Ask 10 different managers about the defining skills of a good employee, and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.
That’s because what ultimately defines a good employee can mean different things across different people, companies, industries, and positions.
However, there are some common traits that most managers want their employees to have. Here, we explore the six essential skills of a good employee that go beyond the technical know-how needed to do the job.
TL;DR – Key takeaways:
- What makes a good employee can vary greatly according to the type of role, company, culture, among others. For example, the qualities for a good intern are not the same as what it takes to be a good manager.
- While there is no single definition of a good employee, there are 6 core traits that employers look for. These are communication, teamwork, time management, problem-solving, integrity, and motivation.
- Communication is often cited as among the top 10 most in-demand soft skills. Being able to listen, speak and write with clarity effectively goes a long way toward doing great work consistently.
- Team players make valuable employees when the productivity of the group is larger than any individual, but most importantly, has proven to have a positive impact on team morale and retention rates, too.
- Time management is an underrated but highly valuable skill set as an employee that can manage their time well means they know how to prioritize and won’t hold up other team members by missing critical deadlines.
- Strong problem solvers are able to look at situations from various angles to find the right solution and solve problems on their own without always needing to turn to their managers for help.
- While integrity and motivation are difficult to assess, it can help foster a culture of trust and honesty, both within the company and also, importantly, among your customers.
- Save time in the hiring process with skills testing by Toggl Hire to quickly identify these key skills and other important qualities in your prospective candidates.
What makes a good employee?
While there is no single definition of a good employee, there are some common universal attributes that employers will look for—combined with the necessary hard skills required to perform the role, traits like integrity, honesty, reliability, and dependability help to make up a “good employee”.
Another way to think of the qualities of a good employee is to understand what it takes to be successful in a given role.
For example, what makes a good intern, such as enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, is different from the leadership qualities and communication skills required to be a good manager.
In this context, the definition of ‘good‘ will vary according to a number of factors, from the expectations of the role to the company culture, working environment, company setup (traditional, hybrid, remote), company size, etc.
Other desirable qualities that make a good employee include:
- Strong communication skills and active listening
- Being collaborative and willing to work as a part of a team
- Ability to manage time effectively and efficiently
- Problem-solving and strong critical-thinking skills
- Core ethics like integrity
- A positive attitude and the motivation to do well
Next, we’ll take a closer look at each of these key good employee traits to better understand why they are so important.
Tip! Use the list above as a starting point to create your own definition of a “good employee” for an open role you are hiring for.
Even if you work absolutely alone, you will probably still have to flex your communication skills from time to time.
Excellent communication skills are essential for everyday situations and shouldn’t be taken for granted since they hold immense value in life and the workplace.
Being able to effectively listen, speak and write with clarity goes a long way toward doing great work consistently.
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 qualifications of a good employee.
Secondly, good communication ensures less conflict in the workplace. Great employees communicate their thoughts well, and they can 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, a good employee will want to stay in companies where people communicate well.
Research indicates that companies with effective communication are 20% more likely to have lower employee turnover rates.NPAworldwide
How to test for good communication?
In the initial stages of the hiring process, look to assess how well the potential hire formulates their thoughts and explains their previous experience.
And take a close look at how they communicate in their application and emails. In their homework task, great communicators will show you what they did and how – and will easily walk you through the entire process.
Tip! Great written communicators will likely have organized and well-written applications and LinkedIn profiles. In contrast, strong oral communicators will have the unique ability to convey complex thoughts in clear and simple language.
Example questions to test communication in an interview include:
- Tell me about a conflict with a team member 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 your successful presentation and why you think it was great.
- Did you ever have to tell your manager or other employees bad news? How did you do it?
- A customer is calling in about a problem and is really angry. How do you address them?
To help hire the best employees, try out a skills test from Toggl Hire to evaluate soft skills like communication and problem-solving to instantly discover if the candidate is a good fit.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
And even solopreneurs or freelancers working remotely sometimes 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 one of the key requirements for a good employee.
In fact, teamwork is important for 37% of employees, and 97% of employers believe that a lack of alignment influences the chances of success for a project.
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.
Teamwork also affects employee morale – proper lines of communication ensure that everyone feels good about their work. Additionally, good employees with well-functioning teams have lower turnover and higher employee retention rates.
