Generally, we write for business owners and human resources personnel. Not this time. This article is for people searching for a promising job or who want to move up the ranks in their current company.
In either situation, the question always arises...
What are business owners and HR looking for? Also, what are the employee strengths they seek? Every eager worker wants a quick list of “hints” to help them in the quest to snag their ideal job or to move up the ranks at their current employer.
We'll also take this article a step further - we'll ask the question that's on the mind of any truly proactive, forward-thinking employee: How does my employer want me to improve?
After each of the employee strengths, we’ll also share our insight into “how employers want you to improve”.
10 Employee Strengths Every Employer Is Looking For
After talking with a series of HR people, middle management supervisors and upper-management leadership, we’ve come up with a list of 10 employee qualities that every new/advancing worker should have. This list is a good place to begin examining yourself: Where do you stand with these qualities? Do you have some or all of these characteristics?
The 3 Most Important Employee Strengths are to be Coachable, Enthusiastic and a Tad Humble
A coachable person is an employer’s dream. This can’t be overstated. Tied into the coachable personality is being consistently enthusiastic and a tad humble. Being enthusiastic about the job is a quality that’s pure gold. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Employers know this and want people who help push the organization forward into greatness. When sitting on an interview committee, business owners are looking for this. Having enthusiasm shows you’re a person they can’t help but want.
A coachable employee doesn’t believe they're all-knowing; instead, they feel they don’t know enough and are eager to learn more. This is where being “a tad humble” comes in. Having no humility points to arrogance and a true inability to be taught anything because the person assumes they know it all already. But if you’re a teachable, coachable person, you understand that you don’t know everything, and you’re eager to learn. You enjoy learning, sharing and implementing what you’ve learned. You want to be taught and coached, which can only benefit the organization.
How to improve:
First, they want you to know the importance of these traits. They can’t state it enough. They want you to know that these three traits must be genuine. There’s no way to fake coachability, enthusiasm and humility in the long term. Many business leaders believe that these soft skills/character traits can’t be taught. They believe these are inherent skills or traits that individuals either have or they don’t, and unfortunately they can’t be taught.
They want you to know that they’ll often choose a less qualified, less skilled applicant who is enthusiastic and wants to learn over a highly qualified, highly skilled employee who is dour and acts like they hate their job. They’re inclined to take the less skilled, humble person over a skilled employee who acts like they know everything, is arrogant and isn’t open to learning.
Everyone should always be learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing and eventually you will cease being a benefit to the organization. So beware: If you’re up against an enthusiastic, humble, teachable but less qualified employee, and you’re qualified but unenthusiastic, arrogant and “know everything,” your job may be in jeopardy.
4. Having a High Emotional Intelligence Quotient is Necessary
Having a high emotional intelligence quotient isn’t always considered one of the most important employee strengths; however, that’s a misconception. Being able to read other people, understand them and interact with them in ways that are affirming, positive and beneficial are extremely important.
Have you ever encountered a worker who leaves behind a trail of disgruntled, hurt and oftentimes downright angry coworkers?
That would be someone with a low emotional intelligence. Companies, in the interest of the smooth, productive and profitable functioning of their organization, are looking for employees who have a high emotional intelligence. Make sure you're working on improving your emotional intelligence.
How to improve:
Having a high emotional intelligence quotient is also in the arena of soft skills, and, again, is a skill set that can’t really be taught in a workshop. Either an individual has a high emotional intelligence quotient or they don’t. Sometimes life forces them into growing in this area when they run up against difficulties, pain and struggle. Sometimes, even with adversity, individuals fail to grow in their emotional intelligence.
Your employer wants you to know that in order to move up, you will have to develop in this area. As an employee, you must learn to get along with others. Life isn’t like a reality TV series, where the obnoxious person who barrels through the workplace smashing coworkers’ feelings and being wholly offensive gets ahead. In the long run, this person loses.
Your supervisor wants you to know that an employee with true emotional intelligence plays nicely with others, yet still has boundaries, principles and integrity. In fact, these boundaries, principles and integrity make it easier to work with them because they don’t go barreling over others. These employees know how to work with others and collaborate; they know how to compromise and negotiate.
5. Having Strong Communication Skills is a Key Employee Strength
This trait is tied into having a high emotional intelligence quotient. Management is looking for employees who can read others well and then be able to communicate clearly and effectively, whether that communication is verbal or nonverbal. The need for this skill increases as an employee works their way up the organizational ladder, particularly into middle- and upper-level leadership positions.
At higher levels, leaders must be proficient communicators who can persuade and influence their employees, as well as the company's customers, to negotiate, collaborate and compromise in mutually beneficial ways. The value of having excellent communication skills can’t be overemphasized.
How to improve:
Your leadership wants you to know that having strong communication skills is a must. Many lower-level employees don’t have strong communication skills, and that’s okay, they can get by. However, to make it into mid- and upper-level management positions and continue to move up, communication skills are a must.
If you’re wanting to move up, you will have to hone those communication skills. You will need to learn how to express yourself one-on-one, in small groups and in large meetings.
Of course, the first thought is that these communication skills are purely verbal. That’s not the case. Research shows that 93% of communication is nonverbal. What that means is that when you go into that meeting your associates are reading you before you ever open your mouth. It also says that while you’re speaking, they’re not listening to what you say, they’re listening to your body language. You must master your nonverbal communication to success.
