In the search for top talent, employers typically cite the most difficult, technical skills needed to do the job. For instance, a current ad on LinkedIn for a CFO seeks a candidate with: “Extensive experience in financial analysis, identification of month end financial drivers, and forecasting.” The ad adds that the right candidate will “drive growth through product diversification and geographic expansion, and provide leadership and vision for all finance-related activities in the market, including developing and monitoring progress against Annual Operating Plan.” This ad is designed to filter out the unqualified and underqualified. But what the ad doesn’t address are the soft skills and qualities that ensure the candidate fits well with the organization. Those are either touched on during the interview process briefly or are not addressed at all. And while the inability to do the job does account for why some people fail at their jobs, most people are fired or laid off from jobs due either to personality traits or work habits that don’t fit with the employer.
The truth is that some of the most invaluable qualities that employees need to have and employers want from their workers require zero talent. These qualities are related to a person’s EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (social quotient) rather than their IQ (intelligence quotient). The next time your company is screening to hire an employee – from an entry level clerk to a top C-Suite exec – they should make sure that the person brings a high level of these 10 invaluable qualities.
The invaluable qualities that an employee should have and employer should want that require absolutely zero talent include:
1. Being On Time, Every Day.
Absenteeism and tardiness may seem like such petty HR complaints, but they have a deep impact on company productivity and morale. A survey conducted by Kronos Incorporated found that the direct cost of paid time off for full-time employees in 2013 — accounting for wages, overtime and replacement workers — was equivalent to 15.4% of payroll. When indirect costs such as lost productivity were added, the total cost of paid time off was between 20.9% and 22.1% of payroll, with unplanned absences having the highest overall cost. Supervisors spent an average of 4.2 hours a week — or 5.3 weeks a year — dealing with absences, including finding replacements, adjusting workflow and providing training. Supervisors were perceived to be 15.7% less productive and co-workers 29.5% less productive when providing coverage for a typical absence day. So while absenteeism and tardiness may seem petty, it can be a costly workplace problem.
An employee who is on time every day is valuable indeed. Punctuality and reliable attendance are more than just admirable traits. The employee who is punctual at work every day is one who respects his colleagues and himself enough to keep his word. He proves he is a trustworthy professional. He is someone who can be taken seriously.
2. Commanding a Strong Work Ethic.
A strong work ethic is key quality in any employee because it stems from the person’s personal values. It’s based in a belief in the value of work for its own sake and not just for its rewards. Work ethic is one of those qualities that actually implies a host of other personality traits including professionalism, respectfulness, dependability, dedication, determination, discipline, teamwork, integrity, quality of work, and accountability. An employee with a weak work ethic may be unreliable, lazy, disrespectful, lackadaisical, undisciplined, unfocused, or does shoddy work. No matter what skills, talents or training an employee may have, those are useless without a strong work ethic.
3. Putting Maximum Effort.
Having an employee that consistently puts forth maximum effort is invaluable. Effort is directly related to work ethic, but has to do with how a person’s time is spent and how productive a person is throughout the day. There have been countless studies done on employee effort and productivity. Certainly employees put forth more effort at the start of the day and that declines as the day goes on because people become tired, hungry, and restless. That said, some people consistently put forth more effort than others, and some are more driven to stay focused and productive even when they are tired or are running low on fuel. Interestingly, during the Recession, economists found that overall productivity went up in companies located in countries hardest hit by the Great Recession, such as the U.S., even though they had fewer employees. That’s because fear of losing a job drove employees to put forth more effort at work even though there were fewer workers.
4. Having Affirmative Body Language
While affirmative body language may seem like an odd quality to want in an employee, positive body language speaks volumes and has a big influence on productivity, connections and morale. Research has shown that when it comes to first impressions there are just seconds, not minutes, to create that positive connection. Non-verbal communication makes an instant impact. The most confident, successful people – the alphas of the world — take up space. Their handshakes extend further. They sit forward with arms on the table in a meeting. They stand taller, and when standing, they plant both feet on the ground, standing straight.
A person who comes to work with her head held high, her shoulders pulled back, and with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step is sending a positive, uplifting and encouraging message to colleagues and customers alike. Even customers on the phone can “hear” when a person is smiling, energized and eager to work.
5. Having a Passion for Work
President Theodore Roosevelt once said that “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred . . . ; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” He was speaking about a person with passion. The employee with passion searches for new, better, solutions to challenging problems, takes meaningful risks to improve performance, performs at a higher level of performance with each passing year, works the hours needed to get the job done, is well connected to others internally and externally who work in related domains, and cuts across silos to deliver results.
However, this is the quality that companies typically value least. Not only do many companies not recognize the value of worker passion, passion is viewed with suspicion. Many workplaces are actually hostile to it. Processes and policies designed to minimize risk taking and variances from standard procedures effectively discourage passion. Passionate workers are viewed as unpredictable, and thus risky. But that is a mistake.
Up to 87.7% of America’s workforce is not able to contribute to their full potential because they don’t have passion for their work. That means less than 12.3% of America’s workforce possess the attribute of worker passion. Passion is important because passionate workers are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, companies need passionate workers. They drive extreme and sustained performance improvement—more than the one-time performance “bump” that follows a bonus or the implementation of a worker engagement initiative. Employees with passion have both personal resilience and an orientation toward learning and improvement that help organizations develop the resilience needed to withstand and grow stronger from continuous market challenges and disruptions.
Tune in next week for the other five traits that require absolutely no talent but are must-have in any employee. Stay tuned.
Quote of the Week
“Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”
Anne M. Mulcahy
© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.