6 Skills of a Good Employee (& How to Test Them) | Toggl Blog
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6 Skills of a Good Employee (& How to Test Them)

Mile Zivkovic Mile Zivkovic Last Updated:

Have you ever had a coworker that did their job amazingly well, but didn’t do too well on other account, like managing up, or with interpersonal external challenges? There’s a lot more to work besides actual working. No matter your industry, company structure or position, there are some common traits that all managers want their employees to have. Here, we explore 6 skills of a good employee, that go beyond the technical.

1. Communication

Unless you work on your own and for yourself, you will have to communicate during work in some shape or form. While both employers and employees sometimes take it very lightly, there is immense value in establishing great communication in the workplace. Being able to listen, speak and write with clarity goes a long way in doing great work consistently.

communication skills
Source: LinkedIn

As more and more teams work remotely or use live chat/video and call center software tools to work, communication in the written form is becoming increasingly important as well. Small disagreements in writing can potentially lead to arguments if not dealt with in a timely manner.

Why is it important?

Firstly, good communication means a more productive environment and better overall results – establishing it as one of the key skills of a good employee.

Secondly, good communication ensures less conflict in the workplace. If an employee communicates their thoughts well, they will be able to reach a common ground easily and understand others’ points of view.

Thirdly, some of your employees have customer-facing roles, where communication is critical. Great communicators can understand customers’ needs, connect with them and build a better relationship between them and your company.

Finally, employees will want to stay in companies where people communicate well. As indicated by research, companies with effective communication have 50% lower employee turnover rates.

How to test for good communication? During the application and interview process, you’ll be able to see how well the applicant communicates with you. In the interview, use the opportunity to ask some relevant questions, such as:

Tell me about a conflict you had in the workplace. How did you solve it?

You need to explain a complicated issue to a co-worker. How do you go about it?

Give me an example of a successful presentation you had and why you think it was great.

Did you ever have to tell bad news to your manager or coworker? How did you do it?

A customer is calling in about a problem and they’re really angry. How do you confront them?

2. Teamwork

No matter the type of work or industry, no one can do work alone. Even solopreneurs and freelancers working remotely have to rely on others to collaborate and get work done. Even though it’s one of the most abused resume buzzwords, teamwork is as important as ever in the modern-day workplace, and as one of the 6 skills of a good employee.

In fact, 75% of employers list teamwork as very important to their workplace. And it’s not the employers only that see the relevance of teamwork.

Why is it important?

First and foremost, teams that get along together are more productive and efficient. If the workload is spread out instead of put on one pair of shoulders, it’s easier to complete it.

Teamwork also affects employee morale – proper lines of communication ensure that everyone feels good about their work. Additionally, employees with well-functioning teams have lower turnover and higher employee retention rates.

Teamwork provides a variety of different thoughts, backgrounds, and perspectives. Within a great team, coworkers can brainstorm ideas and come up with better solutions than they would on their own.

Your team wants it. As backed by research, 86% of workers prefer collaboration over competition in the workplace.

How do you test for teamwork? As mentioned, many applicants simply list “teamwork” in their resume, not fully knowing what it entails. Here are some questions you can ask your candidates:

Do you feel better working on your own or part as a team?

How comfortable are you working on a task within a team?

Tell me about a time when you worked together with someone and a problem came up. How did you solve it?

Tell me about a successful project you completed as part of a team. What was your role?

In your opinion, what makes a team function well?

3. Time management

Here’s a shocker. On average, your typical office worker is only truly productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes every day, out of 8 work hours. That means that the bulk of the time at work is spent drinking coffee, chatting to coworkers, browsing social media, taking lunch breaks, or whichever pastime you prefer.

Employees that manage their time well are an asset to your workplace, as they’re more efficient and do better work in less time.

Why is it important?

Time is money – your money as the employer, in this case. The more that an employee can do within 8 work hours (or whichever your arrangement may be), the better your return on investment. An employee that manages their time well is a sound investment.

Second, an employee that manages their time well improves the overall workflow. Often times, work processes depend on one another, so one bad link can delay the entire project. If you have a group of employees that have a habit of managing their time well – you’ll hit deadlines every time.

Additionally, those that are great at time management simply do better quality work. Because they know task priorities, they won’t spend too much time on irrelevant processes and rush what’s really important.

How to test for time management skills? One of the ways to test for time management is sending out a test task to your applicants and see if they can do it before the deadline. At Toggl Hire, we have a take-home task as part of the hiring process where we let applicants choose their own deadlines.