Teamwork provides a variety of thoughts, backgrounds, and different perspectives. Within a great team, coworkers can brainstorm fresh ideas and come up with better solutions than they would on their own.
Great employees are team players.
As backed by research, 88% of workers prefer collaboration over competition in the workplace. And this is the kind of positive attitude that contributes to amazing company culture.
How do you test for teamwork?
Precisely because it’s widely perceived by all as a desired quality, many applicants will simply say that they are a team player in their resume, even if it’s not exactly true. In order to assess for this important quality, here are some questions you can ask:
- Do you feel better working on your own or as part of a team?
- How comfortable are you working on a task within a team?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with someone and a problem arose. 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 the team function well?
You can also take a look at our assessment library to find appropriate tests for teamwork in different areas.
3. Time management
Reliable employees that manage their time well are an asset to your workplace, as they’re more efficient and can do quality work in less time.
A recent study found that your typical office worker is only truly productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes every day, out of 8 work hours.
Now, while that may not reflect every type of role, it does make a point that for some people, a lot of time at work gets spent not doing the actual work (read: drinking coffee, chatting with coworkers, browsing social media, etc.)
Why is it important?
Time is money; and frankly, the more an employee can do within 8 working hours, the better your return on investment.
Second, an employee that manages their time well improves the overall workflow.
Oftentimes, work processes depend on one another, so one bad link can delay the entire project. If you have a group of good employees who manage their time well, you’ll hit deadlines every time.
Additionally, those that are great at time management simply do better quality work. Since team members know task priorities, they won’t spend too much time on irrelevant processes and rush what’s really important.
A good worker will understand the importance of time management. And when hiring new employees, you’ll want to identify the time masters from the time wasters.
How to test for time management skills?
One of the ways to test for time management is by sending out a test task to your applicants and seeing if they complete it before the deadline. At Toggl Hire, we have a take-home task as part of the hiring process, where we allocate a limited amount of time to complete the task.
Alternatively, there are some excellent time management questions that you can ask:
- 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 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 logical solution to a problem. And for great employees, this is a walk in the park.
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 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 one of the essential qualities for finding helpful solutions and saving the day.
Strong problem solvers will be able to spot problems before they become problems. Through observation, critical thinking skills, and analysis, these confident employees can spot gaps and foresee future issues.
How to test for problem-solving skills?
Ask for previous experience. Here are some example questions:
- Did you ever have to solve a problem without 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?
Based on these questions, you can get a good feel for who fits the bill of an ideal employee that will bring innovative ideas and provide helpful solutions.
“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.
Good employees with strong integrity do their assigned job while respecting their coworkers and managers. This is one of the most crucial traits of a good employee.
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 rely on sound judgment and good ethics from those around them. It fosters a culture of trust and honesty and leads to optimistic employees who deliver high-quality work.
Additionally, a company with solid 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 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.
Instead, you can take a look at previous work history and thoroughly check references.
When it comes to the soft 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 more significant modern-day workplace issues.
According to a Gallup poll, only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged in the workplace.
In other words, the vast majority of people lack the motivation to do their jobs properly and contribute to their organization. So, this is one of the crucial details to pay attention to when hiring.
Why is it important?
Motivated employees are more productive. If the staff is more motivated, they have the willingness to achieve and exceed goals set ahead of them. And are also generally more satisfied. If there’s proper motivation to do their job, your staff will be happier with the work they do.
Employees that are self-motivators improve themselves and their work. They can work independently, demonstrate a strong work ethic, and make excellent new hires with their bags of energy and can-do attitude.
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, 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?
Motivated or passionate employees will find a way to link each of these situations with intrinsic and external motivation.
Separate the good from the bad with Toggl Hire
Soft skills are important qualities for any employee to succeed in their role.
Perhaps the best definition of a good employee is one that is well-rounded and has a great mix of soft and technical skills, as well as the key qualities your specific company needs. And the best way to find out if their soft skills and technical skills are on point is with a skills test, of course.
Find out how you can test for a large variety of soft and hard skills, from writing articles to code, and assessing for desired qualities like problem solving and communication.
Sign up today – and get started for free.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.