Survey: The 8 Qualities Employers Most Want in Their Employees

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A lot of surveys come across my desk, and the best of them are the ones that tell you something new or breaks new ground on a particularly interesting topic.

Sometimes however, I bump into a survey that simply takes what we already know and gives us a new — but thought-provoking — perspective.

That’s how I view this new nationwide survey of 174 employers by OI Partners, an organization that describes itself as “a global talent management company, renowned for its highly personalized services …  (specializing) in mid-level, executive and group outplacement; executive coaching; leadership development and workforce solutions.”

What grabbed me about this survey was the topic — the eight qualities employers value most in workers.

Yes, probably every manager has their own list of what they look for in an employee, and they have probably developed it through trial-and-error toiling in the trenches somewhere. That’s what makes this survey even more interesting, because any manager worth their salt is going to want to see how their go-to employee qualities match up with what other managers are looking for.

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So here is the list, along with comments from Steve Ford, the chairman of OI Partners. See how it matches up with yours:

  1. Being a team player (selected by 71 percent of surveyed companies): “Being part of a team has taken on a higher priority since many companies are still operating with leaner work forces and there is a greater need to accomplish goals through others” said Ford.
  2. Fully focused on satisfying customers (chosen by 68 percent of employers): “Employees should share complimentary letters and emails they receive with their bosses. Don’t assume that he or she already knows about your excellent customer service, but do it in a discreet way,” Ford added.
  3. Motivate and engage others in their jobs (chosen by 65 percent of companies): “In a challenging economy, employers appreciate when their employees reach out and keep each other motivated and involved in their work,” noted Ford.
  4. Success in achieving your “critical few objectives” (picked by 62 percent of companies): “These are the top one or two reasons why you were hired in the first place. Accomplishing these will count more than any other contributions you have made,” said Ford.
  5. Work smart (preferred by 60 percent of companies): This includes being up to date on the latest technology, keeping your skills and professional knowledge current, and continually searching for improvements in productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
  6. Work hard (selected by 57 percent of employers): “Although companies for years have preferred working smart to working hard, they still want to see that you are dedicated to your job, put in an extra effort and volunteer to fill any gaps when necessary,” said Ford.
  7. Add value to the organization (chosen by 52 percent of employers): Retention rewards are a recognition of your value. Track and document the specific ways you have added value to your employer.
  8. Contribute to improving the bottom line (selected by 48 percent of businesses): There are various ways to do this, including helping to increase sales, cut costs, decrease turnover, and make useful suggestions and recommendations.

How does this list stack up against yours? My guess is that you’ll find a lot of overlap here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you also have some other qualities that are  worth adding to it.

Feel free to leave them as a comment here; if I get enough, I’ll do another post on the top qualities that TLNT readers desire most in their employees.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


9 Comments on “Survey: The 8 Qualities Employers Most Want in Their Employees

  1. Wow, it’s very interesting that these were common themes throughout those who answered.  I’m going to share the article with my team in a meeting today.  Thanks!

  2. 1. Adding value MUST be at the top of the list. Most, if not all, of the qualities follow from this.
    2. “Work Hard”…..confusing effort with results.

  3. Great list. 

    >>5. Work smart (preferred by 60 percent of companies): This includes being up to date on the latest technology, keeping your skills and professional knowledge current<<
    I would be interested in a follow up poll to see what percentage of those 60% provide access and/or support in this area. I often see companies slicing out the training and OD budgets in down economies. 

  4. What employers say they want and what they reward is too entirely different things.  Most employers want employees to tow the company line, respect the chain of command and brown-nose.  The hard workers, competent employees don’t get the recognition or promotion they deserve.  They are too busy working hard, while the social butterflies get the rewards.

  5. The 8 Qualities Workers Most Want in their Bosses:

    1. Putting your workers FIRST; above customers or share holders. We are the ones doing YOUR WORK FOR YOU.
    2.  Rewarding your lone wolves for their creativity, since not everyone is a “team player.”
    3. An absence of surveillance; be it keystroke-counting or “this call will be monitored for quality assurance.”
    4. Profit-sharing across the board.
    5. Having an HR department that actually advocates for your workers, and isn’t simply a company mouthpiece.
    6. Bosses who submit to the same drug tests they demand of their new hires.
    7. A civilized lunch hour that actually IS an hour.
    8. A realization that, comes the revolution, most of you are going to be strung up, and giving us the pleasure of seeing the terror in your beady eyes.

  6. I thought this list was interesting… A lot of these desired qualities have not change over the years but what employers do to encourage and support them has. I’d like to see an honest response from employers, that can be backed up with facts, what they contribute to make these desires a reality. 
    In discussions with my many different groups of people, there is little to no incentive for employees to give their all.  The attitude from many employers seems to be give more, receive less, be happy about it because we are supplying you with a job…and if you don’t like it, there are plenty of people out there that would be greatful to have your place in the work force. It seems history is repeating itself and, for the same reason it was abandoned way back when, this type of management does not work and something is going to give…It seems the corporations have lost sight that these people are why they are successful and should be considered their greatest asset.

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