There are many types of employees, but for the sake of argument let’s bin all of us into three categories…hourly, salaried and commission. Without question, those of us who fall into the hourly employee category recognize that in the most simplistic of terms, we are compensated for our time. Clearly, we must add some value otherwise, our employer would not have asked us to come to work and agreed to pay us for our time. Regardless of how many customers we serve, items we sell, or widgets we build, we are compensated for our time. Those of us working for pure commission are motivated a bit differently because we are compensated based solely on the results we deliver. It matters not how much time we spend or the means we use, we are paid for results. Two very different, but easy to understand models. The metric is either our time or our result, but not necessarily a combination of both. The challenge comes in putting a value on the salaried employee.

As salaried employees, we are usually expected to spend 40 hours of our week “working”, but may exceed twice that. Most tend to pour our heart and soul into the job, while others coast until supervisors are looking. In the military, we all earn the same base wage with our peer group. Sure there are special pays that subsidize the base salaries of those with a specific skill set (language proficiency pay, flight pay, retention bonus, etc) or those asked to make additional sacrifices (sea pay, hazardous duty pay, family separation pay, etc), but again no direct assessment of value. We use these monetary levers to incentivize behavior and grow/sustain capabilities of perceived importance, but no attempt to measure value delivered or outcomes generated.

I am currently serving as a staff officer where I work with a team of professionals writing point papers, building PowerPoint briefs, and analyzing spreadsheets all to inform strategic decisions that will not be measurable for 5-15 years. It is sometimes challenging to either feed or respond to “The Good Idea Machine” and feel good about the effort or time investment. In the absence of tangible evidence of contributions, I often times ask myself if I am being compensated merely for my time.

Whether we are an hourly employee, work for commission, or are salaried, we must all heed Jim Rohn’s words, “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” In some cases, it may be up to us to define the measure of value for ourselves, but it is always up to us to define the measurement of value for those under our charge. Likewise, we all need to understand that we are compensated for the value we provide in many different ways. Most believe wages serve as the sole compensation and motivation for our time invested, level of effort, and/or personal contributions. Some are motivated by promotions, some are motivated by helping others, and still, others are motivated by the expressions of gratitude they receive throughout the adventure from customers and coworkers. For those of us in the military, I hope we can all agree that being promoted or achieving a certain rank in no way validates us as people (many deserving people are not promoted, while more than a few lesser contributors are promoted in their place each year), and neither does the number of ribbons we wear on our chest. The value we provide is measured in the person we become, the help we give others, and the legacy we leave after each chapter of our adventure. Being monetarily compensated without providing value is nothing more than a form of welfare. I don’t know about you, but I know more than a few people who are cashing their welfare check after a week of “work” and it is painful to watch (especially when it is our tax dollars enabling such behavior).

  • What value are you bringing to the hour?
  • What do you believe your pay is compensating you for?
  • After assessing the contributions you have made this year, is your level of compensation too much, too little, or just right?