This Is What Makes a Great Employee

June 18, 2016, 3:30 PM UTC
A businessman outside on the phone smiling
A businessman holding a digital tablet standing outside his office talking and laughing on the phone
Photograph by Gary Burchell via Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you build a strong team? is written by Kris Duggan, co-founder and CEO of BetterWorks.

The science of building a strong team has puzzled entrepreneurs for years. When it comes down to it, there is no single plug-and-play formula for building a team that will execute your company vision with vigor. A strong team is built over time, and requires serious effort from the higher-ups at a company.

After building a couple of startups from the ground up, I’ve come to understand how vital it is to navigate—and ultimately avoid—the mental roadblocks and misalignment that might hinder employee and company growth. This starts with the hiring process—before the employees’ first day of work. At BetterWorks, what we believe sets the strongest candidates apart from their peers is “sparkle”—or their contagious enthusiasm for the work they do and why they want to join our team. The more sparkle they exude, the stronger they’ll be in their role, and the more confident and willing they are to continue down a path of growth. People with sparkle rarely plateau. They want to become better every single day. We’ve built a strong team of like-minded individuals rooted in this philosophy.

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Empower your team to hire who they want to work with, and onboard them quickly and effectively. We get a half a dozen people or more involved each time we add a team member. So much of what we do requires cross-collaboration with other departments, and allowing the team to have a say in who they’ll be working with in the future means we’re bringing in people who are a strong, long-term fit for our company culture and values. Through this practice, we’ve built up such a diverse team. Some are up-and-comers whose work ethic goes above and beyond what we could have imagined, and others are seasoned veterans whose experience proves indispensable for our team. Women own more than half of the leadership roles in our company.

Once new employees are hired, we move into a “strengthening phase.” We reinforce team values, like integrity and excellence, by encouraging employees to really practice them. We’ve eliminated the “that’s not my job” mentality just by making it the standard not to say it. Our C-level staff is open and transparent with all of their goals—from the number of new hires they’ll bring on each quarter to our financial outlook and sales revenue numbers. Honesty and transparency do more than effectively communicate and align our workforce; we actually instill these strengths as company values, and it’s these values that make our team strong for the long haul.


Build your workforce based on the values you want your team to hold, and foster these attributes by making them the norm. For us, that’s sparkle. Sparkle doesn’t just matter when a person is hired—it’s something all managers develop over time. We want all of the people on our team to grow in enthusiasm for the work they do, and have a safe place to share their ideas and try new things. Your team will naturally get stronger when you practice what you preach.