1. Develop deep expertise in a task critical for the organisation
The first step to becoming indispensable is also the most obvious. Develop deep expertise in a function or a role. Whether it is fluency in a foreign language that allows you to interact with an overseas client, or knowledge of a computer software used by your company, having a USP can make you indispensable.Of course, this does not mean you monopolise that skill and put up hurdles for others who want to learn that task. But you become so good at it that no one else is entrusted with that function. Monopolising skills may help in the short term but it is not a long-term solution, cautions Shiv Agrawal, Managing Director of HR firm ABC Consultants.
The good news is that upskilling has become easier now with the launch of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These online courses are cheap (some are even free) and one can study after work. Taking up a fulltime course may not be feasible for many but these online courses can help you acquire new skills without taking a break from work. The pace of these courses can be customised to suit an individual’s timings.
It’s always good to learn skills related to the core functions of your company. For instance, developing expertise in social media campaigns may not be a very relevant skill for a manufacturing company. On the other hand, specialisation in data analytics might be seen as a critical skill by a financial services company or an e-commerce start-up.
2. Mentor your colleagues and provide support
It might sound paradoxical but one of the surest way to make yourself indispensable is by trying to make yourself redundant. A good mentor imparts knowledge and expertise to the newbie employee and encourages him to improve his skills. But mentoring is not everybody’s cup of tea.Only someone who takes pleasure in watching others succeed can be a good mentor. An insecure person may not want to teach everything to someone who might eventually replace him in the company.
Organisations value employees who mentor and train junior colleagues. Mentoring engenders trust among teams and inspires employees to perform to their highest ability. At a broader level, it helps develop and retain talent. So, if you are helping your teammates and training juniors, you will be seen as someone the company must retain at all costs. The idea is to become valuable by supporting and adding value to other employees. The support can even be in the form of help in everyday functions or stepping in to firefight when a teammate is in a spot.
3. Step out of comfort zone and volunteer to do more
It’s common for people to slip into a clockwork mode over time. They continue to mechanically do the tasks assigned to them, rarely volunteering to do something new or challenging. To become indispensable at work, you need to step out of that comfort zone and start doing stuff you have never done before. As a start, do at least one thing every week that is not part of the duties assigned to you.
It is not difficult to learn how to do one new thing every week. But over time, these baby steps can enhance your skills significantly and add up to a lot. If you learn to do four new things every month, imagine how much more skilled you will be in a year. Your willingness to take up new tasks and challenges will also send a signal to the management that you are willing to go that extra mile to add value to the organisation.
4. Offer solutions that are useful for the organisation
Organisations value employees who offer effective solutions to problems. They are seen as people who have the company’s interests in mind. If the company or your division is facing a problem and you have a solution in mind, don’t go to your boss without working out a rational decision making model and a detailed action plan. Here’s a simple roadmap: first identify the cause of the problem.Then think of all the potential solutions. There could be several options, each having its pros and cons. Analyse the feasibility of each solution and then select the best option.
Write down why it makes the most sense and then chart out an implementation plan. Make sure you also mention the other solutions that are not viable. Don’t go into too much detail at this stage. Senior managers are always strapped for time so keep your presentation concise and to the point. It will help you get to the point very quickly.
If your idea is workable, it will cement your indispensability in the organisation.
5. Learn to adapt to the changed situation
Albert Einstein once said that when your stop learning, you start dying. This especially applies to the present day workplace where new technologies and artificial intelligence are fast making humans irrelevant. “The only skill which keeps your relevant at work is the skill to constantly evolve, learn and improve.Everything else can be replicated, says Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-founder and Senior VP, TeamLease.
Individuals who embrace change and are able to quickly adapt are seen as more valuable than those who cling to outdated principles and concepts that are past their expiry date. Don’t be afraid of change but welcome it. Experiment with new ideas that are meant to improve productivity and performance.In the past decade, we saw how the Internet led to seismic shifts in the way companies functioned. Workers who were not able to adapt to this change were rendered irrelevant. The coming revolution of bots will take away more jobs.
6. Delight your boss by making his work easier
No, this does not mean you suck up to your boss. It only means that you perform tasks that take some load off his back and allow him to focus on other more important duties. This requires a pro-active approach, especially because this work is not part of your assigned duties.Don’t wait for your boss to call for help. Find out the tasks that irk him (and other senior managers), then look for ways to do these tasks. If you do this regularly, your boss will start relying on you more and more. Remember, the more irksome the task, the happier he will be that someone else is doing it. Once he gets used to it, he will ensure that you are retained by the company at all costs.
7. Demonstrate integrity at work
Personal integrity is a fundamental attribute that companies seek in employees. A person who demonstrates high moral values is considered more valuable than someone who is not so particular about ethics. An honest person’s actions make him trustworthy and dependable. You won’t find him indulging in petty office politics or bad-mouthing his colleagues.
How can you display integrity at the workplace? The golden rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated. This ensures that one gives due respect to colleagues and customers. Honesty also encourages healthy relationships within an organisation. Teams work better if their boss is honest about the objective and outcome of the project.
Of course, honesty does not extend to compromising the confidentiality of certain information. A person of integrity will maintain confidentiality if required. Such a person is more likely to be given a position of responsibility.
8. Be consistently reliable in everything you do
Everybody likes surprises, but not if they are unpleasant. Missing a project deadline, arriving late for a meeting or going on leave without prior notice are some of the unpleasant surprises that managers love to hate. For them, reliability equals efficiency.If an employee shows up on time, finishes his work before the deadline and maintains basic office discipline, he is seen as more valuable than someone who is forever making excuses for laxity and delays. Reliability is more than just time management— it reflects the mindset of the individual and even shapes his career path. If a manager knows that he can depend on an employee to submit the project report before the deadline or reach office at time, he will assign more responsibilities to such a worker.
Be consistently reliable in everything you do. Also, make sure you don’t make false promises. Before you make a commitment, be sure that you will be able to keep it. Instead of promising too much and delivering too little, it is better to scale down the promise and then delight the boss by doing more than you committed. This way you send out the message that you don’t want to make false promises but are willing to go that extra mile to deliver.
9. Build ties within the organisation and outside
It is important to build good relationships, not only within your team and with the people you report to, but also with others in the organisation. It helps to be well connected with senior people in the organisation. “No person or role is an island. Interpersonal skills and the ability to network are as important as the basic knowledge required for the job, says Moorthy of Ranstad India.
A positive attitude goes a long way in improving the interpersonal relationship of an individual. Try and smile as much as you can and control the urge to say things you might regret later. This is especially important during a stressful time. “The most important skill to develop is the ability to get along with all kinds of people irrespective of whether you like them or not, says Chakraborty of TeamLease.Chakraborty points out that workplace dynamics are changing.
Relationship with clients are also be critical. In some situations, an individual’s relations with a client can make him indispensable.
A company may not want to let go of someone if it knows that his exit might take away a lot of business. Invest in your relationships with clients to improve your standing within the company.
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