A value-based approach to shaping your workscape

People often say they want to work with, or for someone, where they feel valued. However, Value isn’t the same thing for everyone.

  • What is Value specifically for you?
  • What things are evidence that you are being valued?
  • What is Valuable to you when it comes to the work you do?

An Exchange of Value between Employees and Employers

In a work context, it’s easy to think of money as the dominant Value that you get in exchange for your work. That is Employees provide TIME and TALENT; and in exchange Employers provide MONEY.

If not clear already, I’m not talking about Values (beliefs and world views). Though at the risk of confusing you, VALUES ALIGNMENT may be Value that you seek to get in your workscape.

In reality, there is a range of things that represent Value to both Employee and Employer. The Value Exchange concept provides a language for talking about different kinds of Value; and exploring what is Value in any particular context – because Value is dynamic and shifts quickly under different circumstances.

Without being able to talk in terms of Value, expectations about what is valuable can be hidden and difficult to expose for a meaningful negotiation between parties. When expectations are hidden, they can generate emotional noise that interferes with objective consideration of what you seek and get. Often times these emotions arise from breaches of social contract – you feel betrayed because you didn’t get X when you expected X in return for Y. However – did the other party know that you were expecting X in return for Y? If not, then have they betrayed you? Or have you misplaced your faith/expectancy?

The Value Exchange I’m talking about here is between Employee and Employer. (There are other Values Exchanges like between a Business and a Customer; and a Business Owner and their Business but they are the subject for different articles.)

As an Employee, Value is both an Input and an Output in your workscape. (Note: I use the word ‘workscape‘ and not workplace, because your workscape is not limited to a single or current organisation in which you work.) For Employers, they’ll also have a view of the Value that is an Input and an Output for the organisation.

There is a balance to consider for yourself in your workscape; as well as between You and the Organisation.

Value Exchange Ledger with Value Element CardsBalancing a Value Exchange Ledger

The Value Exchange Activity is an accounting of what goes IN and comes OUT in regarding work. It involves a Ledger, hence the accounting analogy. One side of the Ledger is IN and the other side of the Ledger is OUT. Any decisions about what is a ‘balanced’ ledger between IN and OUT for yourself, is a judgement entirely in the control of the owner of the Ledger.

There is a small risk in using a financial analogy – you might be tempted to think of Value Exchange as only transactional, when it is more than this. The analogy is simply a pragmatic concrete way to explore something that is conceptual and sometimes highly emotional.

Who has a Ledger

As an Employee, you have a Ledger for yourself. It’s a great start to simply know what you are putting IN, and what you are expecting OUT. With this knowledge you can consider the gap between the value you desire to put IN and get OUT, compared to what is actually happening in a given situation.

As an Employer, you can have a Ledger for the organisation. This can be a great resource, for Employees to consult when reflecting on how the Value they desire compares with the organisation. It also helps with a broader literacy to participate meaningfully in conversations about Value.

Employee and Employer Value Exchange Ledgers, are not expected to be the same. Some alignment between the two, definitely makes for harmonious productive working relationships. However, You and the Organisation are separate entities with separate (and overlapping) interests to serve.

What goes in the Ledger

Value Elements.

We’ve made life simple for you, by creating a set of Cards with a collection of Value Elements. These don’t cover everything that is possible Value – but they’re a good start. We’ve come up with a list of Value Elements from the observations and experiences of ourselves and others. There are blank cards in the set, for you to add your own Value Elements, in your own words.

What to do with the Ledger

The Ledger is a tool to organise your thoughts about Value. It initially reveals things which may be unseen or unspoken. It also becomes a tool that guides things that you want to make happen.

There are many instances in a life workscape where an Employee might do the Value Exchange activity. Here’s a couple:

  • When I’m looking for a job
  • When I’m planning my goals for the year
  • When I’m feeling dissatisfied at work

We’ve listed a comprehensive range of Key Decision Moments in a poster free to download.

It is the responsibility of the Employee to ensure they get the Value they seek as outlined on their Ledger. Most importantly, all their Value needs do not need to be met by any single current organisation.

