How HR’s Most Misunderstood Buzzword Can Jack Up Your Income & Promotability

By Alan Collins

There are lots of buzzwords in HR.

“HR business partner.”
“A seat at the table.”
“Go-to person”

You know the list.

But in my humble opinion, “ADDING VALUE” is the most misunderstood one of all.

Why? Because unlike the others, there are a thousand different interpretations of it.

To illustrate, I’m sure you’ve heard your boss say:

“Jill, you need to add more value to the team.”

“Jamal, that new talent acquisition program has really added value.”

“Morgan, the Marketing group would like to see HR add more value.

These statements are tossed around in HR as much as footballs thrown by Tom Brady.

Yet, I’d bet you dinner at the best restaurant in Chicago that you couldn’t get five HR people in a room to agree on what they REALLY mean.

Nevertheless, “adding value” is an important concept.  

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if you earn a reputation as someone who can truly can add MORE value…

You’ll make MORE money and
ENHANCE your promotability,

as long as you’re in HR.

I know that’s a bold statement.

So let me clarify it.

*     *     *

Let’s start by covering what adding value really means.

To keep it simple, there are at least three ways to do it.

1. Solve more problems.
2. Provide more solutions.
3. Help move your client’s business forward.

That’s about it.

Okay then, what kind of problems should you be solving?

Another simple one.

Solve those problems that keep your clients
from GETTING THE RESULTS they want
or that they COMPLAIN about most.

For example, are your clients struggling with:

-Attracting hard to find talent?
-Retaining their superstars who are in high demand?
-Reducing overtime, tardiness or sick leave usage?
-Cutting headcount or doing more with less?
-Any one of a hundred other HR issues?

If so, then this is what you do next:

Step #1:  Pick ONE vexing problem they face (example: retaining high-producing sales people).

Step #2:  Put a metric to it.

Step #3:  Then get to work helping them improve that metric (example: retaining X% MORE high-producing sales people).

Step #4:  When you’ve improved that metric, you’ve added value.

Read over those four steps again, because this is what ADDING VALUE is all about. 

This is the REAL definition.

Nothing else.

Don’t over-complicate this.

Here’s the bottom line:

If you can add MORE value, you can make MORE money.

If you can solve BIGGER problems, you can demand BIGGER paychecks.

If you’re doing this and you aren’t rewarded where you are — don’t worry, you’re in HUGE DEMAND elsewhere. All you have to do is to just keep adding MORE value.

On this last point, if you’re really adding value and want to ensure that you stay marketable and in demand for HR roles that will pay you more money, there’s one final step you should take.

*     *     *

The final step is to…

Put time on your calendar every six months
to update your resume by documenting
the NEW value you’ve added.

For example, if you’re an HR director, it means adding a statement like this one to your resume every six months…

“Led two new culture building initiatives in the IT group which improved their culture survey results by 25%. IT turnover also dropped from 12% to 6% and IT overtime costs went down by $1.2 million or 4%.”

Or this one, if you’re an HR manager…

“Executed a robust Sales Employee Referral Program that improved referrals to 13% of total hires.  This also resulted in a lower cost-per-hire for sales reps and $325,000 in savings for the first year.”

Or this one, if you’re an HR VP…

“Helped lead a massive re-organization which consolidated 6 North American supply chain organizations into one single centralized group – generating $19.5 million savings. Served as the HR leader on the executive design team”

Or this one, if you’re a Total Rewards leader

“Co-led the task force that redesigned the incentive bonus plan for a disgruntled New Products Innovation Team. The new program was well-received with a 92% satisfaction rate among the key talent, improved their retention by 21% and contributed to launch to three new breakthrough products in one year.”

These are REAL, quantifiable and measurable VALUE ADDED achievements!

These are also the EXACT kinds of clear accomplishments that will enhance your attractiveness to recruiters and increase your financial worth in the marketplace.

If you’re able to add these types of powerful statements to your resume every six months or so, you’ll go way beyond the tired old “value added” buzzword — and you won’t have a problem earning more in HR, because opportunities will find you!

Additionally, you’ll build lifelong employability, promotability and relevance in the marketplace.

Try it.


I’d welcome your feedback. Please add your comments below by clicking HERE.


Want to discover EVEN MORE ways to build your value and win BIG in Human Resources right where you are, then check out: WINNING BIG IN HR: 100+ Powerful Strategies For Accomplishing Great Results Faster & Getting Your Clients To Rave About You As A Human Resources Professional!

For more details, go HERE. 

Want to see even more powerful examples of how to capture “value added” statements on your resume, check out:  HR RESUME SECRETS:  How to Create An Irresistible Human Resources Resume That Will Open Doors, Wow Hiring Managers & Get You Interviews! 

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books. He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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6 Responses to “How HR’s Most Misunderstood Buzzword Can Jack Up Your Income & Promotability”

  1. AL Gayle Says:

    Alan, I’ve been receiving your HR information for a number of years when I was in the Army. I just completed my degree in HR and studying for HR certification. My biggest obstacle now is getting into an actual HR position with the federal government, whom I currently work for. After numerous job submissions, I’m hearing the reason for non-selection is not enough HR experience. Good thing is they recognize my HR experience. I’m exploring ways to increase HR experience to fill those gaps. Thanks for everything.

  2. Alan Says:

    Hi AL. Thank you for your service and congrats on getting your degree in HR. Wish you much success in getting your certification. Thrilled you’ve found the articles of value. Be well.

  3. Joe Koyon Says:

    Think of value in literal financial terms – what activities or problems in people functions are costing money? How can you make them cost less (or, even better, nothing)?

    It can be simple – resolving an employee issue prevents a supervisor from taking time away from core duties to write up an employee. That’s the employee’s time plus the supervisor’s time added back to the business.

  4. Alan Says:

    Spot on! Excellent insight and examples, Joe. Thinking value in literal financial terms is even more powerful. Thanks much for sharing your wisdom and experience. Be well.

  5. Lorne Bailen Says:

    Hi Alan

    Your guidance on adding value hits the nail on the head! Too many HR people are unable to really articulate core values to the organizations and end up doing compliance speeches-an unvalued commodity for the senior leadership team. Your three keystones of ‘solve’, ‘provide’ and ‘help’ are great for both consulting HR practitioners as well as organizational HR team members.

  6. Alan Says:

    Hi Lorne, great perspectives! Especially like the way you summarized the keystones as: solve, provide and help. Hadn’t thought about them that way. Thanks much for sharing your wisdom. Be well.