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You know a good employee when you interact with one. They excel daily, make peers feel accepted, come up with new ideas, and take on new challenges. If all your employees were like them, your company would be on the fast track to success.
How can you find great employees? HR professionals must work with leadership to answer this question by identifying the key traits to look for in potential team members. These should be the qualities that lead to success in your industry and make you want to retain someone over the long haul.
You don’t have to determine these traits alone. Here are 9 qualities all excellent employees should possess and why these traits are essential to your company’s success.
9 qualities all good employees should have
No candidate is perfect, but if you know what to look for, you can identify those that will make terrific employees. Employees with these 9 qualities benefit other team members and your organization as a whole.
1. Recognition superstar
Recognition is a crucial part of building community at your organization, and employees who recognize others are some of your most valuable. In fact, those who perform well and get promoted send 3.8 times more peer recognition than the average employee as well. So if you’ve found someone who loves showing appreciation on a daily basis, you’ve probably got a winner on your hands.
Good employees recognize their peers and managers for big wins along with everyday victories and personal achievements. For them, recognition isn’t just a rote activity. They take time to acknowledge others using specific, genuine language in public settings, and they do it frequently, in real time. To find employees with this valuable trait, look for candidates who have a track record of collaboration and who their peers remember as giving well-deserved recognition.
2. Great listener and communicator
The best employees listen to others and know how to communicate honestly and transparently in turn. They’re eager to participate in pulse surveys and take advantage of other feedback channels, and they encourage their peers to share their voices for the benefit of the company as well.
Outstanding employees are also skilled at offering constructive feedback directly. They address specific concerns by working with team members to build collaborative action plans. These employees come to the table with innovative ideas and think about how different audiences will perceive information. Most importantly, they are actively engaged in the process and hold managers accountable for taking action on feedback. While formal feedback should be anonymous, you can still identify employees like this by seeing who participates most in project debriefs and other public feedback opportunities.
Motivated employees are contagious. They lead by example, demonstrating exceptional productivity, meeting deadlines, and taking initiative. Their peers follow suit, as motivated employees are always looking for opportunities to help others and naturally uplift their teammates. Turning leaders into motivators is especially essential to fostering a great culture, but only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree their motivation is enhanced by management.
Search for candidates who have demonstrated engagement in previous positions and are genuinely excited about the work your organization does. They’ll get things done and inspire others to perform their best. And train your leaders on how to motivate employees to boost engagement across your company.
4. Team player
Picture your favorite coworker. What is the one quality you enjoyed most about them? If you think about it, it’s probably trust. You confided in this person, knowing that they had your back. When something happened in your personal life, or you were putting out fires with a client, this person would help pick up the slack. They didn’t boast about their accomplishments, and they were respected by others. This person was a team player.
Team players build an environment of trust and psychological safety — the foundation of any inclusive company culture. They regularly lead or at least participate in diverse employee resource groups, demonstrating their openness and willingness to collaborate with others — and this contributes to the bottom line. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more innovative and 120% more likely to hit financial goals. Look for those employees and candidates who others rely on, and prioritize doing whatever it takes to hire or retain them.
Employees who are willing to take on responsibility and manage to get things done without much guidance are few and far between. They take direction well and run projects autonomously. Empowered employees are productive problem solvers that save your managers time and brainpower.
They’re also flexible, adapting to change quickly. Empowered employees lend fresh eyes to difficult situations and focus on how they can use their skills to overcome them. They also aren’t afraid to use their voice. They express their opinion in a respectful, productive way. This makes empowered employees natural leaders.
But of course, this is a two-way street. Companies must cultivate a culture where employees feel comfortable enough to take projects into their own hands. Encouraging autonomy, providing avenues for professional growth, and giving employees the resources they need to succeed will boost employee empowerment across the board.
6. Aligned with mission and culture
Employees who are dedicated to your company’s mission and aligned with its core values are more likely to contribute to its success. Everything about your company is determined by its mission and values, so attracting candidates who believe in them is critical to sustaining your organizational culture.
Ensure that your corporate mission is clear and explicitly stated in job descriptions and interviews. You should also explain how your company rewards staff for behavior in line with company values. This will show potential employees that you are committed to your mission and support employees who are as well.
Employees who buy into your mission and values will derive deep meaning from their work. They’ll be engaged no matter what they’re doing, whether it’s representing your company at a career fair, volunteering to organize company-wide charity events, or presenting the results of their most recent project to upper management. This hard work ultimately drives business performance.
7. Leadership qualities
It may sound cheesy, but natural leaders are always great additions to a team. Leaders are able to keep cool and perform under pressure. They point out where things could be improved in a respectful way and come up with solutions to problems that seem impossible to fix. Leaders also highlight the good work that their peers do, recognizing the importance of teamwork.
Looking for natural leaders will help your business respond to unexpected circumstances with grace and humility. Employees will inevitably be put in situations where they are forced to flex their leadership muscles, and you need to have the confidence that they’re ready. If they are, they’ll set a great example for their team. If they’re not, your company will feel the impact.
8. Eager to learn
Hiring people based on their passion for learning ensures that your workforce evolves with your business. Employees who are eager to learn not only keep up with changes at your organization but get excited about them. And they motivate others to learn and grow as well.
In a survey by Resume Lab, 79% of U.S. respondents said they actively sought out opportunities to learn new things at work. Don’t let this desire go to waste. To keep complacency from setting in, implement initiatives that encourage professional development and turn managers into coaches. Employees will jump at the chance to improve their skills and advance their careers, benefiting themselves and your company.
Rewarding folks for learning new skills, putting forth exceptional effort, and trying new tasks will keep this professional growth loop going. You should also promote employees who show excitement when tackling challenges and expanding their talent. This provides a tangible example of your commitment to the success of all team members.
9. Emotionally intelligent
Last, but certainly not least, is emotional intelligence. Good employees abide by the golden rule — they treat others the way they want to be treated. They’re respectful, admit fault when they’ve made a mistake, and make a habit of really getting to know their coworkers.
Emotionally intelligent people practice mindfulness, taking the time they need to respond carefully in tough circumstances. They also practice empathy and self-awareness, remembering what others might have going on in their life outside of work and keeping in touch with their own feelings.
For these reasons, emotionally intelligent employees are typically very popular among their peers. They’re personable, lend a sense of community to your organization, and keep their coworkers engaged in their work.
Build a winning workforce
No employee possesses all these qualities right off the bat — but you can give them the tools they need to develop them. This is where modern HR solutions come into play. HR technology gives you a pulse on how your employees feel, shows managers where their teams can improve, and enables your workforce to easily provide recognition.
Achievers Recognize and Achievers Listen are employee experience platforms that help you build the workforce you want to see. Achievers Listen is an end-to-end employee engagement solution that lets employees offer their feedback and make their voices heard on a regular basis. In return, it provides meaningful visibility into employee sentiment and gives leaders the insights they need to create collaborative action plans with their team.
Achievers Recognize completes the picture by letting your employees show appreciation from anywhere and participate in a points-based reward system with a huge catalog of amazing options. And adopters of Achievers Recognize get results. They are:
- 107% more likely to give their culture of recognition a high rating than organizations that don’t use recognition technology — and 54% more likely than customers of other technology providers.
- 3.6 times more likely than customers of other providers to give recognition multiple times each month.
- 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee retention.
- 36% more likely to see an increase in employee engagement.
- 33% more likely to rate their employer brand higher than customers of Achievers’ competitors.