What do you get paid for at work?

    In his speech in 1935, Joseph Stalin put forward the slogan, which later became the catch phrase: "Cadres decide everything." The historical assessment of the author of the phrase is ambiguous, but the principle voiced by him is taken into service. Sixty-six years later, seventeen people, among whom were Beck, Cockburn and Fowler, signed the Agile manifesto of software development, the first value of which was: "People and interaction are more important than processes and tools."

    Now much has been written about how important people are for any business, what you need to select the best and how to do it. These books are written by HR specialists for other HR specialists or executives who select their employees. But what does this mean in practice for “ordinary people” - professionals looking for work, willing to build a career and develop professionally?

    What is sold and bought?

    First you need to understand the basics. What exactly does an employee sell to his employer for a salary? It is widely believed that an employee sells his knowledge and skills to an employer. This is a fairly logical and obvious answer, which seems to be supported by facts. For example, in job descriptions and resumes of employees, you can find lists of languages ​​and technologies that are drawn up very carefully so as not to miss anything. Moreover, in our sphere skills descriptions are simply formalized: a set of two-, three-, and four-letter abbreviations make it possible to easily and compactly describe everything that is needed. Accordingly, the opinion is widespread: the more a person knows and knows how, the more expensive his services are.

    Skills are important. If the work involves programming in C ++, then it is unlikely that a person who does not know this language can be useful. But is the opposite true? Do knowledge and skills guarantee that a person will benefit in his place? No, it does not guarantee. It happens that a formally competent person does not bring special benefits or even is ballast, that is, creates additional problems.

    Once upon a time there lived a new manager Vasya. He himself was recently a technical specialist. And he picked up his employees in the hope of creating a super-team that will tear everyone. But too much focus on technical skills played a trick on him.

    Possessing the mentality of a technician, he paid much attention to knowledge of technology and selected very strong specialists in this regard. Gathering the team, he breathed a sigh of relief: “Well, now everything will be fine!”

    However, after a while, he realized that although the people were all good, they somehow didn’t go skiing. What is this expressed in? The deadlines are broken, the result does not suit the client, the done has to be redone, and fruitless disputes eat up time.

    Our hero is trying to deal with this, strengthening control and introducing the process, but this does not give the expected result: micromanagement takes all the time, and attempts to write regulations for all occasions lead to an overwhelming bureaucracy. Gradually, he understands that if a person is missing something inside, then by any external methods of influence he will not be forced to work effectively.

    There can be many reasons why a technically competent person is useless: he did not find a common language with colleagues, was not interested in the project, did not fit into the company's leadership style, was inattentive to details, was afraid to make decisions. The list can be continued, probably ad infinitum. It turns out a funny situation. While jobs are written about skills, having skills is useless in itself. No one wants to pay for this knowledge from the fact that the person inside himself knows something, neither cold nor hot. They want to pay for the value created using this knowledge and skills, as it is understood in this particular place. Moreover, the coincidence of the regalia described in the resume with the requirements of the vacancy does not guarantee anything.

    What is the result? Although everyone on the labor market speaks in terms of knowledge and skills, they really want to receive benefits and value from workers. The difficulty lies in the fact that there is no direct unambiguous connection between these things.

    How can this be explained?

    In the theory of systems there is the concept of "emergence", it is also a "system effect". This is a phenomenon in which the system demonstrates some properties that are not the sum of the properties of the elements. An example from the contrary: the mass of a person is not an emergent property. The mass of a person simply consists of the masses of all its parts. If a kilogram grows from malnutrition, the person’s mass will increase by the same kilogram in an absolutely transparent way. Behavior, by contrast, is an emergent property. Individual parts of a person are not able to do the same thing as a whole person, just in smaller quantities. The manifestation of such a property cannot be unambiguously predicted from the properties of system elements.

    The ability to create value is an emergent property of the system, which consists of employees, managers, their environment of the business in which they operate. Special skills and knowledge of employees here is only one of the success factors, important, but not determining. It is no less important whether all these parts of the system will be able to adapt and interact with each other so that the very systemic effect of creating value arises. The ability of people to adapt to each other and to circumstances is determined by their personal characteristics, cultural baggage, the level of development of general competencies (soft skills), motivation. If these factors work as they should, then a system of interaction is built up that works as a “means of delivery” of special skills to problems requiring their application.

    What practical implications does this model have for a person building his career?

    Sell ​​not skills, but value

    The contradiction between the widespread belief that skills are being sold and the real need of employers was shown above. What this can lead to in practice, we consider the following example.

    Once upon a time there was a programmer. He worked at the company for three years, during which time he studied new languages ​​and technologies. Sensing the growth of his knowledge and skills, he decided that he was worthy of being promoted to a senior developer or team lead. Gathering his courage, he went to his leader and put forward his demands, reinforcing them with his main argument - an increased level of training. To his disappointment, the leader was clearly not enthusiastic about what he heard and escaped with general phrases that he would do everything possible, but could not promise anything concrete now.

    What is the programmer error in this example? He came to sell his skills, not the value that he could create with these skills. In essence, the employee says: “I demand that you find a worthy application of my skills” - and puts this concern on the shoulders of the leader. Why does this approach work poorly? Because it burdens the manager with a problem, in the solution of which, first of all, the employee should be interested.

    To increase the chance of success, one should go to the head not with a demand, but with an interesting proposal. It could look like this: “We have such a problem, I would be interested in doing this, and I have ideas on how to solve it. Let's discuss?"

    What is the fundamental difference between these approaches? Selling your skills does not imply customer knowledge. The value lies in the person himself, which means he will be equally useful everywhere. Selling value involves the knowledge of the client, since the creation of value occurs only in interaction with him and his unique situation. Naturally, in order to go in this way, one must first prepare: collect information about what is happening in the company, talk with colleagues and managers about it, analyze current problems, and formulate their proposals on them. A good side effect of this activity is business relationships.

    Not all people and places of work fit together

    If we move away from the concept of “my skills - my value” and evaluate the benefits of the concept “my successful interaction with a client is my value”, it becomes obvious that the value can change greatly from situation to situation without changing skills. You can’t be liked by all people, you can’t be equally helpful to all employers. If a person works poorly, this does not mean that he is, in principle, incompetent. Maybe he just needs to find another job.

    Plan your professional development

    But what place should it be? To understand which employer is needed, you must first understand yourself. Understand your goals, career plan, strengths and weaknesses. Determine what kind of value and in what conditions you are ready to create now and in the future. In essence, this means a systematic approach to planning your career. With such a plan in mind, one can evaluate employers by the degree of compliance with it, discarding those that do not fit into it.


    This article sets out an approach to understanding employee-employer relationships. This approach is designed to help professionals who want to develop and build their careers, find new opportunities and ways to achieve their goals. The basis of this approach is to increase a person’s awareness of his place and role in the business of his employer and, as a result, a systematic approach to planning his professional growth.

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