9 Key Signs of a Good Employee

Siôn Phillpott
Siôn Phillpott

Career & Entrepreneurship Expert

Boss giving employee thumbs up

As a manager, it can sometimes be difficult to get a thorough understanding of the capability and potential of your team. You may not have been involved in many of the recruitment decisions, for instance, so you may be forced to work with what you’ve got; this is why it’s important to recognise when you’ve got a top worker on your hands.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the key identifying factors so that you can separate the wheat from the chaff – in a competitive jobs market, there’s no room for passengers, after all.

So, if you want to know who you can rely on, and who should be shown the door, then read on. These are the nine signs of a good employee…

1. They Demonstrate the Right Qualities

It’s easy for an employee to do all the right things during the initial hiring process, and even to continue to impress during their first few months in the job. But the best employees don’t rest on their laurels once they’ve settled in; they maintain their high standards and demonstrate the right qualities every single day, even when things aren’t going well.

This attitude usually results in a high quality of output, and lets you know as a manager that your employee is taking pride in their work; this ability to constantly deliver with minimal troughs should not be overlooked.


2. They Volunteer for Everything

Good employees are always seeking new challenges and ways to prove their worth. This is why they always put themselves forward for taskings and additional activities, whether they are project-related or ‘extracurricular’, such as serving on various office committees.

It’s not simply self-serving, either. When an employee volunteers to take leadership of work projects, for instance, it not only conveys ambition and a willingness to leave their comfort zone, but also provides you with an additional asset to your team – one that can offer additional leadership experience and invaluable project management skills, making the team as a whole stronger.


3. They Always Ask Questions

Some employers might argue that a worker who constantly asks questions is a hindrance, but this depends on the kind of questions they are asking. For example, an employee that seeks constant guidance on minor administrative tasks certainly falls into the ‘annoying’ category, but an engaged employee who wants to understand how their work has a wider impact within your industry should be encouraged.

Also, at the basic level, managers need to have that warm, fuzzy feeling that the instructions they’ve just given are completely and totally understood. If that means taking an extra 10 minutes to clarify certain points, then so be it; it’s preferable to an employee who nods vacantly and then spends the next 4 hours with absolutely no idea of what they’re supposed to be doing.


4. They Possess Commercial Awareness

Another bonus of an inquisitive workforce is that staff develop commercial awareness, an increasingly sought-after skill in the workplace. After all, an employee that understands their position and its relevance within the bigger picture is a hugely positive asset.

This applies to their position within the company, too, especially in larger firms. Having an idea of what each department does and where they fit into the overall scheme of operations allows individual workers to gain clarity in their own role. Meanwhile, an understanding of the culture of the organisation means that each employee is pulling in the right direction.

5. They Know Their Own Job

Of course, knowing what everybody else does is great, but any employee – good, bad or otherwise – needs to know their own job inside out, too. This doesn’t just mean understanding the technicalities and machinations of their day-to-day work, but also having a grasp of who they need to develop connections with (both internally and externally) and ensuring those relationships are strong.

It also means understanding how they are evaluated and what is expected of them. For example, if you can happily delegate various pieces of project work to an employee with minimal supervision and explanation, then it is a clear sign of a highly competent and capable individual.


6. They’re Respected by Their Colleagues

In any walk of life, you can get a general picture of somebody’s character by the way that others treat them; this is true in the workplace, too. It’s one thing for management to be impressed from afar, but if an employee is treated with respect by the peers that they spend the majority of their time with, then this is an ideal combination.

This is mainly because colleagues judge each other in a different way, and they appreciate integrity, honesty and the willingness to help each other over self-servitude. Certainly, it can help to identify if somebody is employing dirty tactics or brown-nosing in order to get ahead. Essentially, if somebody is performing well – and is liked by their peers, too – then it’s worth taking notice.


7. They Speak Their Mind in the Right Way

Speaking of brown-nosing, nobody likes a ‘yes’ man. Managers appreciate employees who will stand up and give an honest opinion on a particular course of action. Not only might their idea be a better one, but it also demonstrates that your employee is confident enough to disagree with you and cares enough to suggest a better way.

Of course, there are right ways and wrong ways of doing this – and a switched-on worker chooses their battles, too. For instance, if a member of staff is picking holes in everything from the cafeteria food to the corporate accounting strategy, then their voice starts to lose professional credibility. Good employees speak up only when they feel it’s necessary, and when they have something constructive to say.


8. They Always Seek Feedback

Some people are happy to coast through their careers and make a comfortable living without ever reaching their full potential; top employees, on the other hand, are constantly seeking to learn and improve.

If a member of staff is constantly badgering you for feedback outside of their appraisal period, it’s a sign that you have a motivated and positive individual at your disposal – and that should be encouraged.

Of course, the very best employees go one step further and put that feedback into action, taking steps to address any concerns and implement your recommendations. They also have a thick skin, taking your criticisms in the right way and focusing on making themselves a more valuable member of the team.


9. They Help and Develop Others

As a manager, your primary goal should be the development and guidance of your team, but with the pressures of deadlines and the sheer weight of your other responsibilities, it doesn’t necessarily work out this way. This is where you can rely on your best employees to utilise their experience and help your more junior team members.

Often, this happens naturally and without any prompt. This is because strong employees possess natural leadership instincts and recognise the importance of passing on their knowledge and acting as a delegate when needed. If you can rely on a primary employee to take responsibility and help foster a stronger team, then you’ve definitely struck gold.

Of course, realising that you’ve got a gem on your hands is one thing; the most important step is to ensure you reward and nurture that individual appropriately so that they are happy in their role. Employee recognition is a big part of making people feel valued, and you should always provide incentives and challenges for your most gifted workers.

A motivated and capable workforce will also ensure success for the wider company, so it is in the interests of senior managers to retain quality staff, too. After all, it can be a long and tricky process to find good people, and no HR department wants to be constantly replacing their best talent. Always be on the lookout for the signs of an excellent worker and treat them accordingly.

What do you look for in your employees? Let us know in the comments below…