Ask An Expert: Employee Qualities

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Q: I am going to be hiring my first employee soon. I know what I think is important, and what has worked for me personally, but I am wondering if there are traits and/or abilities that I may not be considering that other small business owners have found to be valuable. — Nathan

A: Bringing in staff serves many functions

  • It helps you grow your business
  • It eases your workload and that of your other employees
  • It helps you to serve your customers better

But maybe most importantly, hiring the right person(s) rounds out your business. If you are not good at marketing for example, hiring someone who knows marketing, even if it is not her main function, makes your business that much better.

That said, the key is to hire the “right person” As they say, hire slow and fire fast. Here then are ten qualities to look for in new hires to determine if they’re going to be a boon or a burden to your business. You want people who will be:

  1. Positive: Nothing kills worker productivity like a Debbie Downer, and what’s worse is that that bad attitude can be infectious. A negative employee can bring down the morale of the whole office, and conversely, a positive one can brighten the mood of everyone around them. 
  1. Detail-Oriented: A good employee will understand that details have to be attended to, but by the same token, won’t obsess over them and will be able to function in the bigger picture.
  1. Productive: At the end of the day, tasks need to be completed and work needs to be finished. You want someone who can both take direction, and initiative.
  1. Autonomous: One day in my first law job I was given a new assignment. I really wanted to impress the partner, so I kept going into his office to ask questions and make sure I was doing it right. Finally he said to me, “How can I miss you if you never go away?”

It’s a good thing I am a decent entrepreneur, because I sure was a lousy employee.

  1. Smart: A smart employee is someone who can think for himself, solve problems, improvise when plans fall through, and identify ways to do things better.
  1. Ethical: It is somewhat tough to judge this vital quality in an interview, but this is where looking for a stable work history may come in handy; it is an indication that the potential employee has a history of being a good employee and that necessarily also means being an honest one.
  1. Hard Working: Consistently finishing the bare minimum to get by is no way to do things, and a good employee will go above and beyond when it comes to work ethic.

Usually, getting someone to work hard stems from two things:

  • Yes, she has an internal barometer that is set to “earn your paycheck”, but also
  • She gets rewarded for a job well done. People work hard for you when you work hard for them
  1. Likable: Small businesses are sort of like a family in that the team is not big, the people spend a lot of time together, and they rely upon one another. As such, you want someone who is smart and sharp sure, but equally, you want someone with whom everyone will get along.
  1. Confident: It takes a certain level of confidence to do things like taking leadership of a project, making a critical decision when time is a factor, and even being willing to accept responsibility when mistakes are made.
  1. Coachable: Personally, I have found that great staff members are not necessarily those who have a ton of related experience, but who are willing and able to listen and learn and think and contribute.

Today’s tip: As many of you know, one of my businesses is a website called TheSelfEmployed. We started it because it seemed as if the solopreneur and microbusinesses were on the cusp of something big.

It turns out they are.

According to a new study by The Freelancers Union and Upwork, freelancing is on the upswing:

  • One in three Americans is now freelancing: The percent of the U.S. workforce freelancing is now at 34%. This is 700,000 more freelancers than last year.
  • 60% of freelancers who left traditional employment now earn more: 23% of freelancers said they quit a job with an employer in order to freelance. Of those who earn more, 78% indicated they earned more freelancing within a year or less.

Interesting stuff. Steve says check it out.