Five habits of great employees

Everyone is keen to impress their employer. Try on these habits for size, and you’ll be on the path to success.

By Ernest Richardson

The workplace can be a competitive environment. If you’re in any way ambitious, you’ll be keen to make a good impression. But beyond simply getting on with your job to the best of your ability, what can you do to ensure you make an impact, and enhance your chances of progression?

We’ve distilled five habits of great employees, as observed in workplaces throughout the country. If you can cultivate even some of these, we reckon you’ll see your career take flight. 

1. Great employees make lists

Most people hate the idea of drawing up endless to-do lists. But if business guru David Allen is to be believed, list-makers are more productive, less stressed and more effective than other people in the workplace. 

Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology is a sophisticated tool that enables people to capture the tasks requiring their attention, sort them in order of importance, and hatch a plan for completing them. 

    ...employees that make a good impression are those who go above and beyond the call of duty.  

If you don’t have time for such a systematic approach, be assured that even a quickly jotted list of ongoing tasks greatly enhances productivity. It enables you to see at a glance what you need to do, and by when. And nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking off the things you’ve achieved. 

“I’m not by disposition a very well-organised person,” says Tim Gibson, a journalist, corporate trainer, communications consultant, author and university lecturer who advises Just Recruitment Group Ltd. “But I’ve found that list-making is a highly valuable habit in my busy life. Each week, I write a list of what has to be done, with deadlines alongside. I highlight the most pressing deadlines, and prioritise meeting those. And I put a big tick alongside everything that gets completed, which is pretty much the highlight of my working day.”

2. Great employees go the extra mile

It’s a hoary old cliché, which means it almost certainly contains a ring of truth: employees that make a good impression are those who go above and beyond the call of duty. 
This may entail a willingness to stay late in order to see through a big deal, or take work home at the weekend during busy periods. It could be about taking on additional responsibility, such as training as a First Aider, even when that doesn’t come with any extra reward. Or it could simply be a matter of not moaning when a last-minute job comes in that throws your schedule off kilter. 

“There’s a fine line between showing willingness to take on extra and being the office goody-goody,” says Emma Kershaw, Director at Just Recruitment. “But employers notice members of the workforce who don’t mither about doing more than they’re contractually obliged to. And when promotion opportunities come around, it’s often those people who are first in line.”

3. Great employees roll up their sleeves and get stuck in

Most working environments operate with some kind of hierarchy, and although there’s been a turn in recent years to flatter management structures, it’s pretty clear someone needs to be the boss. 

But here’s the rub. Even the most senior member of a team needs to show a bit of leg from time to time. No one looks kindly on the colleague who never takes their turn with the tea round, or who shuns workplace gossip because they’re too important to chat.

The point is simple: act in ways that are appropriate for your position in a company. But never be too proud to muck in and get involved. That’s the way to foster healthy relationships.

4. Great employees take initiative

“I can’t think of a job where employees wouldn’t be looked upon favourably for taking initiative,” reflects Just Recruitment director, Peter Foy. “In our business, we always encourage staff to think for themselves, develop new projects and find fresh ways of doing things.”

Consider that from the perspective of an employee and it’s clear that original thinking is a habit to be cultivated. If you think there’s a better way of doing something in the workplace, or have a new project you think is worth pursuing, put the hours in to develop it and test its viability. Then present it to management as an item for consideration. 

Worst case scenario, they’ll turn down your idea but notice your creativity and passion. Best case scenario, you’ll make a tangible difference to the success of your company. 
That said, it’s always worth showing a bit of humility, as Tim Gibson explains: “I once took it upon myself to redesign the management structure of a college where I was employed as a very junior member of teaching staff. It’s fair to say that was a bit too much of a display of chutzpah for my boss, who’d spent the last 30 years in the education sector, and had a much better idea than me about how to organise his staff team!”

5. Great employees are courteous and well-mannered

It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. 

That’s a classic aphorism, which many of us learned at our mother’s knee. But that doesn’t make it any less relevant as a maxim for life. 

The reality, as Tatler editor Kate Reardon told a group of pupils at Westonbirt School for Girls in Gloucestershire in 2014, is that good manners go a long way to helping you foster strong relationships. In a work setting, that means you’re more likely to build successful networks both externally and internally.  And the value of that to employers is immeasurable. 

“Courtesy isn’t about being sickly sweet or over the top in your interactions with other people,” says Emma Kershaw. “You just need to show an interest in people, be polite, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and avoid rudeness. It’s basic stuff, but it makes the world of difference to how you’re perceived in the workplace.”

Published: 01 August 2019

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you liked this article you may like to read – How to be the king or queen of time management

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