a sales person, or technical person who have had big roles, no doubt, but they begin to get a little to big for their own britches (as my grandmother would say).  Over time I’ve developed a good two point test to determine if someone is Essential or Non-essential to your business:

1.  In a snow storm, is this person required to make it into the office/facility no matter what? (think large storm – more than one day)

Example: I worked in a large Health System – Doctors & Nurses had to get in – we actually had plans on how to get them to work in an emergency.  I on the other hand, being in HR – didn’t have anyone coming to pick me up in a 4 wheel drive SUV.

2.  Does the person in question spend way too much of their time trying to convince you of how important they are to your operation?

Examples:  “Without me are largest client wouldn’t be here.” ; “Our department (a non-revenue generating department) saved the organization over $500K last year.” – on a budget of $3.7M…

You know what is really interesting about looking at the life of an organization – when they start out, in their infancy, there is only Essential employees.  We make widgets, all you need is someone to get widget material, someone to make widgets and someone to sell widgets and someone to collect the cash and pay the bills.  Pretty basic.  No HR, No Marketing or Finance, No customer service – it’s a very straight line organization.   Most companies don’t even add an HR element to their organizations until they get over 100 employees – usually an office manager/payroll/accounting person or the owner takes on this responsibility.

I always like to remind myself of who is “really” essential in my organization.  It’s important.  It’s important that as a “client” to those people, I make sure I focus what I’m doing on things that will help them do what they are doing.  That only happens when I actually talk to them, face-to-face, and ask them – “What can I do, to help you do what you do?”  Doesn’t seem overly complicated – but somehow we try and make it harder than that.  You see, that’s what non-essentials do – we convince you that what we do is really important!

I like to look at organizations the same way you pick a team on the playground.  If you had the most essential person in your company begin picking a team – where would you get picked?  First, 10th, last?   It’s a good exercise to go through.  What you’ll see is your most essential person will pick individuals who will/can help them get the job done – without hassle, without issues, without extra work.

Are you Essential to your organization?

2 thoughts on “2 Ways to Tell If You’re An Essential Employee

  1. Great post! I always wondered if essential or non-essential was designated on their employment contract, offer letter or cube. Welcome to the company Ms. Non-essential employee.

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