The Model Employee: Five key qualities employers look for

Dave Snow, Academic Director at Home Learning College, shares the secrets of being a successful employee…

Having a list of qualifications as long as your arm or decades of experience will only get you so far in your career. Quantifiable abilities, such as a solid grasp of maths and English, or industry specific skills, are just one area employers consider when selecting new recruits or candidates for promotion. There’s a host of other characteristics that make someone positively stand out in the workplace and a pleasure to employ.

Outlined below is an overview of the qualities most likely to win over your current boss or future recruiters.

Reliability and consistency

Most people are on their best behaviour when they start a new job, but over the years it’s easy to develop bad habits. This might mean regularly arriving a few minutes late, or making less effort with your appearance. While behaviour like this might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, it can actually be a source of extreme annoyance to colleagues and line managers.

Sloppy time-keeping or scruffiness can be taken as signs that you’re not that bothered and may raise questions about your general level of commitment. Show that you take your job seriously by being conscientious and exuding an aura of professionalism at all times – after all, you are paid to behave in a certain way.

A sense of initiative

While asking questions is one of the best ways to learn, there is definitely a time and place to do it. Rather than automatically turning to others for help, see if you can find the required information yourself. A quick internet search might provide the details you need, or there may be specific company documents you could check. If you’re still unsure of the answer then feel free to ask your colleagues or boss for input. The fact that you’ve tried to work things out for yourself will demonstrate your initiative, and people will be more inclined to provide assistance when you really need it if you don’t bombard them with pointless requests.

Ability to exceed expectations

It’s always better to surprise your boss, manager or client by delivering something earlier than expected than to make a promise you can’t keep. Try to negotiate realistic deadlines and then do your best to complete the task in the shortest time possible. If you gain a reputation for handing things in early then people will trust you and be more understanding should you ever need more time due to circumstances beyond your control. Similarly, if you spot an opportunity to add value to a project then grasp it with both hands.

Adaptability and flexibility

Your job description should be seen as a list of minimum requirements rather than the final word on your daily activities. There may be times when you’re asked to do something not directly related to your role. Try to view these requests as opportunities to stretch yourself and demonstrate your abilities rather than moaning that it’s not your responsibility. That way you will gain a reputation for being flexible and adaptable, which are highly desirable qualities in an employee.

You can take things a step further by volunteering for projects outside your team or department, or finding ways to fill existing gaps. While it is an unfortunate reality that no one is indispensable, some people have a natural ability to blur the edges of their official role until they become an integral part of the business.

Commitment to self-development

The economic climate continues to cause financial problems for many organisations and it’s an unfortunate reality that training budgets have been slashed as a result. In fact, our own research shows that over a third of businesses haven’t allocated any money for training this year.

If your career would benefit from the acquisition of new knowledge or skills, and your employer can’t or won’t provide financial assistance, then it could be worth investing your own money on further study. A targeted professional qualification (some of Home Learning College’s suggestions are here) will show commitment to your chosen line of work, enhance your professional standing and give your CV a real boost should you decide that it’s time to move on.

As you can see, being a model employee is all about doing the best job possible and considering how you can add value to your company and cement your position as an invaluable part of the team. By adopting a few simple habits you can show your boss that you are consistent and dependable, and who doesn’t want someone like that by their side through good times and bad?