It’s good to know which items of Value can be addressed by whom: You, the current organisation, another current organisation (e.g. volunteer work) or the next organisation. It’s a great outcome if there is strong agreement from the Employer to participate in creating the desired Value for you. Self unLimited people don’t expect the current organisation to be the sole source of created Value – they creatively utilise other people and organisations within their workscape.

Taking the next step to Value Creation

Knowing what is valuable to you is the first step.

Next is making plans to create or generate that Value (ACTIVITY: Value Creation Management – only available as part of the micro eLearning programme: Creating a Valuable Workscape). You’ll want to think about what specific actions to take when, and who will be involved in those actions. Then to consider suitable measures for ‘how much’ value will be sufficient for your need or desire. These steps turns a conversation about Value, from something abstract to something tangible. The tangibleness of any value element will be different to each person doing the translating.

To generate value for yourself, work through these three questions:

  1. What is Value? The work from the Exchange activity (described above) helps with this question.
  2. How is Value created and captured? Think about ways to create or capture that Value. Consider the Value you want to put IN, not just get OUT.
  3. How is Value measured? Define ways to know and measure that you are achieving the level/type of Value sought.

Here’s an example:

What is Value How is Value Created & Captured How is Value measured?
Enhanced Reputation Being associated with people and participating in projects that are doing things that are interesting challenging and high performing 3 amazing stories (per year) I can talk about being on such projects/in such collaborations
Belonging Being a member of a group where I have been properly welcomed and integrated People know my name and what is important to me

You may come up with ideas for your own value creation – that you can implement by yourself. As an Employee, you also have the opportunity to think about How, Who and When of value creation, with your colleagues and boss. There are likely mutually beneficial possibilities to creating the value you seek, collaboratively. Who knows – it may be that you seek the same or related Value and can be the source for each other.

Sometimes the Value you seek, will only come from someone else, like RECOGNITION or SPONSORSHIP. (That is, you need someone else to do the recognising/sponsoring and promoting that comes with it.) So be sure to cultivate quality relationships as the basis for getting such Value in exchange.

Advanced reflection and action

This article has been focused on You as Employee, knowing what is Value for yourself. This is not the limit of Value Exchange thinking. Here are other possibilities:

  • Compare your Value Ledger(s) with what organisation seeks and provides
  • Coaching someone in a conversation about Value for their workscape
  • Managing someone and having a conversation about Value related to them in the current organisation

The Value Exchange Card Set contains instructions for exploring Current and Desired Value Exchanges for yourself. For these other possibilities, see Extensions for Value Exchange Activity.

Futures of work

Success in the workscape depends on meeting others ‘needs’ – the needs of your colleagues, your boss, your followers, your family, your customers, etc. Needs can be synonymous for Value. It’s a worthy skill for the 21st century workscape to become highly literate in recognising and speaking about Value.

It’s time to move away from thinking of yourself as a person who only exchanges TIME and TALENT for MONEY.

You might give a little amount of TIME because of extraordinary levels of TALENT + EXPERIENCE + IDEAS that can generate OPPORTUNITY + FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS for you. In this particular example, there is no MONEY in return. What?, you say! For a moment – imagine a world where there was Universal Basic Income, or you simply had the lifestyle where you don’t’ need to “work for money”. There’s a lot of possibility you’ve yet to discover and gain from.

Now is the moment for a fresh approach in navigating your workscape regarding Worth and Returns.



Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has not followed a traditional path in her ‘career’, nor does she intend to. It’s been her personal experience that she’s made plans, then life happened, and things went in a direction that wasn’t anticipated. As a consequence, she’s fascinated by the emergent and serendipitous approach to life and work. She thinks about ways to help others navigate the future of work, given the ambiguous possibilities and opportunities if there is courage to take that journey. And for good measure, she likes to inject humour and originality into her work.


To cite this article, please use the following citation:

Palmer, H. (2018). The value-based approach to shaping your workscape. Self unLimited for Questo.


Creative Commons License

The Value Exchange concept content is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence so it can be freely shared with attribution to the creator (Self unLimited for Questo); it cannot be used for commercial purposes; and it cannot be modified.