Alternatively, there are some good questions that you can ask, such as…

Have you ever had several tasks with an approaching deadline? How did you choose which one to do first?

Did you ever fail to meet a deadline in your work? If yes, why did it happen?

Your manager gives you too many tasks for you to complete. What do you do?

How do you track the progress of your tasks?

You’re working on a task and you know you’ll miss the deadline. What do you do?

4. Problem-solving skills

In an ideal world, work would be a series of tasks that all have a pre-set solution. Unfortunately, in real-life, work consists of a lot of unpredictable situations where employees have to wing it on a moment’s notice to find a solution to a problem.

When hiring a new employee, you want to make sure that they react properly when facing a problem. This means that A) they won’t look for someone else to do the dirty work and B) they won’t bother the management every time they bump into an unknown situation.

Why is it important?

Sometimes, situations will arise that go out of the scope of the employee’s job description. When this happens, the ability to think outside the box becomes critical in finding a solution and saving the day – essential skills for a good employee.

Strong problem solvers will be able to spot problems before they become problems. Through observation, critical thinking and analysis, they’ll spot gaps and foresee issues in the future.

How to test for problem-solving skills? Ask for previous experience. Here are some of the questions you can ask:

Did you ever have to solve a problem without the input from management? How did you do it?

When faced with a difficulty at work, do you tackle it yourself or ask someone else for help?

Have you ever noticed a problem before it became urgent and solved it?

You find yourself in a stressful situation and have to act quickly. What do you do?

What was your most stressful work situation so far, and how did you handle it?

5. Integrity

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis. A candidate’s ethics is one of the best ways to know that they stand behind their words and that they actually get the job done. Employees with strong integrity do the job they’re assigned to do while respecting their coworkers and managers. This is one of the most crucial skills of a good employee.

Source: BenFrancia

While the bases of workplace integrity are honesty, trust and moral and ethical principles, those with strong integrity also believe in and uphold their values, in and outside of work.

Why is it important?

A workplace built on strong integrity is a workplace with a positive culture. Employees know that they can trust each other’s moral values and they can rely on sound judgment and good ethics from those around them. It fosters a culture of trust and honesty.

Additionally, a company with strong integrity can get and retain more customers. By sticking to your word and following through on your promises, you’re earning customers’ trust and positioning yourself as a brand that walks the walk.

How to test for integrity? Besides ringing up previous employers for references, here are some questions you can ask your potential employees.

Did you ever do something against the company policy? If yes, why did you do it?

Tell us an example of when you stood up for your beliefs in the workplace.

Tell us of an instance when you took the lead by setting an example for others.

Tell us an example of when you made a mistake in the workplace and took the blame for it.

Have you ever had to lie in your previous position? If yes, why did you do it?

Unfortunately, in the end, all you can rely on is the candidates’ honesty. While there are some more drastic measures such as taking a polygraph test, most experts agree that testing for integrity is really difficult. Instead, you can take a look at previous work history and thoroughly check references.

6. Motivation

When it comes to skills of a good employee, there are few more important than motivation. It’s the difference between an employee who finds new ways to refine their processes and get the job done and an employee who walks in early, goes out late and takes 2-hour lunch breaks.

As it turns out, motivation is one of the bigger modern-day workplace issues. According to a Gallup poll, only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged at the workplace. In other words, the vast majority of people lack the motivation to do their jobs properly and contribute to their organization.

Why is it important?

Employees are more productive. If the staff is more motivated, they have the willingness to achieve and exceed goals set ahead of them.

Employees are more satisfied. If there’s a proper motivation to do their job, your staff will be happier with the work they do.

Employees improve themselves and their work. If someone’s highly motivated, they’ll find new ways to do their daily tasks, improving on quality and speed. What’s more, they’ll also seek to develop themselves personally and professionally, by learning new skills and techniques.

How to test for motivation? While there’s no practical way to assess motivation in the workplace before you hire someone, there are some questions that you can ask that are pretty good predictors of future behavior:

Tell us about a process at your previous position that you improved and the steps you took to implement your idea.

Did you ever go beyond your employer’s expectations, and how did you do it?

Do you tend to find new ways of doing everyday tasks?

If you’re working with a team that’s not motivated, how do you motivate others and yourself?

What are your life goals, including goals for your career?

Are these skills of a good employee enough to make a hiring decision?

On their own, these are skills of a great employee. However, there’s one thing to consider first – whether the candidate can do their job or not. If you’re looking for a tool to help you assess candidate skills, check out Toggl Hire and make better hiring decisions today.

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