10 Things we look for in our “Most Wanted Employees”

10 Things we look for in our “Most Wanted Employees”

Irrespective of the times we live in, there have always been employees that companies have been “fighting” for or focused to motivate and retain.

So what is it then that we look for in our Most Wanted? Is it their skills? Their potential? Their drive to do things? Here are a few elements that might give you some insights into what companies are looking for when they define their “Most Wanted” Employees. This list is not by all means exclusive, but based on our research and experience most of these aspects are shared across companies and industries and are becoming more and more visible in today’s business environment.

1. They love what they’re doing. However committed to the company’s goals or to the company’s employer brand, people need to see every day as an opportunity to feel satisfied and energetic. Being “in love” with what you do, leads to better productivity, more discretionary effort and high engagement. It’s just what a company desires and it’s all coming with minimal investment. All a company needs to do is to match the right person to the right work that needs to be done. That person will not only deliver high quality work, but will also put his/her heart and soul in the process.

2. They believe they’re doing the right things, for the right reasons. Values usually indicate ‘how we will behave or how we will execute a particular action.’ Values tell us what will guide our actions. They tell us what is important to you from that which is not. In other words, the best employees are those “who value what they do and they do what they value”. Values indicate how we direct our energies. As human beings our values guide our personal behavior. If we are forced to do things that do not fit into our ‘Value System’ either we fail to commit to them or only do so under duress or through reward.

Consider the example of a large FMCG company. The CEO wanted to see what makes the difference amongst his best sales force employees, what his best performers had as differentiators. We ran several competency assessment centers to identify the most critical competencies that distinguish the best from the rest. But the behavioral results offered just one side of the story. To be able to reach another level of insight, we needed to go in-depth into a person’s profile. We ran several tests to see what kind of values the people believe in and from where they derive energy (what are their underlining motives). The results were more than clear…90% of the company’s best performers were the ones that believed that the products truly improve the life of others and that felt the opportunity to “chase” the client and have an influence over their decision making is what gave then energy at the end of the day. Several conclusions were drawn, but amongst the most important were that in any area, performance is achieved by those who stay authentic to themselves and that derive intrinsic energy both from the process, but also from the outcomes.

3. They understand the company’s business. Being able to see issues or concerns from diverse viewpoints, thinking them through deeply and seeing less obvious connections to other issues and other parts of the business enables “Most Wanted Employees” to be highly effective and efficient. Such a breadth of perspective becomes increasingly important as future leaders take on larger roles within the organization, and within those roles must invent and execute ways to coordinate with other parts of the organization (and at high levels, with other organizations).

4. They are intellectually curious. This has always been a strong human trait but the drive for self-realization has become increasingly important in today’s fast-paced environment where nothing remains the same for long. However, what makes the difference is being willing to take a risk to learn new things outside of own comfort zone and area of expertise.

5. They know themselves. Studies have shown repeatedly that in order to be top performers, we need to become better at knowing and managing ourselves. We can learn to avoid losing self-control by learning to reprogram our brains to respond differently to those stimuli that “set us off,” that make us act in ways that are ineffective and at times actually harmful. Once we know what our triggers are and why they trigger our emotions and behavior, we can relearn our responses and respond differently. Also having a clear assessment on our strengths and areas to improve will lead to better prioritization of our professional development.

6. They empathize with others. From our extensive research in emotional intelligence domain, we can draw the conclusion that empathy is a key component. An empathic person in a professional relationship attempts to understand their partner’s internal frame of reference in a way that is identical (or very similar) to what the partner is feeling or would be expected to feel. Persons who are empathic have an astute awareness of the other’s emotions, picking up on subtle verbal and nonverbal cues (social awareness).

Consider the example of one of our clients from the manufacturing business sector. After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems on their own, lost-time accident were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded productivity goals. In another manufacturing plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17 percent. There was no such increase in production for a group of matched supervisors who were not trained.

7. They are versatile. One of the key characteristics of today’s business environment is change. It’s all around us, be it the fast-paced technological evolution, the changing customer needs or the expectations from jobs and the way we work. “Most Wanted” employees have shown over and over again the willingness to adapt and get out of their own comfort zone.


8. They show initiative & find opportunities for improvement. However, being adaptable is only part of the story – another very important aspect is their initiative and their drive to continuously find opportunities to do things in a different way. Challenging “status quo” in a constructive manner and creating a link with business results has been a much sought-after characteristic of today’s “Most Wanted”.


9. They have a “winning attitude”. Thoughts lead to concerns which in turn lead to behaviors. In plain English, if you think like a winner you will most probably behave like a winner! Self confidence (based on accurate self-awareness) brings better and more focused results. Also it conveys positive energy to one’s self and others.


10. Grow others. Last, but certainly not least, the “Most Wanted” Employee is the one who leaves a legacy behind in terms of performance but also people development. We look at people who have socialized power, meaning the desire to have an impact and influence which leaves others feeling stronger and more capable of doing what they feel they should be doing.
The best quote on socialized power comes from David McClelland himself: “The positive or socialized face of power is characterized by a concern for group goals, for finding those goals that will move individuals, for helping the group to formulate them, for taking some initiative in providing members of the group with the means of achieving such goals, and for giving group members the feeling of strength and competence they need to work hard for such goals.”


While there is no such thing as a dream employee, it has been shown that the more of these characteristics one possesses the more they are perceived to be “Most Wanted”. But what our experience has shown us is, that it’s no longer enough just to accurately identify who these employees are (which can sometimes be easier said than done) but companies need to increasingly find new and innovative ways to reward, develop and retain these employees.