Defining the “It” Factor in a Great Employee

Think of your best employee or co-worker. Now, think about their most prominent traits. What makes them the valued business partner that they are? If they are a game changer in your organization it’s likely that there isn’t just one characteristic that sets them apart. There must be, however, a few ties that bind it all together. These overriding qualities displayed by the elite professionals you know are the “it” factor and are the traits that have you pining for more individuals just like them. 

We decided to ask our top clients, across varying industries, this question recently: What are the top three soft-skill (non-technical) traits you find in your highest performing employees? Here is what we found, in order of frequency:

  1. High Integrity & Ethics
  2. Loyalty
  3. Accountability
  4. Resourcefulness/Adaptability
  5. Leadership

Any of this sound familiar? It kind of looks like the bullet points to every mission statement, or listing of company values I have seen. Organizations work hard to craft these company mantras, yet sometimes they are easily cast aside in the name of profit or strategic business direction. What we sometimes forget is that the traits presented in our company mantras are the living, breathing embodiment of our organization and they are what make up the characteristics of our best people.

I have never seen a list of company ideals though that includes intelligence or strategy. Can you imagine the environment of an organization where we only tried to hire the smartest and most strategic people, regardless of other traits? I’m sure there are some wall streeters that could say “yes” to that question, but hopefully that is not the culture we are really trying to breed. More in this in a moment.   

It should be noted that integrity was the runaway winner, with the next four coming in tightly packed together.   When we asked our best clients about their best people, they thought to mention “integrity” and “loyalty” before “intelligence”, “professionalism”, or “strategy”.

Just think how incredible it would be to work in an organization that was unilaterally high in integrity and accountability. Do you figure things might get done with the best intentions in mind always? How would company morale look? How would this impact your customers? Rhetoric aside, it is easy to pose these questions in a blog and imagine nirvana in the workplace. It is much harder to actually apply the idea in the real world. 

After all, how does one illustrate they have these traits? Therein lays the real challenge of shaping a corporate culture that truly follows our ideals. The reality is that many hiring processes are not too much unlike this scenario: Candidate comes in and sits down at a table while a hiring manager asks questions about their resume, and then the interview is over. From this are you able to assess that person’s character?   

We must avoid the trap of falling in love with hard skills and resume fluff and instead realize that although the hard skills must be present, it is the soft skills that make people dynamic. We must not be robotic in the way we profile our talent pool, and always remember that our customers do not necessarily care how smart our employees are, but rather they care about how they feel about the individuals representing our products and services.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of really smart people out there, but have you ever bought from someone just because of their intellect? On the flip side, how many times have your purchased or endorsed products or services based solely on how much you liked and trusted the individual selling it? For me, I know the latter of the two cases is the clear winner.

It is assumed that to get an interview with your organization, candidates will have the technical skills to get in the door. To get hired, they should also have the “it” factor that makes up your best people. Otherwise, even if you have hired the smartest person in the market, you have defeated the very ideals your company stands upon. If we commit to the practice of emulating our best people, we will in fact shape a positive culture and make our organizations stronger.


Nate Elgert, Senior Account Manager, Aureus Group
Nate Elgert, Account Manager, Aureus Group

About Nate Elgert
Nate was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., graduated from Lincoln East High School, and went on to The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) where he was a four year letter-winner on the men’s golf team earning a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1999. Nate took a winding road back to Lincoln that led through Phoenix, Des Moines, Chicago, back to Kansas City, and then finally Lincoln once again in 2005. Before coming to Aureus Group in 2006 as an account manager in the Lincoln Accounting and Finance office, Nate was a golf professional, an advertising rep, and a mortgage lender. Currently, Nate is a senior account manager. He enjoys playing basketball, golf, and time with his wife Angie, his daughter Sofia, 2. Nate and Angie welcomed their second little girl in May.

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