Would You Rather Be a 'Valued' or 'Valuable' Employee?

04/08/2015 11:24 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

Far from a semantic distinction companies need to consider carefully how they put into action the old management staple; "our employees are our most valuable asset."

When something is considered to be valuable it is often seen as needing to be protected, kept safe and hidden away (like precious coins in a safety deposit box). When something is valued it is often showcased and put on prominent display -- like a piece of fine art (or even your child's grade school project).

Does your organization recognize its employees by keeping them hidden away, acknowledging their importance and contributions in a manner that demonstrates that they are considered valuable or does it showcase them and their contributions in a way that demonstrates that they are valued, and not merely valuable?

Mind you, I am not talking about introversion vs. extroversion, and certainly there are employees who prefer to work in anonymity, but their contributions can and should be put forward and acknowledged in a way that allows them the personal satisfaction of knowing that what they do matters; and the meaning it brings to their work is often reflected back in higher productivity and connection to the organization's overall success.

One of the best ways to value employees is to allow them to use their unique expertise in making the contribution. Allowing employees to use their skills also helps demonstrate the value that the company brings to the community. When backhoe and loader operators from a heavy industrial facility take to the streets to remove snow, the operators take pride in knowing their skills are providing unique value to the community. When a dentist volunteers his time at a local retirement community, the skills that he brings combine with his commitment to the community to demonstrate the value his practice brings -- and it allows employees to do good and reminds them of the value their skills bring -- and it encourages others to patronize that practice.

Human resources departments have discovered that prospective employees prefer to work for (and with) companies that the feel share their values -- especially those that reflect the community concerns and issues. Certainly the idea that people would seek out an employer that values them by ensuring that they offer a safer, financially sound place to contribute their time and talent is not hard to imagine.

This is particularly true of the new generation of workers that, for better or for worse, are used to having their contributions acknowledged more frequently than the annual review of the traditional performance appraisal process and want to know how the company contributes to society (and by extension, how they are part of that contribution.)

If you focus on the importance of the products or services that your company produces (see item #4 "What you Make Is Not What You Do"), employees then appreciate themselves -- and are appreciated for -- their contribution without which the quality of life that we enjoy would be impossible.

And that's a great way to (start) to show them just how valued they are.

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