Another arena of communication that must be mastered, particularly if you’re looking to move up is the written form of communication. In today’s world of emails, blogs, online messaging and social media, you must be able to convey your thoughts accurately and succinctly. You also must be able to maneuver the mine fields of misunderstanding that may arise due to the short blurbs that are now considered communication.
Examine your online and digital communication: Are you often misunderstood? Do you often offend? If the answer is yes to either of these, you will need to clean up your digital communication skills. The same goes for your face-to-face interactions: Are you ever misunderstood or offensive? You will need to learn to master all levels of communication.
6. “There’s No ‘I’ in Team” Highlights an Important Strength
The adage - “There’s no ‘I’ in team”- points to a valuable employee strength. You must have the ability to collaborate and work with others. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, effective collaboration and communication are necessary in order for organizations to succeed.
The greater the collaboration, the greater the success. The converse is also true: the less the collaboration, the less success there will be. In fact, one study found that 86% of respondents felt that minimal collaboration and poor communication were the causes behind workplace failures. The team that works well together, produces well together.
How to improve:
Simply, you absolutely must be a team player and be able to work with others. Today’s workplace is a highly interconnected environment with people working together across continents and time zones. Work assignments are often project oriented with many people in different locales working on the same project. You must be able to collaborate, assist, communicate with the project in mind.
Are you a team player? Or are you always making calculations in the back of your mind of what you’re contributing versus what someone else is contributing? Are you always trying to take time, resources, etc. for yourself? Do you keep a tally? If so, you need to work on getting rid of the “I”. Your bosses see it and don’t like it. You’re not helping the company.
7. Being Honest Ranks High Among Employee Strengths
Being honest is an employee strength that is invaluable. Your supervisor and fellow employees will appreciate working with someone who is honest and trustworthy. No one wants to look over their shoulder for fear of sabotage, backstabbing or betrayal. Keeping confidences, not being willing to cheat, lie or steal and/or not hurting others for your own gain are priceless qualities that are valued highly in the workplace.
Being honest becomes increasingly valuable (in the right organizations) when it comes to difficult conversations. If you have an opinion that opposes the stance of others, it is still your duty to stick with that stance and to be honest about it. Whether your peers or bosses actually like your comments or not, they'll appreciate your transparency and they'll grow to depend on you for straightforward answers, especially in difficult situations.
How to improve:
In a world where it can be hard to tell the truth from fiction, your boss, coworkers and clients really need you to be honest. Your employer wants you to be a person they can count on. Sometimes in the short term, your honesty and candor may not be appreciated; but in the long run, you will be known as someone people can go to for the truth. Truthfulness, with kindness, is a much-sought-after trait.
8. Being a Self-Starter is One Important Strength
Supervisors always appreciate workers who are self-starters and intrinsically motivated. What leader wouldn’t want a worker who doesn’t need to be told what to do and when to do it? Nothing is more unproductive than having to inspire individuals to do their work.
Granted, everyone likes to receive external praise and recognition; but, the employee who can consistently start themselves and produce excellent results on their own will catch a supervisor’s eye and is sure to move up. Managers are looking for employees who have their own internal motivation. Any supervisor would agree that it’s a delight to provide public recognition and reward to such an intrinsically motivated worker.
9 & 10. Being Hardworking and Success-Oriented are Two Employee Strengths that Go Together
These two traits, being hardworking and success-oriented, may appear to be standalone characteristics; however, they work best together. Have you ever worked with an employee who was hardworking just for the sake of working hard? Often you can observe them spinning their wheels, plugging away at their job, all to no avail because there was no real goal aside from the habit of grinding away.
The same can be said for being success-oriented: Have you ever seen that employee who was focused on success but was unwilling to do the hard work required for real success? Employers want an employee who embodies both: They have an ethos of hard work and a strong desire to succeed. Such traits can only be an added benefit to an organization. Make sure you have them.
How to improve:
Your employer wants you to know that these traits go together. When all three are in full display in an employee, it’s a beautiful thing to your boss. Self-starters are always on the lookout for innovative trends, novel ideas and new ways of doing things. They tend to be hardworking and success-oriented, too.
Tie these three traits into being coachable, enthusiastic and humble, and you have a combination of soft skills that are highly desirable but can’t really be taught. Having this combination of traits will make you highly marketable.
A company can go far with a group of motivated self-starters who work hard and are looking to succeed. When they’re coachable, enthusiastic and humble, failures are lessons in what NOT to do, at the least, and stepping stones for success, at the most.
Strengths Will Benefit You
Listed above are some of the strengths that employers are looking for in their employees. These strengths are invaluable because they help move organizations forward. As a prospective employee, be prepared to share and elaborate upon your strengths, candidly, but without unnecessary embellishment.
Interviewers are looking for you to share the qualities you embody and explain (or show) how these qualities will add to their company. Be ready to discuss your strengths within the context of helping the organization.
If you're aiming to move up within your current company, look for ways that you can highlight and take advantage of your strengths throughout the week and be prepared to address your strengths and weaknesses during quarterly reviews.
You may also be interested in these employee development posts:
- How Successful Organizations Maximize Employee Strengths
- Retaining Millennial Employees Through Leadership Development
- How To Use Employee Strengths To Be More Successful
To learn more about the benefits of employee development, contact Edge Training at 800-305-2025.