Six Characteristics of a Solid Employee


Turnover is costly to businesses. It takes money to recruit. It takes money to train. It takes time to transition staff and manage internal operating efficiency during periods of transition. The savvy small business owner will eliminate wasteful spending by incorporating smart HR strategies to cut excess costs.

Efficient businesses don’t do excess.

Finding the right employee can be challenging. The “skills gap” has created ongoing challenges for business to remain competitive without the abundance of qualified workers to meet functional needs. In fact, some companies report position announcements open for more than six months. If you are on a seemingly-never-ending quest to find the right talent for your small business, consider the value of intangible qualities that aren’t (necessarily) developed in the classroom.

Potential payoff or potential disaster?

You know your business. You know which qualifications, experience, and other candidate factors make the most sense. Once you define the tangible qualifications for the ideal candidate needed, use the following six factors in your evaluation of those invaluable “intangible” qualities:

1. Communication

Employees don’t live on islands, and growth won’t be sustained until every employee gets on the same island. Effective team members must effectively communicate with one another to effectively work well together. There is no “I” in Growth. Or team.

Not only is communication an important skill to look for (and cultivate) in your employees; those with well-developed interpersonal skills can propel your business to greater heights – faster.  Create a culture of communicators; create an agile, forward thinking business enterprise. Monitor and observe employee communication habits with the following considerations in mind, and make decisions that best serve your long-term objectives.

  • How well does the employee interpret information? Are interpretations on target?
  • How well does the employee interact with colleagues? What role in group dynamics does employee assume?
  • How does the employee respond when criticized? Does the employee actively listen to feedback?
  • Can the employee write well? Speak well? Improvise well?

2. Initiative

A candidate’s ability to generate insightful ideas usually indicates they are committed to initiating success. Employees that embody a can-do, figure-it-out-or-figure-a-way-around type are invaluable. Willingness to learn implies willingness to accept criticism, collaborate and improve. Those self-directed staffs who anticipate opportunities and envision possibilities will best represent your brand in the long run.

Small Business Tips: Employee Productivity

Taking initiative implies some accountability to the greater order – the identification of a need creates the compelling desire to meet that need. Ways to evaluate initiative include:

  • Ask open-ended questions to get insight into thought process and approach
  • Ask about goals (short and long term) and demonstrated results
  • Ask about examples of anticipating and solving problems before they occurred

3. Adaptability

Adaptable employees are flexible. Adaptable employees work well with multiple projects, both independently or as a team member. Versatility particularly suits the pace of the small business space. Successful employees willingly take on (and master) diverse job functions. The manner in which an employee reacts to unexpected events measures employee potential to help you adapt to the needs of your business constituents. Your ability to compete is dependent upon your ability to adapt. Adaptation starts with employees willing to lead change.

  • Look for a candidate who roll with the punches: ask about achieving results despite competing goals
  • Can the employee work well independently or with a team? Unsupervised?
  • Ask for examples where the employee facilitated desired outcome when human barriers led to refining approach

4. Organization

Let’s face it, you’re busy. There is more to accomplish and less time in which to accomplish more. Your organized employees – planners, effective time allocators, prioritizers – tend to accomplish more work. Solid employees consolidate productive tasks get more done in the same amount of time as a less organized employee. Remember, organization includes factors like personal appearance, work-life balance, ability to manage multiple efforts. Evaluate the following:

  • Appearance and personal accountability
  • Awareness and understanding (or interest in learning) about the role of each component of your business
  • Does the employee confirm details and follow up on loose ends?

Related Article:10 Tips For Welcoming Newly Recruited Employees

5. Problem Solving

How does your employee approach challenges? When problems become opportunities (all it takes is a new point of view) and momentum is uninterrupted despite threats, businesses evolve. Critical thinking and problem solving ability suggests an employee is motivated by opportunity (the reasons why you can, not the reasons why you can’t); this mindset will embrace challenges. Evaluate an employee’s ability to solve problems through sound reason and critical thinking:

  • Do the employee understand relationships between pertinent facts and draw appropriate conclusions?
  • How does the employee act under pressure, when forced to make decisions quickly?

6. Trust

You want employees you can trust.You want to be able to count on employees to follow through on their commitments. But being reliable is not the same as being trustworthy. A candidate who makes excuses or can’t easily answer your “accountability” questions is probably not the trustworthy candidate you need. To give you an idea as if this person is able to reflect and improve upon mistakes, test their own-up factor:

  • Ask about failure, including what they learned and how they’ve evolved from shortcomings.
  • Ask for details about an experience in a less than transparent situation


You know who this person is:
the most memorable employee (or colleague) you’ve ever professionally interacted with. What factors make them stand out?

Submit your Rockstar Factor Below:

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter
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  • Angel Biz Advisors

    My advice to business owners is to hire employees based on personal qualities, not skills. You can always teach skills to someone who has right attitude, however reverse is not true. The qualities you described here makes an excellent list. I would also look to see how they are in interacting with customers. If the employee is not able to handle customers well it will start affecting your sales and soon the entire business.

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    • waspbarcode

      Thank you for your insight!

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    • Myrna Padilla

      Yes true Angel Biz advisors. Especially the nature of business I am in, I always look first the attitude of the employee parallel to their skills set that we required. When I interview.., I always asked if the position they are applying for part of their passion. Developing trust relationship with our employees is the best.

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      • jessirj

        Great insight – thanks for your comment.

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  • Myrna Padilla

    Very true. I agree with the article “six characteristics of a solid employee”. I enjoy reading it.

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    • jessirj

      Thanks Myrna!

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  • alka

    i always thought the most important thing employers look for in people is their technical knowledge/ skills
    and rest is secondary

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  • Atiq

    alright, but does any employer look for these properties in candidates or the specific skills required for that specific job the employer is offering. I guess these traits are only in the best interest of the employee himself and that most of the employers are concerned only with the job specific skills when they evaluate a candidate.

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