– by Ainsley Lawrence

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer with an interest in the way business, technology, and education intersect with the personal. She loves traveling to beautiful places and is frequently lost in a good book.



All companies want great employees. Without them, a business isn’t likely to achieve its productivity, growth, and other overarching goals. But, on the other hand, there isn’t a ceiling on what a company can achieve with excellent employees.

But whether you’re on the hunt for top talent for your business, or a candidate looking for a company match, it’s wise to know what makes a great employee so you can either polish these skills yourself or know how to spot them in others.

We expect skills like collaboration, communication, and exceptional time management in great employees. At the same time, there are skills less commonly thought of and talked about that great employees also have. Here are seven of them.


Forward-thinking is one skill you wouldn’t immediately think of when talking about what makes a great employee. Forward thinkers productively think about and plan for the future. Their minds tend to move toward innovation and growth.

When an employee is a forward thinker, they can do things like recognize patterns in the way they work that, if scaled, can significantly increase productivity. Or they pay special attention to improving existing systems.

A forward-thinking employee is invaluable to any company because they’ll be the ones to consistently encourage and inch a business onward.

American RecruitersActive Listening

We often hear about how communication is essential, but not enough about how active listening is the core of effective communication. When an employee has good listening skills, they can:

  • Maintain healthy relationships with coworkers, managers, and company leaders
  • Hold better conversations
  • Eliminate miscommunications
  • Problem solve more effectively
  • Decrease workflow interruptions
  • Communicate with intent and empathy

All in all, active listening is essential to proper teamwork and productivity.


You probably rarely ever hear tenacity dropped in the conversation of what skills great employees have. We aren’t sure why, as tenacity is the art of staying determined, persistent, and steadfast despite the odds against you or enormous challenges.

Employees that display tenacity are usually flexible and open-minded. They’re able to adapt to circumstances and see more than one way to do something. This can be extremely helpful in any workplace, considering the ever-changing nature of the work world and how much companies change throughout the years.

Tenacious employees can be counted on to work through roadblocks, even if they have to approach them creatively or unconventionally.

Push Back

Great employees aren’t yes men. They aren’t scared to explore the unknown. And most of all, they aren’t afraid to push back. In other words, they aren’t afraid to challenge ideas, strategies, ways of being, doing, seeing, and so forth. They embrace the opportunity to play devil’s advocate.

Employees that push back are vital to any company in any industry because they possess the creativity, critical thinking, and solution-oriented spirit needed to prompt business longevity.

Technology Management

Technological advancements continue to take our work and personal worlds by storm. We’re long past the days of typewriters, pen and paper, and dial-up internet. Great employees know this and take it upon themselves to learn how to manage technology, even if it isn’t a primary need of their industry.

For instance, you may not think technology management is a big deal in healthcare professions, but it absolutely is. The ability to navigate data analytics tools, use patient information systems efficiently, and adapt to modern advancements like telemedicine is essential if you’re hoping to be in a leadership position at a healthcare facility or are looking for someone to fill such a role.

Ultimately, technology management is an instrumental skill because the rise of technology won’t fall any time soon.

Conflict Resolution

Problem-solving is one of the best career skills to have, no matter your role, and it goes hand-in-hand with conflict resolution. Employees who can find solutions for complex business issues and find peaceful resolutions for disagreements that arise between coworkers are the ones that keep a business afloat.

Whether they’ve learned conflict resolution and problem-solving through video games or have extensive real-life experience that nurtured these skills, both are crucial to an employee’s optimal performance in the workplace.

This is because new problems will arise each day at the workplace, and they must know how to solve those problems on the fly to continue production for the day. Also, expressing empathy and practicing negotiation when resolving a conflict ensure that relationships between coworkers remain respectful and peaceful.


Although managers out there love to micro-manage their employees, most of them would rather not do it. They would much rather trust their employees to perform at a high level whether they’re watching them or not. Self-motivated employees make this possible.

When employees are self-motivated, they take complete ownership of their work performance and remain dedicated to their job responsibilities no matter who is or isn’t looking. As a result, they don’t require a pat on the back when they do something good (although they surely deserve it!). And they don’t need someone constantly telling them what to do to ensure they’re doing something.

Self-motivated employees are so valuable because they can remain motivated and productive in their roles regardless of what’s going on around them.


These are just a handful of the unexpected skills great employees have.

If you’re hoping to land your dream job, work on becoming a great employee by practicing these skills whenever possible. Don’t limit your development of these skills to work-related scenarios; practice them diligently in your life outside of work as well.

Additionally, if you’re recruiting for the next great employee, ensure you’re familiar with each of these skills. Pinpoint actions and achievements that candidates do and have that show they possess these skills and are actively polishing them to be the best worker they can be. Then, boost your recruiting efforts by working with a solid staffing firm that prides itself on authentic candidate relationships and providing employers with only top talent to choose from.

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