Key Qualities Of A Good Worker: 25 Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 8, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Articles In Life At Work Guide

The definition of a “great employee” will, to some extent, vary from employer to employer. Every organization, after all, has its own unique goals. When seeking a new hire, employers look for job candidates whose skill sets are amenable to those goals.

In other words: While a job candidate’s background and skills might not be worth much to Employer A, they could be a perfect fit – and thus highly valuable – to Employer B.

Despite this employer-specific variability, several personality traits are almost always reliable indicators of a top talent employee. These are particular strengths that virtually every employer values in an employee – regardless of the industry, department, or role that they happen to work within.

As you might be able to guess, the vast majority of these qualities can be categorized as “soft skills.” “Hard skills” are technical abilities such as coding and graphic design, while “soft skills” can be thought of as interpersonal skills or “people skills.”

The only downside to this is that soft skills can often be more challenging to detect. In contrast to hard skills, which can usually be measured by an aptitude test or proven through a certificate, employers and hiring managers need to be fairly perceptive and patient to detect a job candidate’s set of soft skills.

Furthermore, keep in mind that you should also keep your eye out for these qualities among your existing employees – not only among job candidates you’re interviewing for a position.

In many cases, the person that you’re looking for to fill an empty role may already be working for you. As an employer, you should always spend as much time searching for employees who deserve a promotion as you do looking for new candidates to fill empty roles.

With those ideas in mind, this article will highlight twenty-five important (and yet easily missed) qualities that define a highly productive and valuable employee.

Twenty-Five Common Qualities of Top Employees

Here are twenty-five examples of qualities that are common among almost every high-quality employee and job candidate:

  1. They’re not afraid to speak up during meetings. Professional success requires a willingness to be able to advocate on one’s own behalf. Most top talent employees, in other words, are not shy about making their voices heard during a busy team meeting.

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    Of course, employees can take this too far by being aggressive or domineering during team meetings. Ideally, you want to seek out employees and job candidates who aren’t afraid to contribute to group conversations and won’t prevent others from being heard.

  2. They have a solutions-oriented mindset. There are some employees who – especially during times of a crisis -– seem only to focus on the negative aspects of a situation. This quality is typically not conducive to long-term success (or happiness, for that matter).

    Instead, you want to keep your eye out for those rare employees who will accept the reality of a situation and then will instinctively begin charting an updated path forward towards success.

  3. They dress to impress. You should dress for the job you want – as the old saying goes – not the job you have. You can learn a great deal about an employee or a job candidate simply by looking at their wardrobe.

    If they dress like they’re not particularly concerned about advancing in their career, then they probably aren’t. If they make an effort to look sharp while they’re at the workplace, however, that’s a strong indicator that they’re taking their role seriously – and that they may even be ready for more responsibilities at work.

  4. They actively pursue new opportunities. Some employees are perfectly happy staying in one place, and others will stop at nothing to advance to the next stage in their career. As a business leader, it’s this latter category that you should pay special attention to.

  5. They don’t participate in harmful workplace gossip. Although it has taken place in virtually every workplace since the dawn of humankind, idle gossip should be avoided at all costs. Many employees know this at some level but will nonetheless participate – to the detriment of their happiness and professional relationships.

    An employee sets themself apart from the crowd as soon as they commit to not participating in workplace gossip. As employers, it’s essential that we note those employees who tend to gossip behind their colleagues’ backs. However, it’s even more critical to take note of those employees who are conspicuously absent from the circles of toxic gossip.

  6. They consistently arrive to work on time. A willingness and an ability to arrive at work on time each day are more than just a sign of respect – it’s also an indicator of an employee’s readiness to level up in their career.

  7. They have a keen attention to detail. As a team leader, you know that it’s important always to pay close attention to easily overlooked details. That’s why it’s important to carefully review and analyze the minor details of a job applicant’s resume.

    If an applicant has put in the time to polish and perfect these details, that’s a good sign that they will also bring that same care and attention with them into the workplace.

  8. They’re interested in hearing your feedback. Receiving feedback from an employer is a crucial step in advancing to the next level in one’s career. Top talent employees understand this, which is why they’ll make it a point to approach you and ask for your constructive and honest feedback.

