There have been talks on the need for hard work, at least, to join the middle class financially.
In case you are at a loss as to the financial level you belong, an investment advisor and portfolio manager, Igho Alonge, gives an insight. According to him, the upper class in Nigeria earns from N60m yearly (from N5m upwards monthly), the lower-upper class between N12m and N59.9m yearly, while the middle class earns from N1.2m to N11.9m yearly. Those who earn between N150,000 and N1.19m he regarded as lower class, while those who earn less that N150,000 yearly are poor.
Another report by Pew Research has it that middle-income three-person household earns between $45,000 and $135,000 yearly. “For a single income earner, a salary of around $26,000 to $78,000 qualifies one as middle-income,” the report added.
Although times and events continue to meddle with the reports, at least one can tell where they hover.
The figures above, one is forced to believe, represent savings, not gross earnings.
Enough digression. How much does hard work pay? Many can tell how much they have put in some good shifts, only to find their realities nowhere above the lower class. Many work hard to advance the cause of their organisations and end up feeling under-appreciated and under-valued.
But then, who measures value, in terms of remuneration? How do you determine value in the workplace? I remember telling someone who complained that the boss just slashed her supposed earning: “No one pays for real value.” I stand to be corrected.
If hard work pays that much that people want to so ‘badly’ work that hard, we readily, verily, can tell those who deserve more pay.
Hard work versus smart work
I stumbled on an argument as to which is what and trumps the other between hard work and smart work – on either divide with substantial defenders.
According to Anish Passi, Director at Times Group-funded education start-up, Neostencils, hard work means putting in a lot of time and effort doing a certain amount of work, whereas smart work means spending less amount of time performing the same amount of work.
Consider two people who were contracted to cut down two trees, one each. On the day for the job, one of the guys hurriedly began exerting energy on cutting down the tree, and about half the work hours, he was yet to get through a quarter cut. The other dude, instead, spent about half the time allotted sharpening his cutlass and within a couple of hours fell the sturdy-looking tree. The other fellow, who was still struggling to get past a quarter cut, was exhausted and hungry; he could no longer go on. The story gives imaginative visuals to Passi’s definition.
Sometime ago, it seemed we entered the era of smart work, but most of its proponents here were oblivious of its constituents. While many were adjusting to the new reality of smart work, a good number of those who have spent a large portion of their lives working the hard way found it increasingly difficult to adjust. Some mistook dressing smart with working smart and working hard with dressing smart.
Before we knew more, a lot of folks took to playing smart on others, particularly swindling people of their fortune, while some others were scheming their way deceptively to the top, only to be cut down halfway. Some others equate street awareness with smartness.
Working hard is not engaging in laborious jobs, like carrying bricks and pushing trucks. Working smart is not the same as cutting corners. Working hard could include doing the same thing over and again for as long as you remain on the job, while applying some dynamism to the same work could mean smart work.
How do I mean? Passi writes, “Hard work utilises the traditional format of working, and there aren’t many changes involved. On the other hand, smart work involves using old ideas and transforming them to yield better results.”
Working smart is just working better, combining years, in some cases, of skills acquired with effectiveness, delivering better results with very little time and resources. You must have put in the hard work shift of learning the skills and processes before being able to think out a better way of delivering efficiency.
An accountant who only knows the rudiments and principles of accounting, but can only work manually without the deployment of simple accounting software, can only do little with so much time and resources. Today’s supermarkets achieve more with simple Enterprise Resource Planning software, integrating business processes in real-time.
So, while it is okay to work hard and gain mastery of your work, it is advisable to search out better ways of doing the same work efficiently and achieving better results, often more – that is smart work, which sometimes involves a great deal of thinking.
A consultant was hired to assess workers’ input in a big manufacturing firm. He had set out diligently and curiously, evaluating every staff from the lowest cadre. One day when he got to the office, he found one of the employees withlegs crossed on a clean and arranged desk. Scanning through the file, he discovered that the dudewas one of the highly paid. But when he took it up with the employer, curious to know why the company was paying that much to a staffwho sits that way ‘doing nothing.’ The employer responded to the consultant, “He is paid to think out solutions.”
A holy book reads, “The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.”Those who know how to put finishing touches on a product or service take the shine and chunk off the bill.
Nigerians can’t help but wonder why we can’t get our four oil refineries working to optimum levels, instead of shipping off the crude to some other functional refineries at some cost, and then shipping back in ready-to-use products at some higher cost. The same with cocoa, cassava, palm oil, groundnut, maize, tomato, yam and many other resources. The joke is on us.
I’ve heard many workers complain about slaving for their bosses and companies, only for some consultants to smile home to the banks after doing very little. Some others believe they should earn more for doing the same old thing than someone else who just comes around to ‘only automate’ what they put in many hours with some handsome reward.
They forget, and in case you feel disgruntled like the former, that they, like you, are just a bottleneck; but the automation guy is the value creator. It has nothing to do with the hours you put into your work.
That extra makes the difference between two employees with the same qualifications but on a different paycheque. It is the reason the artisan who takes his time to listen to his customer’s complaints gets more customers than his peers.
Businesses that create value see the reflection in their bottom line. Globacom came into the telecom space with persecond billing when others claimed it was impossible. It didn’t take long before it had subscribers. Google gave more when we thought Yahoo! was doing good. Today, it has created more value globally than just e-mail. That your competition may just be giving more and nothing else. Not jazz.
By the way, doing more and giving more means delivering quality with speed. Time is key. You just can’t divorce time from value addition. As you may have noticed, people are always impatient. So, if you deliver quality with speed, you’ll scale up in no time.
Producing or providing quality with little or no consideration for time is almost of no use. The faster you deliver on quality the task assigned or taken, the better it is for business. In fact, it is a measure of competence.
It’s okay to be a hard worker; but if you want to get more out of your endeavours, put in a little more. Add value. It’s not only key; it is the king.