Jul 24, 2020

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The Top Skills of a Good Employee

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It’s a given that businesses want to hire and retain the best employees in their field, but what does it really mean to be a ‘good employee’ and why is it important to seek them out? Most recruitment or human resources (HR) managers know how difficult it is to find good employees; candidates either lack certain skills or they won’t fit in with the company culture.1 Business owners often focus on technical skills alone and don’t assess the qualities and characteristics that make up the ideal employee. This could end up adversely affecting culture, productivity, and may even protract training efforts.

Regardless of the industry or nature of the job, there are certain key qualities that every hiring manager should look out for if they want their employees to succeed in the business world.

Skills and characteristics of a good employee

Both soft skills and technical skills, or hard skills, are equally important in an employee. Soft skills include the social expertise, personality and character makeup, communication skills, emotional intelligence, influence, and approach to work that an employee shows.2

These serve to complement the hard skills – those abilities that have been learned and can be measured and quantified – and can make an employee more of an asset to a company.3

Here are some of the top skills and characteristics of a good employee:

  • Knowing the why, as well as the what.4 Good employees know the reason why their job exists, above just knowing how to do their job. This allows them to come up with new suggestions and ideas to improve their tasks
  • Professionalism.5 Being polite, well-spoken, calm, and presentable is all part of being professional at work
  • Honesty and integrity.6 Telling the truth about tricky subjects, such as workload, work/life balance, difficult customers or colleagues, and ineffective procedures makes for a good employee
  • Innovative ideas.7 Employees who bring innovative ideas and suggestions forward that will impact positively are an asset to a company. Stagnation and complacency are the enemy of growth
  • Problem-solving abilities.8 Employees who work on something until it’s solved, or complete, and who bring their best efforts to solve problems are considered good employees
  • Ambitious.9 When employees have a clear, personal career plan or goal in mind, they’re not under the assumption that their employer will drive their career for them, so they strive for advancement
  • Dependability, reliability, and responsibility.10 Employees who take responsibility for their actions, are dependable, arrive on time, do what they say, and don’t let the others in their team down, are highly valued employees
  • Conflict resolution.11 Good employees address and resolve conflict maturely, rather than trying to avoid it, by maintaining respect for those involved, not placing blame, and not acquiescing just to keep the peace
  • Positive attitude.12 Employees who bring a positive attitude to work have a positive impact on those around them and improve the energy in the team
  • Emotional intelligence.13 Emotional intelligence (EQ) is about being mindful of one’s own state of emotions, as well as those in the team. Knowing how to manage these well is an important key to being a good employee
  • Teamwork.14 The ability to work with other people in a team, by fostering relationships in a professional manner, in order to achieve a common goal, is an asset to any company
  • Willingness to learn.15 Hard skills attained through education are not enough for good employees – they’re open minded to new ideas, and they share their thoughts and personal insights with the team.
  • Creativity.16 Not all people are born creative, but creativity is a skill that can be learned through experimentation, imagination, questions, collaboration, and information processing
  • Generosity.17 Good employees coach and mentor those around them. They generously share their experiences and expertise. They understand that knowledge is only power when it’s shared with others

Recruiting vs training

Knowing what skills and characteristics to look out for, in existing employees as well as when recruiting new employees, will ensure that these desired qualities are nurtured and developed throughout the business, regardless of the job title or function.

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All over the world, businesses are seeing skills gaps emerging. In the United Kingdom alone, 23 per cent of employees lack basic digital skills in spite of the fact that they’re needed for close to 90 per cent of all new jobs.18 One possible solution is training existing employees to become proficient in new skills – both hard and soft – and in turn creating ‘good employees’.19 This also means that a new approach is needed when recruiting. Hiring employees who show potential to be further skilled and who display some of the qualities listed above may be an effective tactic. Given that top talent is likely to become more and more scarce and in demand, training might well be the best and most practical solution.

Knowing what skills and characteristics to look out for, in existing employees as well as when recruiting new employees, will ensure that these desired qualities are nurtured and developed throughout the business, regardless of the job title or function. The skills of a good employee reach beyond technical acumen and business experience. While these are important to get the job done, how these tasks are carried out, and the interactions with other team members, are indicative of the attitude, approach, mindset, and adaptability of a good employee.

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  • 2 Doyle, A. (Aug, 2019). ‘Top soft skills employers value with examples’. Retrieved from The Balance Careers.
  • 3 Autenrieth, N. (Nd). ‘Why soft and hard skills are so important to your resume’. Retrieved from Top Resume. Accessed 25 June 2020.
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  • 7 Wiles, J. (Apr, 2019). ‘Foster innovation to drive digital transformation’. Retrieved from Gartner.
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  • 9 (Nd). ‘Why passionate employees are the most valuable employees.’ Retrieved from Soprana. Accessed 23 June 2020.
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  • 12 Zambas, J. (Aug, 2018). ‘20 key qualities that make a good employee‘. Retrieved from Career Addict.
  • 13 Gassam, J. (Jul, 2018). ‘How to develop more emotionally intelligent employees’. Retrieved from Forbes.
  • 14 Belyh, A. (Jun, 2018). ‘Top skills and values employers seek from job seekers’ Retrieved from Cleverism.
  • 15 Bean-Mellinger, B. (Mar, 2019). ‘Most important employee skills in the workplace’. Retrieved from Chron.
  • 16 Bhandare, S. (Jan, 2020). ‘Top 9 qualities of great employees in the digital age’. Retrieved from Recruitment.com.
  • 17 Oesch, T. (May, 2018). ‘How kindness and generosity can impact learning and the bottom line’. Retrieved from Training Industry.
  • 18 Bughin, J. et al. (May, 2018). ‘Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce’. Retrieved from McKinsey.
  • 19 (Nd). ‘Skilling, reskilling, and upskilling’. Retrieved from Randstad. Accessed 23 June 2020.