Over the course of one hundred business simulations, my team and I documented patterns of thought that helped us identify individuals we call Value Workers—people who add substantial value in unique situations because they are able to see their derailers and learn new ways to handle them. Because well-designed simulation training is both emotionally engaging and intellectually challenging, it drives people to exhibit interesting thinking and behavior patterns. And because Regis professional development training programs incorporate business performance analytics to inform continuous improvement, we were able to examine learners’ thinking and behavior to draw the following conclusions.
Value Workers are individuals who have developed the abilities to make better decisions and solve problems collaboratively in dynamic and complex situations. They are equipped to unlearn their biases and relearn quickly as they encounter new and changing situations.
- Ask good questions to identify the viability of their ideas and the ideas of others
- Think systemically about change and seek to establish a shared vision
- Are mindful of their actions and outcomes
- Draw connections from seemingly disparate sources of information
- Maintain a big-picture mindset, and avoid jumping from one problem to another
- Pay attention to patterns and behaviors that help them form a framework for understanding problems
- Are willing to suspend their judgment long enough to hear other perspectives
- Don’t see failure as something to avoid, and tend to make more decisions
- Surface, collaboratively, their own limiting beliefs and those of the team
Our goal, beyond creating immediate and sustainable impact for our clients, is to develop Value Workers. At The Regis Company, we created the Value Continuum model, below, to examine the phases that exceptional performers go through in their careers.
The graph depicts the ratio of value produced by an employee to the costs of employing him. When the labeled paths are above the cost line, the value of an employee is greater than the cost of that employee.
First, notice the typical path—a dashed line beginning with a gradual climb that transforms into an oscillating pattern around the cost line. The upward swings are often due to a change in role or a switch to a new company—employees work harder, bring new skills, or are freshly excited about their jobs. The low points are often a result of a market or organization shift and an individual’s inability to adapt. In other words, the situation changed and the individual was not equipped to unlearn old habits and learn new ways of thinking.
The Value Continuum path—the solid line—shows an accelerated climb that remains well above the cost line. This path represents an individual whose value is continuously greater than her cost to an organization, that is, the Value Worker.
Most employees do not make it onto the preferred Value Continuum path. While it is natural to face some fluctuation as new scenarios arise and new processes must be created, every dip in an employee’s cost/value association affects the company’s bottom line. The employees a company needs are not those who require frequent training on minute changes in processes to overcome the latest dip. The Value Workers are those who encounter changing scenarios and adapt.
The numbers on the Value Continuum graph show various points during an employee’s career development. Through effective learning and development training, an organization has the opportunity to improve an employee’s value in each of these realms.
- Time to Value: This represents the time it takes for an individual to get to a point at which his value is greater than his cost. For example, students coming out of college typically cost more than the value they provide. The employees who learn to become exceptional cross the time-to-value threshold more quickly. At this point, an organization can implement new ways of learning that accelerate the development of higher-level thinking and shorten the time until an employee contributes value.
- Value Potential: This represents the value that an individual brings to the organization as new situations emerge over the course of a career. It also shows the potential value an individual can offer an organization at any one point. To prevent employees from oscillating above and below the cost line, an expensive and demoralizing impact, corporations can leverage effective leadership training to develop an individual’s ability to think creatively, critically, and systemically. This will result in individuals who can learn, unlearn, and relearn quickly, thus maintaining a steady path on the Value Continuum.
- Value Spanning: This represents the extended value that an employee brings to the organization and to society. Value Workers affect not just their organization, but also the world around them. As an employee’s potential increases, her ability to span divisional, organizational, geographical, and cultural boundaries improves and extends out into society. The opportunity here is to broaden employees’ perspectives by helping them understand how their individual actions influence the larger system within which they live and work. The result is a Value Worker whose value affects the whole of society.
The path of the Value Continuum model raises two primary questions:
- How does an organization get its employees on the Value Continuum path?
- How does an employee stay on the Value Continuum path?
As my team and I studied Value Workers, we found that these good questions surfaced more questions. Specifically, we became increasingly curious about the skills of these employees and the best methods for developing and measuring these skills. We questioned the tug of war between the mere development of important skills and the ability to adeptly apply those skills. We wondered how people can apply the skills of a Value Worker to any situation, whether making a critical decision about the direction of the business or solving a team dynamic issue. Finally, we investigated the idea of feedback. Assuming employees can develop the skills and apply them to any situation, how do they get feedback to further refine the skills?
Our years of working with a range of clients in a variety of business simulations have helped us to answer these questions and expand our understanding of the Value Worker, and as a company we have prioritized innovative business performance analytics to validate our experience.Those employees who stay on the Value Continuum path take part in a virtuous cycle of improving their thinking, applying it to any situation, and learning from the outcome.
Michael Vaughan is the CEO of The Regis Company, a global provider of business simulations and experiential learning programs. Michael is the author of the books The Thinking Effect: Rethinking Thinking to Create Great Leaders and the New Value Worker and The End of Training: How Business Simulations Are Reshaping Business.