What Makes a Valuable Employee?

Although everyone should always be mindful of the need to be seen as a valuable employee, during recessionary times it becomes even more important.

A number of years ago I hired an amazing woman named Alison who distinguished herself during a very competitive interview process. Her answer to one question in particular has stayed with me over the years. The question asked was, “What three words would a previous employer use to describe you?”

Her first two words were ones I had heard before – team player and good communicator, but it was the last one we all loved the most and made us certain she was the one we wanted to hire. Alison had answered, with an impish grin, that we would have to consider her answer as being one hyphenated word even though she knew it was actually two. Her third answer was, “low-maintenance”.

It was an extraordinarily accurate word to describe her and one that I definitely was looking for in a new sidekick. It’s also a trait that has made her an invaluable resource to the organization where she still works. My guess is that if layoffs were ever to occur, she would likely be one of the last ones standing.

When we worked together I valued Alison’s intuitiveness when it came to communicating.  She kept me in the loop but never overwhelmed me with information that I didn’t really need to have.  She’s viewed by everyone who knows her as a hardworking woman who gets things done efficiently and effectively and always with a smile on her face. Chance are every employer will value someone like Alison who stays positive and enthusiastic during stressful and busy times.

Rose, the Operations Coordinator on our current team, reflects that same positive spirit. She even manages to convey a calming presence when things get tense.

Her first month on the job, entirely on her own initiative, she submitted an update that outlined her accomplishments and posed questions regarding future direction. In the same report, she also showed how her resourcefulness had saved us thousands of dollars.

Rose also demonstrates another quality that would endear her to any employer. She not only communicates her desire to take on more responsibilities, she has backed that up by taking courses on her own time. Now in addition to her expertise in operations and administration, volunteer management, bookkeeping, and event management, she’s honing her skills in human resource management. This diversity makes her an even more valuable member of our team.

Her ability to anticipate the needs of our team and dependably respond to them has also added to her value. One day I skidded into the office to grab what I needed for a meeting at another location and found she had, without ever having been asked, packed a box for me that included everything I needed, including the copies I was coming in to make on my race to the meeting. She had even thought to include promotional items as gifts for the volunteers.

While I’ve sometimes had employees who think its enough just to be physically present at their desk, Rose understands that you also have to be mentally present in order to identify issues, present solutions and be responsible for implementing them. 

Rose also demonstrates that she is definitely not a backbencher when it comes to volunteering for extra duties.  Her willingness to organize our social events, including monthly birthday celebrations with her to-die-for culinary extravaganzas, has also made everyone value and see the importance of the rare time we take to slow down and connect as a team.

Ultimately though, I think what I love the most about Rose is that she thanks us. She’s grateful for what she’s learning and for the opportunity to grow. Now what employer wouldn’t find value in an employee who thinks like that?


Posted on 09-20-09

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