The Parable of the Perfect Employee

Photo: Steven RollBy Steven Roll
ASBPE President

The summer after I graduated from college I worked as a telemarketer before starting graduate school in September. Every Monday my boss held a meeting in which he would offer sales tips for the week ahead. While the message was always the same, he used a variety of techniques to make his point.

My favorite was the “perfect employee” scenario. One day he was going to hire someone who embodied all of the sales tips and strategies that we discussed at the Monday meetings. “This guy is going to ask for multiple orders on every phone call,” my boss would say. “He’s going to make additional sales from the referrals he gets from his customers.”

This perfect employee was going to do so many great things that, eventually, all of the other telemarketers there would no longer be needed. My boss said he would take all of the money he saved and hire a limousine to drive the perfect employee to and from work each day.

Thankfully, I made it through September without the perfect employee showing up.

But lately I’ve been wondering what would happen if this person showed up at my current job.

The perfect employee I imagine is younger than me and more familiar with new technologies such as social networking Web sites.

Although I’ve been at my company for 10 years and hold a senior editor’s position, the perfect employee uses her connections on LinkedIn to get a job at my pay grade.

When our managing editor assigns each of us a story, I draw upon my experience to write a thorough overview of the issue and include insights from some of the top people in the field. Like always, I call them on the phone and write down what they say.

Despite her inexperience, the perfect employee also manages to write a thoughtful analysis piece with the help of some experts in the field she finds on Twitter and interviews via video conference on Meebo. With their permission, she makes a digital recording of their conversation.

After we submit our stories, my boss says she wants to highlight the one that is likely to generate the most traffic on our Web site. My story is better written, my boss says. But she notes that the perfect employee is an active participant in social bookmarking. Despite the lesser quality of her work, her scores of friends on sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, and Delicious will drive Internet traffic and make her piece the most popular item on our Web site.

While I’m working on the next story that my boss assigned, the perfect employee follows up her article with a podcast of the interview she recorded for her piece. She also produces and moderates a Webcast on the topic that generates additional revenue. For good measure, she puts together a slide show from the industry community she organized on Flickr.

I’m totally surprised by this. For years, I’ve maintained that I don’t have time to do anything but write–and my boss has accepted this.

Eventually, my boss realizes that she doesn’t need me anymore.

The perfect employee waves to me from the back seat of the limo on the way to work.

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