What Is the Defining Quality of Desirable Employees?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what single quality, if any, would be the thing you should look for in hiring new employees.  There are a few things that made me think of this – obviously working in the HR Unit at RPL has me thinking about these things, especially when I consider the fact that we’ve done a higher amount of hiring over the past year than usual which has given us a huge opportunity to revitalize our organization.  Talking to colleagues who are considering moves to other organizations – both people looking to leave RPL and others who would consider joining us – is another thing that has put this to the front of my brain.

Yet another is that I recently attended a training session where the presenter observed “corporate culture eats strategy for lunch.”  I agree that this is true – unless you have a strong, focused organizational culture, you’re going to struggle to implement your strategic directions.   And often the organizational culture is a direct result of the people you have.  For example, WestJet is a company frequently cited for their outstanding culture – this is a combination of the leadership of the organization and the people they hire who fit the “WestJet ” mold.

One caveat – I’m not saying that your goal should be to  hire a bunch of people who all think the same way.  Although that may sound desirable (and easier) at first, you lose the diversity of opinion, viewpoint and experience that makes for a stronger whole (in politics, this has been called the “Team of Rivals” approach.)

So what elusive quality is the one defining attribute that would be useful in any type of organization or corporation?  Respect for authority?  Creativity?  Attention to detail?  Humour?  Intelligence?  Risk-taking?  Risk aversion?  Trust?  Proven leadership experience?  A certain type of education?  Confidence?

There are hundreds of qualities that employees may bring to an organization and some organizations have a set of 3 or 5 things that they try to identify.  But I’d argue that the single most desirable quality that we should look for in our employees is optimism.  (Again, a caveat in that I don’t think this means that staff can’t be skeptical or even critical.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be happy pollyannas.  But I do think that people who have an underlying optimism – about themselves, about the people around them, about the organization they work for – are your greatest chance for guaranteeing success.  And after saying that I don’t necessarily equate optimism with happiness, here’s a link to a good article titled “Hire Happy Employees”.)

So is there a way to test for optimism?  A quick Google search reveals a few tests though I don’t know how reliable or established any of them are.  And who knows – maybe my theory just shows that I’m naively optimistic – also not a good form of optimism!

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  1. From Head Tale - A Unique Approach to Interviewing on 17 Feb 2011 at 9:55 pm

    […] is sort of an extension of an earlier post on “What is the One Defining Quality of Desirable Employees?” where I claimed that optimism trumped […]

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