Using Your Personal ROI to Get Ahead

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Laura Stack

The concept of Personal Return on Investment  (PROI) is one that’s  been  steadily  gaining  currency  in  the  business world over the past few years. While the term can be defined in several ways, in common usage it’s just what it sounds like: the investment potential that you, as an employee, offer to your organization. Now, I realize that it may seem somewhat degrading to be treated  (and especially to treat yourself ) as a mere investment . . . but to some extent, that’s precisely what you are: your organization’s investment  in its human  capital.

Like any other resource, you’re only as good as your PROI. The harsh realities of survival in the Great Recession have hammered this point home to employers and employees alike. As a modern worker, you’ve got to be hard-nosed about your ultimate value to your employer. You ignore this at your peril.

Elsewhere in the business world, ROI is defined as the profit realized from a resource minus the original and ongoing investment. It’s no different from Personal ROI.  In addition to your pay, the organization is probably providing you with various benefits, as well as regular training and/or education, experience in your field, and personal stability. What are you providing in return?  The organization is pumping resources and cash into you, so how are you repaying them?

You’d better be returning a substantial multiple of your investment on a consistent basis—and, more important, you have to be able to prove you are. Before you can do that effectively, you’ll need to sit down and determine what you bring to the table. Perform a tough, even brutal self-assessment of your value, focusing on these factors:

  • What are you really good at?
  • What makes you special?
  • What distinguishes you from your peers?
  • How do you personally help the organization achieve its corporate goals?

As a business resource, your value is dollar-driven. A good rule of thumb is you should be able to prove you’ve earned or saved the organization at least three times your base salary every single year.

In some jobs, proving your PROI is easy. If you’re a salesman who’s  just  landed  a  $5,000,000  account, it’s  easy to point  to that  accomplishment. But not every job directly results in corporate income. For example, what if you work in Human Resources or Customer Service?  Well, you’ll  need to dig more deeply for your provable  PROI by showing how deft you are at hiring profitable, productive workers, or maintaining intradepartmental harmony, or soothing the feathers  of irate customers—whatever the case may be for your particular position.

If you ever find yourself coming up short, you must be willing to invest your personal capital, especially your time and energy, toward increasing your PROI, so you can thereby  make yourself more attractive. In addition to working hard, fast, and smart, don’t hesitate to ask for more training or institute new systems to maximize efficiency and performance in your job. These preventive measures are short-term in nature, and they’ll pay time-saving (and PROI) dividends for a long time to come.

In  calculating  your  PROI, be reasonably creative about what you’ve accomplished, and don’t leave out anything  that might be relevant. Do you have a tendency to finish projects early and under budget? Include that in your assessment, because you’ve saved the organization money. Are you good with clients, able to develop a positive relationship that lasts for years? Then you’ve earned the organization money, because that’s where profits come from: multiple sales to repeat customers (at a decent margin, of course).

You may not be able to provide a specific dollar amount or percentage for your personal PROI, but you should be able to demonstrate that without you, the organization would be worse off. This is also a great exercise to perform prior to your performance evaluation, so you can have an intelligent conversation with your supervisor about what you’ve accomplished in the past period.

Here’s a tip: Recalculate your PROI periodically. This will help you determine what you need to brush up or cut back on.

And never forget this: You can’t assume anyone will automatically realize your worth. So in addition to being able to prove your PROI when called upon, be proactive about stepping forward and demonstrating that hiring you was a positive investment decision. This is especially true if you feel you’re undervalued, or if some unscrupulous coworker attempts to take the credit for your work. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease; but be careful here, because obnoxious squeakiness can get you the boot instead.

Demonstrate by your actions and initiative that you’re worthy. Then be politely assertive, though not aggressive, in pointing out your PROI to those who matter  in your organization—so you can maximize your value both to the organization and to yourself.

© 2012 by Laura Stack. Used with permission. Excerpted from What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do, by Laura Stack (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2012).

About the Author(s)

Laura Stack is president of The Productivity Pro, Inc, president of the National Speakers Association, and a popular keynote speaker on efficiency improvement, personal productivity, and time management. She is the author of five books, including What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do (Berrett-Koehler, 2012), from which this article is excerpted.