Once in a while, you notice a new hire who is just as impressive on the job as they were during their interview. They’re an employee with a can-do attitude who does everything remarkably well. As their career goes on, these employees show a staggering level of ability, intelligence, and professionalism. When this happens, you’re in luck: you’ve hired a star.
In the course of your management career, you’ll have employees with a variety of strengths and weaknesses, and employees don’t need to be perfect in every area to be highly valuable. Some employees, however, have truly outstanding abilities and work ethics. In some cases, such employees may be highly visible, but in other situations, your best employees may be those who aren’t loud or immediately noticeable. In fact, they may be the ones who never complain and keep their heads down, staying focused on their work.
So look at the results of your employees’ work and let it speak for itself. Learn the top characteristics of an excellent employee so you can recognize and reward them. If a great employee goes unnoticed and unappreciated, you may lose them to a competitor.
The Top 5 Characteristics of an Excellent Employee
The people who work at your company define your business. They not only determine the quality of the work your company produces, but also give it cultural character. That’s why it’s so important that you hire and retain the best people you can find. And while all great employees are great in their own unique ways, here are five common characteristics they often share.
#1: Outstanding job performance
Naturally, the first characteristic you’d expect from an excellent employee is outstanding job performance. On the surface, outstanding performance means the ability to do one’s job very well. But how can you gauge job performance? Here are a few markers:
- Quality of work: This may vary by job role or industry. However, an experienced eye can tell good work from bad, especially if management has previously been in the same job role.
- Effectiveness: Does the employee’s work get the results you’re looking for? Does it lead to more sales, create better metrics, or build better products? If the employee is in management, do they reach their targeted goals and make business decisions that have led to positive results? A great employee does effective work that helps your business achieve its goals, so make sure you are applying their labor where it can have the greatest possible impact.
- Quantity of work and timeliness: How much work does the employee do, and how long does it take them to complete it? Every business wants star employees who can do large volumes of work. So when you find someone who has this sought-after quality, be sure to reward them well. Branded apparel is a great way to reward and incentivize employees at all levels.
- Attitude and ability to process feedback: A good employee is willing to roll with the punches of the work day and display a positive attitude. They have the temperament to listen to feedback, even if it’s critical, and apply it to their work. Processing feedback is one obstacle that holds some good employees back from being great, and is a quality you should never underestimate. An employee with a good attitude can inspire others and turn a bad work day into a good one. A good employee also creates a better work environment for themselves as well as others, a task which in itself raises employee retention.
#2: A strong work ethic and sense of responsibility
A star employee does the work. They don’t shy away from work that’s hard, which they approach with diligence and a sense of duty. And when you need a strong worker, you know you can count on a star employee to come through. When you have a large workload to assign or when your department is under pressure, who are the employees you turn to? Perhaps more importantly, who rises to the occasion, even when you don’t expect them to? Identify these people and keep them in mind. Because you’ll find that the people who work hard also tend to have a strong sense of responsibility. And that leads to accountability, a quality every successful business must cultivate at every level.
#3: The ability to take initiative and unofficial leadership roles
A great employee sees work that needs to be done and does it. This can be problematic when management or other co-workers find such initiative threatening, and while offering guidance in these situations is fine, don’t misunderstand the underlying motivation. Employees take initiative because they care about their jobs, and this is a quality that should be appreciated.
Great employees jump in and aren’t afraid to tackle new projects or take on extra work loads, because they are confident in their abilities. They may take unofficial leadership roles, such as advising or mentoring peers, simply because they are trying to help others. They also let you know when they spot an issue, as they help you to avoid problems before they can occur. So keep an eye out for employees who are self-directed and self-motivated. You may find they are capable of much more than you ever imagined.
A true star, an employee with real talent, is a conscientious person. They honestly care about their work because it’s meaningful. This is a tremendous quality because it means that an employee has other internal motivations driving them in addition to monetary success, and that gives you more options when managing them. When it comes to rewarding and recognizing these exemplary employees, non-monetary incentives can do wonders.
When you encounter an employee with integrity, allow them to follow their conscience. Don’t push them to do work or go along with decisions that don’t feel right to them. If they raise an objection, try to hear it in a non-threatening way. Because if an employee raises an objection, what sorts of objections could consumers or the public raise? Perhaps some of the great corporate PR scandals of our time could have been avoided by simply listening to conscientious employees. Furthermore, it takes courage to speak up, which is a great quality to find in anyone.
Allow employees with integrity to work in ways they find fulfilling while allowing them to stay true to themselves. Not respecting an employee with the rare gift of integrity can be extremely demotivating. In the worse-case scenario, it may even cause you to lose a highly-conscientious worker.
Employees who love what they do are an asset because they will produce the highest-possible quality of work. Why? Because their work makes them happy and they enjoy admiring their finished product.
Passionate employees do what they love and self-correct their work just because they’re proud of it. It’s easier to keep these employees happy because they already enjoy what they do. They’re far easier to motivate than people who don’t really like their jobs. Because every manager has experienced the alternative; it can be excruciatingly difficult to motivate people who are just trying to get through the next eight hours as easily as possible.
Therefore, hire employees who love the work they are doing, even if they seem less experienced. In the long run, they will pay off with good productivity, high quality work, and a positive attitude. Their passion will also be apparent in the quality of your product or service.
How to Retain Star Employees
Once you’ve recognized your star employees, how do you retain them? One important way is to make sure you incentivize, recognize and reward them. If you’re having trouble in these areas, you can always consult specialists who customize employee incentive programs. Here are a few tips on how to retain your star employees:
- Incentivize: Give your employees a goal to work toward. Metrics related to performance or productivity communicate clear goals. Incentives to work toward could be monetary or non-monetary, and we’ve often found that non-monetary incentives can work wonders while the effects of monetary incentives often expire over time. Structuring the best incentives program depends on understanding what motivates your employees.
- Recognize: Recognizing an employee means communicating how much you value them and their work. It means making an employee feel that their work is seen and that the value they bring to the company is understood by both management and peers. You can do this by offering words of praise or thanks, whether in public or during one-on-one settings. Just be sure to be sincere.
- Reward: Finally, allow your employees to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Point-based reward systems are shown to be ineffective. Instead, offer the types of rewards your employees actually want. You can even survey employees to learn what rewards they’re dreaming of. The answers may surprise you; some employees want simple things, such as an occasional longer lunch break or the ability to choose a Friday when they can go home early.
By following these three steps, you’ll raise employee morale and retention rates. And who knows? If your rewards are good enough, you may even inspire a little friendly competition, which gives employees bragging rights among their colleagues and raises overall productivity.
There’s an old saying: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. However, great employees are often the ones who don’t make a lot of noise, because they focus on their work and don’t have an egotistical need for attention. So you must be able to spot them. Like everyone else, great employees want and deserve recognition. If you want to retain your best talent, learn to recognize the characteristics of an excellent employee.
Lastly, determine what you value most in an employee. While there are many ways to define employee excellence, your values should also factor into your assessment. Once you realize you’ve got a star employee on your hands, treat them like the valuable asset they are; an opportunity to make your company great from within.
Remember that once you’ve hired a star employee, you need to retain them. Inproma can help you do exactly that. Don’t wait until your star employees are recruited away by a competitor. Start cultivating greater employee morale, loyalty, and career success with our incentive, recognition, and reward programs. Your employees will notice the difference, and you will too. Let’s talk.