This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 28.09.2016
We are often quick to judge someone's job performance.
It's so terribly easy to say “He is a bad employee.” It's a little less likely to hear someone say “She does her job really well.” But both of these sentences are often meaningless, based on personal affection and intuition. How do you really figure out who your best people are?
This is the model employee.
A good employee has a set of distinctive characteristics in addition to specific work related knowledge. While different jobs require different skill sets you can be pretty sure that all good employees have a recognizable similarity in their mindsets.
Keeping these employees around requires a lot of effort.
According to Globoforce, the No. 1 reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 65 percent of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work last year.
Here are the traits of a model employee.
They want more. They are not happy with achieving the bare minimum. Whether because of ambition or because of personal satisfaction, they are only happy if they can do more than is expected of them.
They ask questions. They want to know things and understand processes. They don't accept facts at face value, and they are looking for ways to exploit systems to get further.
They're passionate. They care about their job performance. These are the people whose eyes start to shine when asked “What is it that you do?” And they are the ones who passionately defend their ideas and plans.
They're weird. They have their personal quarks, which make them different from most employees. That shows, they're creative, and think outside the box.
They like to prove others wrong. They are driven by a wish to be right. If they have a crazy idea, and everyone is saying it can't be done, they'll find a way. They do need some sort of reigning in from their managers but most of the time, it's better to let them fly.
How to find model employees and keep them around
It's very hard to evaluate those characteristics with performance review tools or systematic analyses. You can evaluate people with one-on-one meetings, but doing those on a weekly basis can be a huge waste of manager's time.
You need to find these people though. If you don't hire them or, even worse, if you accidentally let them go, your team loses more value than you realize. You must also keep these people happy. Happy employees are 12 percent more productive and take a lot fewer sick days.
To see what your employees are really made of I advise using weekly status reporting methodology called Plans, Progress, Problems (PPP).
Try a weekly status report, and look for subtle signs.
I've used PPP for a long time now and working in different teams I've noticed some similarities between different people who use it.
First, PPP requires employees to list their plans for the following week. Some people make sure they don't have too much planned, and they'll definitely be able to finish what they planned. But then there are others who have a lot of plans and a lot if ideas. Often they don't finish all of them in a week and have a lot of overdue items. These are the people who want more and who like to prove others wrong.
A lot of overdue items is also an interesting part of PPP. At a first glance, it might seem that it shows laziness – sometimes it does — but usually the lazy ones are too uninterested to even make plans. So it's actually a sign of people who want to do more than they are able. If you a have a person like that in your team they might require some help with focusing, so sit down with them and talk things through.
Good employees are worthy of recognition. It's every manager's and leader's task to figure out who they are. Use PPP or use one-on-one meetings. Give grades based on your gut or trust the yearly review. The important thing is that you find and hold onto your best employees.