  9. They possess strong active listening skills. There’s an important difference between “passive” listening, on the one hand, and “active” listening on the other. An individual is practicing passive listening when hearing the sounds coming out of a person’s mouth but not genuinely making an effort to understand what’s being said.

    In contrast, an active listener is someone who consciously stops what they’re doing, looks you in the eye, and is engaged with you when you’re speaking. For obvious reasons, it’s the latter type of listener that you want to seek out and promote in your workplace.

  10. They participate in company events and celebrations. When employees sacrifice their personal time to attend a company event, they’re communicating to their managers and their colleagues that they truly care about cultivating a strong relationship with the company.

    One of the hallmarks of a top talent employee is their willingness to engage with company parties, events, and holidays not just as a passive bystander, but as an active participant.

  11. They’re a team player. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for workplaces to become dominated by an unhealthy sense of competition or rivalry between employees. While a little healthy competition is usually not such a bad thing, it can be taken too far – to the point that it starts to degrade the quality of workplace relationships.

    There are also those valuable employees who stand out from the crowd in this regard by actively supporting their colleagues. To put it another way, these employees don’t automatically interpret a colleague’s gain as their loss (as many employees tend to do). Instead, they celebrate their co worker’s achievements alongside them.

  12. They stay calm, cool, and collected under pressure. Many job applicants and employees may at first appear to be strong and reliable, only to crack as soon as the real pressure starts to be applied. You may have an employee, for example, who, on the surface of things, appears to be totally competent and easygoing.

    But one day, a deadline is pushed up at the last minute, and she starts panicking, telling you that there’s no way that she can get the work done in time and that she would like to be taken off of the project.

    Ideally, you want to hire and promote those individuals who can not only withstand unexpected pressure, but who actually thrive under such conditions.

  13. They feel comfortable using new technology. Technology is coming to play an increasingly central role in modern business, which means it’s essential to seek out tech-savvy employees.

    Often, you can quickly determine whether or not a job candidate is technologically proficient by reviewing the skills and background experience outlined in their resume.

  14. They enjoy teaching as much as they enjoy learning. Have you noticed a particular staff member who unflinchingly rises to the occasion when it’s time to train a new employee?

    If so, then you might consider vetting that employee for a future leadership role. The ability to teach others is, after all, widely considered to be one of the most important qualities of a modern business leader.

  15. They have strong communication skills. Strong communication skills are, like teaching skills, among the most essential qualities to look for in a future team leader.

    An employee who can confidently and comfortably communicate with people from diverse backgrounds can be relied upon also to be an effective delegator and manager.

  16. They’re honest with you and with their colleagues. During your time as a manager, you’ve undoubtedly interacted with employees in the past who don’t tell you the complete truth about a situation because they’re obviously worried that the whole truth would make you upset.

    This type of half-truthful communication, however, is counterproductive to everyone’s long-term goals. The best and most reliable employees, in contrast, will always tell you the truth, regardless of how that truth will make them look in your eyes. Honesty is invaluable in the workplace.

  17. They don’t think twice about going the extra mile. We’ve all had some experiences working with people who are perfectly happy to put in the minimum necessary effort. Those people, however, don’t typically climb up very far on the ladder of success. As managers, we should always be on the lookout for employees who routinely put in the extra effort at work simply because it’s in their nature to do so.

  18. They’re aimed at self-improvement – not just maintaining the status quo. Those people mentioned above who put in the minimum necessary effort also tend to be content with the status quo. That means that they never put in a real effort to make things better for themselves, their colleagues, or their company.

    On the other hand, top talent employees are notable for the fact that they’ll consistently find or create ways to improve their performance and workplace. These are the employees that you want to have in your corner.

  19. They keep their finger on the pulse of current market trends. The market, by definition, is in a constant state of flux. As individuals, there is only so much that we can do to keep up with the latest market trends.

    It’s crucial, therefore, to hire people who have a talent for market research. These are the people who you’ll be able to turn to for advice when unexpected market shifts take place (as they inevitably do).

  20. They show humility. Even if they’re immensely talented, an employee can have a net negative effect on your workplace culture if they’re excessively boastful and arrogant.

    In other words, the best employees are those who make a significant contribution to the organization and while remaining humble and grounded.

