How to Spot (And Keep) the Best People on Your Staff

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Hiring and firing: no business owner loves doing either. With turnover rates trending at an all-time high, companies are devoting valuable time and resources to constantly reshaping their organizations, being forced to play catch-up by hiring for need over fit. The grass is, statistically, often greener on the other side, and talented employees are looking for opportunities to jump ship, especially if they don’t feel valued at their current gig.

But losing your best people doesn’t have to be an accepted fact of doing business. Of course it often starts with knowing how to spot great employees from the time they interview, then encouraging their winning traits to grow. In building a great team, what are the traits to look for?

1. Listening to understand

Of the different forms of communication humans engage in on a daily basis, the one we spend the most time doing is listening. That’s right, company chatterboxes: Listening is communicating, too. But those who’ve mastered the art of listening first to understand, rather than be understood are like golden tickets.

Those who listen to understand tend to grasp assignments better, are great team players, and have a more clear picture of the tasks at hand. Why? Rather than pretending to listen, while thinking of what they are going to say next, they are soaking it in and seeking first to understand.

Everyone wants to be heard, and an office of talkers in which people are merely hearing can become counterproductive and create an environment where people don’t feel their ideas are valued. Your employees who may not speak up often might actually be the most powerful communicators of all –learn to recognize the traits of great listeners and go to those people often.

2. Empathizing with those around them

Similar to good listening skills, empathy is a trait that’s virtually unteachable, so you better hold on to your empathetic employees as hard as you can. Not only are these invaluable individuals great listeners by default, but they’re a dream to put in front of clients.

Why? They “get” people — what frustrates them, what drives them, what they aspire to be. When building a business reliant on customers (every business), there’s nothing more important than being able to empathize with them.

Empathetic employees also exude a calming energy in the office. In times of stress, you want to lean on your company culture to boost morale and help everyone see the bigger picture. When employees have peers they can trust and feel safe around, difficult problems don’t seem like the end of the world.

3. Exuding unrelenting passion

If you’re fretting about how to build a company culture from scratch or how to evolve the culture you’ve already set in place, look no further than your employees’ passions. When asked about their job by friends, family or acquaintances, your best people won’t talk about the day-to-day tasks, or even necessarily about product, they’ll wax poetic about the opportunities they have to work in a group, or make lives better for customers, or about how the company values innovative thinking. This is passion runs deep, and it’s what culture is built upon.

The best way to keep your turnover rate low is to embolden your employees to pursue their passions full bore. Focus on bringing in people with attitudes that mirror those of your best team members and reward them for having diverse interests, including passions they pursue outside of work. It makes the entire company more well-rounded.

4. Managing themselves

Incidentally the same trait that makes relentless self-starters rockstar employees can often phase them out of the company as they seek to constantly progress. But while you still have these driven individuals on your roster, thank the heavens for sending you someone who solves problems, brings ideas to the table and takes advantages of opportunities without waiting around for instructions to do so.

These are your most resourceful people and they bring up the work ethic of those around them. If you can, think of a way to keep that around –maybe that’s ensuring they always have a challenge to conquer.

5. Being a challenger

Being a challenger is not being a naysayer or confrontational just for sake of doing so. It’s about taking initiative to present alternative ideas based on active listening, empathy, and anticipating the need. A company full of “yes-people” rarely produces anything worthy of talking about. So seek out the people who take initiative to present new ways of thinking and challenge old assumptions.

6. Perpetually punctual

It’s been said that showing up is half the battle. But showing up at 10:30 a.m. when the battle started at 9 a.m. isn’t helping the effort.

Punctuality is a fundamental component of accountability, and when one member of a team is habitually late, trust is eroded. Being late, whether for a meeting or on deliverables the team is counting on, can often be perceived as a disrespect for others’ time. So be mindful if this team member interfaces with clients –it could lead to dissatisfaction and customer churn.