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Most of us have heard the phrase “value added work” mumbled at least once throughout our career. While it may seem like a buzzword, in most modern organizations, it’s often the difference between staying competitive and merely getting by. So what exactly is value added work and how do you know if you’re giving the right effort for the right return? Here are a few quick thoughts on the critical importance of value added work and how it can help keep your organization efficient, effective and ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.

The Complexity and Level of Work Being Done

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What does value added work really mean? It sounds simple enough: value added work must be about getting the most out of your effort. While that’s partly right, there’s more to it. It comes back to thinking about the complexity of work in organizations. As work gets more complex, it needs to be done at higher levels within the organization. For instance, the work of a director is more complex work than the work of a front line worker. It’s essential to realize that it’s not about which work is more important, but rather, that the right complexity of work be done by the right position at the right level in the organization.

Why Is It Important?

It is imperative that organizations have a workforce engaged in their value added work for one simple reason: effectiveness. It’s through value added work that organizations can ensure the right use of time and the most effective use of capital. For example, if your director is busy doing the kind of work that could be done by a front line worker, you’re paying more for work that could easily be completed by someone with a lower salary. From an organizational standpoint, that’s inefficient. The same is true in reverse in that if you try to assign the work of a director to a front line worker, that person is not likely to have the capability to do that work and therefore, will not be successful doing it. That’s ineffective.

Ensuring Value Added Work in Your Organization

Unfortunately, in many organizations individuals get tied up in day-to-day operations or become so comfortable doing work that is straightforward, that they lose focus on value added work and instead invest time and energy doing tasks that could be delegated lower in the organization. Ensuring value added work requires managers to first recognize where the value added work is, and then ask themselves, “Am I devoting sufficient time to doing this work?”

At its most basic level, value added work is shorthand for work that only “I in my position” can do. Remember, there’s always some work of sufficient complexity that only you can do. Sure, it’s possible to break chunks off and delegate, but some aspects need to be completed by you to add the right kind of value. Let’s face it, value added work is exactly the type of work that will stretch you the most as an individual and for that reason it’s also the easiest to put off for another day.

Work is adding value when work of appropriate complexity is delegated to the appropriate level in the organization, and when the objectives for that work are contributing to the attainment of the organization’s strategic plan. Learning to recognize where the work needs to be done and ensuring it is done there – that’s the true value.