The Best Employees Display These 6 Characteristics

Good employees are rare and valuable. Here's how to identify them.

learn more about Martin Rowinski

By Martin Rowinski • Apr 26, 2022

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When I sat for a panel discussion to go over my expertise in the board space recently, one of the main topics revolved around identifying a quality outside board member. To me, this is an easy answer: The qualities that make a great board member are the same ones that would make a great employee.

Like a great board member, a great employee has expertise and education, which are easily identified through the accumulation of credentials over time. But even without experience, good employees exist — people with untapped potential and the drive to work harder and excel at what they do — with a strength of character that's challenging to build in someone when it doesn't come naturally. To avoid letting these good employees slip through your company's proverbial fingers, here are six traits to look for to identify them:

Essential character qualities

Employees who miss out on a job opportunity because they lack education or experience can put in the work to build both of those qualities and develop their expertise. As they collect these tools, they are molded into great employees with high levels of expertise, but what about hiring someone without experience?

We all know the catch-22 — only hiring employees with experience keeps inexperienced employees from ever getting hired. But all it takes is for one leader to identify a quality candidate, give them that first opportunity and provide the experience they need to start becoming an expert.

Look for these six characteristics:

  1. Passion and excitement

  2. Eagerness

  3. Preparedness

  4. Good communication skills

  5. Continued learning/desire to learn

  6. Creativity and innovation

Related: Separating Your Marketing Team From the Others Is Limiting Your Success

Skills with a practical value

A good employee is passionate, and when their personal mission, vision and values align with those of the company, they naturally apply that passion towards their work. Passion gives them the confidence they need to tackle tasks and overcome obstacles. They feel excited about getting involved in company activities and ask how they can help to contribute.

When they can connect their work to something they care about, they feel more eager to engage and participate in company projects. Even if the task is beyond their experience and expertise, they raise their hand and volunteer anyway, hoping to get a shot at it. People with strong character know that if they feel themselves failing, they will find the solution, even if that means asking for help. They trust that each attempt, successful or not, will earn them another badge of experience and expertise, which drives them to do whatever it takes to get through it.

Good employees will also do what it takes to be prepared. If they know they have a meeting, instead of walking in blind, they research the meeting topic and bring relevant concepts to discuss with confidence. They have strong communication skills and feel comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas. If they think they know how to do a certain task faster or better, they bring those suggestions to their managers. This is why good employees stay curious and are always learning, no matter their age, degree or experience. They strive to innovate and continuous learning lets a good employee stay creative in their field. Young or old, they know there's always another lesson to learn.

Related: Growing Pains: How to Turn Hard Times Into Periods of Immense Personal Growth

Building character is challenging, but not impossible

It may be true that some people are born with stronger character than others, but many skills can be developed and changed over time. A child born with a certain character will soon evolve, first to be more like their parents, and then when they go to school, more like their friends. These experiences show us that character can be molded. Of course, change gets harder as we grow older, especially when it comes to changing one's natural-born character, but even still, people can change their behavior and the way they express themselves to develop new character skills as adults. It might take dealing with some anxiety at first, and years of practice to master, but especially if someone already exhibits some qualities of a strong character, they can learn to develop more.

Character can evolve and be molded as we gain new experiences. When I was very young and living in Poland, I was more outgoing and had many friends. Life was comfortable. Then at 11 years old, I moved to the U.S. where the other children had already established very close relationships that were less than welcoming to the new guy. Eventually, I made friends with a close-knit group of foreigners like me, but I stayed shy all the way through high school and kept to my small circle. I was never the same outgoing kid that I remembered myself to be back in Poland, at least not until I got to college and had a fresh start.

Related: 8 Traits of Exceptional Character That Lead to Happiness and Success

There, instead of kids making fun of my accent, I was meeting adults who thought my accent was cool. It started conversations. All of a sudden, people took an interest in my journey and I came out of my shell. By the time I entered the corporate world, my character had changed completely. Now, no one would ever describe me as shy — but getting there took years. If someone presents the will to express these character skills but has no history of expressing them in the workplace, they may just need a chance to prove they can.

Good employees are a rare commodity and, in today's job climate, even harder to find. Instead of only focusing on expertise and education to determine an employee's quality, look to see if their character aligns with your company's mission, vision and values, and pay attention to their behavior and the expression of their skills. All the experience in the world may not be enough to stop a cheater from finding ways to cheat, but with the positive qualities of a strong character, even an inexperienced employee can become a valuable part of your team.
Martin Rowinski

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Boardsi

Martin Rowinski is the CEO of Boardsi —  a corporate board recruitment company. Rowinski is also an investor and author.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change
Business News

Frontier Airlines Just Announced Its All-You-Can-Fly Summer Pass for $399. What's the Catch?

As travel begins to pick up, the airline hopes unlimited travel will jumpstart its business.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Business News

Mark Cuban's Grocery Store Hack Will Help You Score Cheaper Produce

The billionaire talked about his early days in Dallas when he was strapped for cash.

Growing a Business

The Success of Your PR Campaign Depends on These 3 Essential Elements

A successful PR campaign requires these three critical ingredients to ensure you're on the right path to success.