Every company wants the best employees. Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to tell whether someone will be a good employee or not. Being able to figure out the qualities of a good employee is the dream of most managers, but not all managers really have it down. It doesn't help that some qualities only make you a good employee in certain industries and may actually slow you down in other jobs. That said, there are some characteristics of a good employee for which almost any manager can look.
Signs of a Good Employee
Chances are that you already have at least a few good employees working in your company. They're the ones who show up on time, do their work without reprimand and are always willing to help out where needed. Of course, there's more to being a good employee than simply showing up for work on time and not talking back. Good employees give each task their all, not settling for "good enough" or just doing whatever passes inspection in the end. There's a pride to their work, even when they don't particularly like the task at hand. They can handle constructive criticism without taking it personally, and they'll be honest if you ask them questions about how things can run better. Even if they're not the fastest or the most productive people that you have on your team, they're the employees that everyone wants to be around because they get the job done regardless.
The big question remains, though: How do you get more employees like this for your company? With the right incentives and guidance, most employees can actually turn into good employees over time. You can also try to hire good employees and get them off to a good start once they're on the job. Either way, there are specific characteristics you should target in your recruitment and training in order to increase the number of good employees you have.
If you're thinking about the qualities of a good employee, ambition should always be near the top of the list. Good employees are ambitious and won't just stand around waiting for something to happen. They'll look for something to do, they'll openly discuss ideas with you and they may even offer up suggestions on how to improve things that the company is doing. Sometimes this ambition manifests as leadership, with the employee providing guidance for others as well. There may be situations where you have to reign in this ambition, but for the most part an ambitious employee is one who's going to go places within your company. This often means that you've got a good employee who is going to stick around for quite some time to come.
Intelligence is often an important factor in whether someone is a good employee. This doesn't mean that everyone you hire needs to have a lot of education or an exceptional IQ. There are a number of different types of intelligence, and they all largely factor around how well a person can process and utilize information. This is vital on the job, and the best employees are often the ones who can handle whatever they're given and figure out the best way to proceed without having their hands held every step of the way. Intelligent employees are also likely to stick around longer, especially if you provide incentives to reward good employees and aid with employee retention.
Another one of the big signs of a good employee is flexibility. This means that your employee can adapt to changes easily and can think on his feet when needed. This can include scheduling changes, changes in workload, policy changes or even changes in management or company structure. Flexible employees often excel at customer interactions as well, being adaptable enough to meet a customer's needs and answer questions even if they fall outside of the employee's usual area of expertise.
This doesn't mean that employees have to drop everything else and adapt to changes at a moment's notice, of course. There are legitimate reasons why some employees may not be as flexible as others when it comes to certain types of changes. If an employee relies on others for transportation or has family considerations that keep her from working outside of certain hours, she certainly can't be blamed for being inflexible when it comes to shift scheduling. Even with limits in place, however, some employees will try to show as much flexibility and adaptability as they can. This is a great trait to have in an employee, since it means that she'll try to make things work as best as she can instead of just giving up or complaining about the changes.
Employees With High Self-Esteem
If employees have high self-esteem, they're much more likely to be confident in their work and often produce higher-quality work as well. This is why it's usually included on lists of the best qualities of a good employee. High self-esteem means that the employee knows what he is capable of and isn't afraid to push those limits as needed. He will produce the best quality of work of which he feels capable, and he won't second-guess decisions, so the work is usually done faster as well. High self-esteem often goes hand-in-hand with ambition, letting those employees double down on positive traits. Best of all, high self-esteem is often visible in the way that the employee (or potential employee) dresses, talks and moves. It's a sort of confidence that's hard to fake, so it's easy to tell which employees have it in spades.
Good employees are often well-spoken, being able to convey thoughts and ideas in a way that's easy for others to understand. This doesn't mean that they have to talk a lot; some well-spoken people tend to be pretty quiet most of the time. They still shine when it comes to giving a presentation, trying to sell someone on an idea or even preparing written communication for reports, emails and papers. Clear communication is vital in the business world, since without it there's a good chance that something will get lost in the message. Not everyone is able to communicate easily, so it's important to treasure those employees who have the gift of well-spoken communication.
There are countless adages and fables that stress the importance of honesty. As important as it is in day to day life, it's even more important in the workplace. Employees who distort the truth or outright lie will cause more problems than they solve, and in some cases they may increase the amount of overall strife in the workplace. As you weed out dishonest employees, do your best to reward the honest ones. Not only will they appreciate the acknowledgement, but it may help encourage other employees to embrace honesty as a policy as well.
Right along with honesty, trustworthiness is vital for good employees. You can think of trustworthiness as the application of honesty over time, but it's really a bit more than that. Trustworthiness means that you can depend on employees to do what they say they'll do and also be able to do what you need them to do. A trustworthy employee is one that you know you can turn to whether things are going well or going badly and know that she'll get the job done. They're honest, they're dependable and they're just the sort of employees that you want in your organization. If an employee isn't trustworthy, there's a good chance that her time with your company is limited from the start.
Good employees show up on time, stay their entire shift and don't make flimsy excuses on the off chance they're running late. Punctuality is very important in the business world, especially if you've got multiple employees that all have to rely on each other to get a job done. If one employee is late, the entire balance of your workforce is thrown off. If this lateness happens frequently, then you could see both production and morale problems popping up among your other workers. If you have employees who are punctual and always show up on time (or even early), they can help keep things moving smoothly. Not only that, but seeing your punctual employees get rewarded or promoted might even encourage other employees to set their alarms just a few minutes earlier to help make sure they're on time.
Employees With a Strong Work Ethic
There are times when it seems like the work ethic of the modern workforce is eroding. People turn in work that's just good enough without trying to do their best. Fortunately, there are still some employees who try to go above and beyond every single day. You can still find employees who have a strong work ethic, and when you do, you should take whatever measures are necessary to hold on to them. A strong work ethic can improve morale and overall productivity across your entire company, providing a positive example for others to follow. The better an employee's work ethic is, the better the employee tends to be in general.
People who are grumpy all the time can really drag down morale in the workplace. When you're looking for signs of a good employee in your workforce, look for the employees who try to build others up instead of dragging them down. Employees with a positive outlook will complement others on their work, providing little boosts to morale that sometimes have a greater effect than even management acknowledgements. You'd be amazed at the effect that even a little bit of positivity can have on your workforce.
Of course, you have to watch out for those who try to use positivity as a means of maneuvering in the corporate structure. Empty or backhanded compliments can do even more harm to morale, so look for those who seem sincere in the things that they say. Watch out for those who talk about others behind their backs as well, since they're more than likely faking their sincerity just to try to get ahead.
Every team needs problem solvers, even if the work they do is fairly standard most of the time. Things don't always go according to plan, and having creative people on your team is vital to making sure that work can continue even when the unexpected occurs. Creative thinkers are often able to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions, providing insight that might not occur to anyone else. The best employees are often very creative, especially if given the sorts of problems and projects that give them free reign to express their creativity.
Employees Who Are Team Players
Though it often gets overlooked, how well someone works with and interacts with his peers plays a big part in how good of an employee that person makes. Very few companies have employees that work completely alone, even if they aren't always working in groups. If you're looking for good employees, check those who tend to do very well with others and have positive interactions with their peers. Team players are a vital part of any company, and they definitely deserve recognition for what they do in the workplace.
Jack Gerard is a freelance writer and editor with over 15 years of experience writing about topics related to business and finance. His body of work includes copy for small businesses, how-to guides for entrepreneurs and even editing and copy work for international corporations.