  21. They’re unafraid to think outside of the box. Now more than ever, it’s critical for companies to bring novel solutions to emergent problems (such as climate change, the proliferation of artificial intelligence, and political division).

    To that end, every employer should make it a top priority to seek out employees who can rapidly adapt to changing circumstances and who can demonstrate a knack for problem-solving strategically and creatively.

  22. They represent the company well when they interact with clients or customers. The prospect of interacting with clients or customers can make many employees feel uncomfortable and nervous. However, a common quality of top talent employees is a sense of confidence when they have to communicate with important third parties outside of the workplace.

  23. They don’t shirk responsibility. The best employees will, generally speaking, gratefully accept any new responsibility that you hand to them (within reason, of course). This is because high-quality employees tend to view new responsibilities as opportunities – not as inconveniences or chores.

  24. They bring problems to your attention. Often, employees will attempt to hide (even small) issues under the rug, under the mistaken impression that they will simply go away if they are ignored for long enough.

    But as any business leader understands perfectly well, ignoring a problem never makes it go away – it merely allows it to grow. In light of that, you should always keep your eye out for employees who are not afraid to bring problems to your attention.

  25. They’re kind and respectful. Last (but certainly not least), it’s essential for managers to hire and promote employees who have a positive attitude – both when they’re around you and when they’re around their colleagues.

    This may sound a bit cliche, but the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of manners in the workplace.

Employee Training Tips That Will Boost Your Business

As we’ve seen, it’s crucial for any employer to be able to identify the qualities of a talented job candidate or employee. When you’re able to recognize attributes and skills that truly set an individual apart from the crowd, you’ll have a much easier time deciding who to hire and promote within your organization.

However, an ability to recognize talent is only the first step towards building a stronger and more capable workforce. Once you’ve found the job candidate you’d like to hire (or the employee you’d like to promote), the next step will be to train that individual for their new role.

Employee training is one of the most critical steps in the process of building an optimized team. It also tends to be one of the most time-consuming and expensive steps in the process. A recent report found that companies spend an average of $1,075 on training a new recruit. For most small business owners, that’s a considerable amount.

So what are your options? Of course, you can’t just get rid of your training programs. That might save you some money in the short-term, but it would ultimately be detrimental to your long-term goals.

However, you can maximize the ROI of your training programs by making sure that you’re implementing the best and most effective strategies that are available to you. In other words: By taking the time in the here and now to optimize your training programs, you’ll maximize your chances of creating a maximally productive and efficient team in the near future.

Here are five simple and effective employee training tips that can provide a serious boost to your business:

  • Customize your training sessions for individual employees. You should always remember the fact that learning styles and preferences differ from person to person. In light of that, it can go a long way to customize your training programs to the individual that you’re working with.

    Of course, no manager can be expected to know the specific quirks of a new employee’s personality right off the bat. But you don’t need to design the perfect training program for each new employee – you simply need to make it your goal to get to know your new team member as much as possible.

    To that end, you should approach every training session as a collaborative process. That way, if you notice that a particular method of instruction isn’t working for a new employee, you can always switch up your methodology and angle of approach.

  • Implement a schedule for regular training sessions throughout the year. Employee training should never be approached as a one-and-done sort of a project.

    Your organization continues to evolve over time, which means that you should also be continuing to train your employees and help them to update their skill sets across time. Therefore, it’s essential to develop a schedule for additional follow-up training sessions for each new employee.

  • Leverage your existing employees as co-trainers. Always remember that you don’t have to navigate the process of training new employees entirely on your own. You have a valuable training resource right under your nose: Your existing staff members.

    They’re intimately familiar with the professional territory that your new recruit will be entering into, which means they’ll be able to offer valuable insights and advice when the time comes to train their new colleague.

  • Establish concrete goals for new employees. When it comes to employee training, it’s always crucial to establish actual goals. It’s also important to provide new employees with some key performance indicators (KPIs) that will enable them to track their incremental progress towards those goals.

  • Create an open-door policy. As a team leader, you should always account for the fact that new employees will encounter inevitable roadblocks as they’re getting settled into their new roles.

    They’re also going to have several questions about their new day-to-day workflow and the chain of command in the office. By establishing an open-door policy with your staff members, you’ll minimize friction within the workplace and (literally) open the door to deeper and more rewarding workplace relationships in one fell swoop.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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