Blogs & Opinions

Are you an asset or a liability

Are you an asset or a liability?  

What does your employer think? 

As individuals there is now a necessity to take control of our professional life and career. One of the sure things about the future of work – is that roles as we know them now will change exponentially and that change has already started. 

To know how much value, we really bring means being brutally honest with ourselves, and indeed our employers. And, recognising that our current mindset and skillset may no longer be enough. 

Let’s start with understanding our real value to our employer 

They tell us we are assets, but are we? 

Who can truthfully say that they are 100% productive every day? Or indeed any day?  

To be fair, it’s probably too much to expect as we’re all human aren’t, we and other stuff gets in the way of our productivity, which is fine if we achieve and/or beat the output expected of us. But, do we? 

In fact, research late last year suggested in an eight-hour day, the average office worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes, just under 3-hours a day.  

It’s no surprise therefore that we sit as liabilities on a company’s balance sheet. 

The activities employee’s quoted as distractions included 

  • Reading news websites—1 hour, 5 minutes 
  • Checking social media—44 minutes 
  • Discussing non-work-related things with co-workers—40 minutes 
  • Searching for new jobs—26 minutes 

– Source Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000 employees 

Add to this, the fact that we can break job productivity into thirds (see image) – it brings into question the value of a fulltime employee even more.


It’s very clear there is a liability on wasted time, it’s also clear that the red light is a liability and the amber becomes a liability if it prevents the individual spending more time in the green. 

For each third the individual is being paid the same amount which is neither good for the employee or the company. 

It’s no wonder therefore that at least 79 per cent of executives predict that contract and freelance workers will replace full-time employees in the future.  

“B2B talent networks and platforms are making it possible for businesses to hire for the skills they need exactly when then need them. Forward-looking businesses are acquiring, investing in, or developing closer relationships with key open talent communities and platforms.” Open Assembly Future Work Trends Report 2020 

One thing is certain, the situation pre-covid is unsustainable and now more than ever with AI and machine learning, employers are aggressively accelerating their programmes. Unless employees seriously rethink their value to an employer their long-term future is at best insecure.  

“A company who can scale up and down instantly, with exceptional available and returnable talent on a variable cost model, ideally linked to income as a percentage, will be the business who thrive no matter what the future holds. This model had been predicted and implemented by Bloor Research, over a decade ago.” Shared Workforce Group, Future of Work Report 2020 

The fight for survival right now is resulting in a tsunami of job losses – cost cutting always wins over other priorities like training (which incidentally should be the last as you should be investing to help your people perform better) 

Output is King, being paid on output is royalty 

Being measured and paid on output will be the way forward and the enabler to free up individuals to work multi-portfolio across their existing organisation and wider. Individuals taking responsibility for the expected output and measuring their own performance is key 

Employers need to be open to conversations with their staff and offer solutions about how they could perform their roles in a different way, to enable the employer to achieve increased profit whilst at the same time increasing the reward to the employee. 

As an example, I was approached recently by a previous employee, who works for a global gaming company as he was seeking my advice on starting his own business. He had 6 weeks salary to invest in his new venture. I asked him a series of questions 

Firstly, I asked him how busy he was on a scale of 1 to 100, secondly, I asked him how much of what he does could be done by a junior, finally, I asked how long it would take to onboard a junior, and, for them to be effective 

The answers were that he was 70 per cent busy, 50 per cent of his work could be done by a junior and it would take a maximum of 3 months for them to become effective. 

Quite clearly there is a business case for a different relationship between the employer and the employee. 

My summary was: 

Out of 12 months in a year generally of thumb you are only effective for 10 months after holidays and sickness in Europe. The man in question could do his job in 7.5 months, yet he is being paid for 12 months. If 50 per cent of his work could be performed by a junior that leaves 3.75 months that he could effectively work for his current employer which would free him up to work multi-portfolio and reduce his employer’s costs for those outputs.  

Such a pity then, that this beneficial conversation can never happen between him and his employer, as that’s exactly the conversation that’s needed to redesign a future of work solution! 

Aligning the dreams and aspirations of both the individual and the company, also aligns the individual’s personal balance sheet with the organisation’s balance sheet – the eureka moment! 

Managing your personal balance sheet 

By creating and managing your personal balance sheet it will become immediately obvious where both your risks and opportunities lie. By viewing yourself as a mini outsourcer and adopting your own shared service model, your ability to make informed decisions about your career and income requirements will be so much easier to manage. It will also give you the added benefit of being able to achieve a better work life balance, especially as working from home increases. 

It’s easy to pull a personal balance sheet together. Categorise your assets into liquid, sizeable and investments. For liquid include everything that can be turned into cash without losing value. Easy access bank accounts and so on. 

Sizeable assets are houses, cars, and so on, you’ll need to look at their current market value. The same for your investments. 

Your liabilities are what you owe and include mortgages, credit card debts, car loans and current bills. Your net worth is the difference between what you own and what you owe.  

In most countries, income tax is at a higher rate than capital gains tax, therefore with the new entrepreneurial approach to what you do, you’ll want to move from an income to a capital gain model. In the UK as an example you would only pay 10 per cent tax on £1m of earnings. 

This exercise will ensure not only greater control over your personal finances as well as providing your employer the ability to manage with you – what is a liability and asset curve. You are neither just a liability nor an asset, you are both and it’s this which needs to be managed jointly in the future of work. 

And the future is… 

For employers is about agility, flexibility, mobility – to ensure the skills needed are available ideally linked to an output based, variable cost, directly linked to income. 

In this way, a major fixed cost management is removed enabling the company and its leadership team to focus on growth and new initiatives. 

And for employees the ability to be part of open talent networks, multi-portfolio working whilst earning an income that bolsters their net worth.  

 ‘Individuals who have the mindset, the skillset and the focus on their personal balance sheet will be able to quadruple their earnings by working for multiple companies simultaneously. Operating as mini-outsourcers.’ Shared Workforce Group, Future of Work Report 2020 

My next article will cover how managing the exit of an individual at the first interview, whilst reviewing the options for existing employees, will create the opportunity for a business to move from fixed to variable costs. This will shape the future of outsourcing and recruitment with PESTLE at the heart of creating shareholder value.