Thanksgiving for the Model Employee

Figure 1: Characteristics of the Model Employee

In keeping with the Thanksgiving week in the US, a reader sent a comment about how thankful she was for her one employee that makes her life easier: her model employee.   She described the “ups and downs” with her different team members and the toll extracted from those that manage people. She lamented how tough it can be to manage people the right way by listening, engaging, motivating, and rewarding on a continuous basis.  She concluded that she

Have you ever worked with or hired a model employee? I am talking about an employee that knew what to do, did it happily and effectively, and everyone found the person a joy to work around.  Although it might be impossible to find a description of a model employee that everyone would agree with, there are some traits and characteristics shared by most views.

Research on what makes a model employee shows considerable consistency.  Figure 1 captures the most occurring traits of a “model employee” based on a 2011 HCS survey of 400 high performing organizations.  The most mentioned trait among leaders is hard working.  Ninety percent of leaders rated it as a central element of a model employee.  When considering the difference of opinion between skilled and hardworking, hardworking exceeds knowledge by almost 20 percent.  The next closet grouping includes being motivated and good at communication. Most hard workers work hard due to their level of motivation, thus a leader would join the two concepts easily.  Almost every job requires communication with coworkers as well as customers.  The failure to communicate with either group can significantly reduce productivity and customer satisfaction.  The third tier encompasses being a team player, ethical, and adaptive or flexible. Most tasks involve cooperating with others and when multiple interactions occur, it is critical to follow excepted values (ethical) and be flexible.

When examining the top half of the responses, job commitment and personal characteristics related to interaction and self-governance stand out the most.  It might be concluded that the lower half of responses fall into these two categories as well.

What does it mean when we seek model employees?

  • We should commit to collecting as much information as possible on past job commitment of candidates.
  • We need to ensure that our work environment supports strong job commitment through engagement.
  • We need to improve our tools for assessing personal characteristics as part of the screening process.
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