What makes a good employee?
Community business leaders weigh in


Nov. 20, 2015

At first glance, the small pieces of paper attached to a bright yellow background looked like an artist’s colorful collage. But it was actually a picture created by local employers listing attributes and skills employees need to be successful.

Each colorful note pinned to the wall in a conference room at Manitou Americas in West Bend on Thursday morning reflected the thoughts of area business leaders on the makings of a good employee — thoughts that during a 90-minute meeting were shared with representatives from the West Bend School District. The session was sponsored by the Education Committee of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The education committee was created as a standing committee to strengthen the connection between employers and the school district,” said Craig Farrell, executive director of the West Bend Chamber of Commerce.

One of the first tasks of the committee, which played an important role in Thursday’s meeting, was to survey regional employers about their needs, Farrell said.

Statistics from that survey were shared Thursday by West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke.

“An interesting fact is that 58 percent of employers surveyed indicated they were projecting to expand in the next three years,” Neitzke told the group of representatives from area businesses and teachers. “The survey also showed that 29 percent of employers indicated that new employees do not fulfill the necessary requirements for employment in entry-level positions.”

Other results from the survey indicated 30 percent of employers said entry-level applicants “struggle with basic skills,” while an even larger number, 43 percent, noted applicants lack technical skills, Neitzke said.

More than 75 percent of employers indicated that entry-level applicants were disqualified because of background checks and the percentage is even higher — 87 percent — of employers noting that professional -level applicants have been disqualified due to background checks.

Neitzke said 85 percent of employers indicated they have a problem filling entry-level positions because applicants failed to pass drug testing.

One of the goals of the meeting, Neitzke said, was to get feedback on what those statistics mean, so in small group discussions, notes were taken and then applied to large, yellow sheets on the wall.

Notes from employers in the group showed that items that may turn up in a background check, like arrests for drunk driving, shoplifting, domestic violence, drug offenses and fraud, can quickly disqualify someone applying for a job.

What potential applicants do on social media is also considered by employers, as the notes indicated.

“I think there are some very strong messages that we need to communicate to our students about the legacy they are creating by their choices, good ones or bad ones, that can have an impact on their employability,” Neitzke said.

Here’s what the small groups came up with when describing what makes up a good employee:


Being respectful

Good manners

Good body language, no slouching or yawning

A good, strong handshake and looking people in the eyes when speaking

Ability to take constructive criticism

Ability to manage their time productively at work

Possessing good telephone skills

Not being afraid to ask questions

Dressing appropriately for the workplace

Ability to make the correct change

Writing in legible sentences with correct spelling and punctuation

Map-reading skills

Ability to solve problems

Knowing the proper way to use email in a business situation

An ability to work in teams or unsupervised

Computer skills

Ability to measure

Good math skills

Leadership skills

Good reading skills