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7 High-Performance Employee Behaviors

Identifying and retaining top employees directly impacts productivity and performance. Learn how to spot 7 characteristics of high-performing employees.


By ActivTrak

A pen and paper with the word performance review, which is an old way to identify high-performance employee behaviors.

Identifying top employees is critical for the success of any organization. Who you hire — and how you retain them — has a direct impact on productivity, teamwork and overall performance. 

However, identifying high-performing individuals isn’t always an easy task. It requires a deep understanding of the specific characteristics that set exceptional employees apart.

To help, let’s explore seven high-performance behaviors to identify top employees and build a strong, dynamic team.

The importance of identifying top-performing employees

Top-performing employees don’t just show up on time and show consistent effort. They’re also highly engaged, take direction well, require minimal supervision and consistently deliver high-quality work. They’re the lifeblood of profitable business models — and you can’t afford to lose them.

Once you identify the characteristics of high performers within your organization, you can use this information to guide important decisions:

  • Executives can focus on supporting and retaining high achievers to reduce voluntary attrition
  • Managers can evaluate common traits of high performers to help other team members emulate them
  • HR can create a list of common characteristics and attributes to watch for when vetting job candidates

Identifying top employees will shed light on who you need to prioritize in retention strategies, and who is a good fit for future leadership. It can also remove a lot of guesswork from hiring decisions since you’ll have a better understanding of which attributes to watch for.

7 high-performance employee behaviors to look for

Most managers already know what qualities make for a great employee. After all, it’s easier to manage someone who has a positive attitude, understands your company culture and is open to constructive criticism.

But are those team members also high-performing employees?

To answer this question, you’ll need to take a deeper look at several key indicators — ones that not only reflect current performance but can also help predict success in future roles within your company.

1. Self-direction

Top employees typically demonstrate a high level of initiative and self-direction. They take ownership of their work, perform their own research and consistently provide new ideas or perspectives. Because employees who display initiative are highly motivated to achieve their goals, they usually have a disproportionate impact on overall team performance.

2. Personal efficiency

High performance at work isn’t about working longer hours or showing more commitment. Top performers understand what it takes to get the job done as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. They know how to collaborate, are good at time management and have mastered the art of deep work. In fact, research has shown that high performers can deliver 400% more productivity than the average employee.

3. Desire for feedback

High performers are highly receptive to feedback and suggested improvements. They have an innate desire to continually build new skills, and they look at constructive feedback as an opportunity to grow. In many cases, if you don’t provide unsolicited feedback to a top performer they’ll likely request it themselves.

4. Work-life balance

Top performers understand they can’t give work their all if they’re always working. They consistently maintain a healthy work-life balance and proactively request help when they’re overworked. While these employees are committed to the company, they also know how to prioritize their personal lives in ways that support creativity and innovation.

5. Good people skills

High performers excel at collaborating with others, both within their own teams and across departments. These strong interpersonal and relational abilities allow them to resolve conflicts without causing division, and to solve problems without stalling projects. You can often spot a top performer by their ability to maintain positive relationships with colleagues and clients.

6. Strong communication skills

Top employees possess strong communication skills. In addition to conveying thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely, they listen actively to others and adapt their communication style to fit the needs of different audiences. They’re also great at leveraging the diverse strengths of colleagues. 

7. Critical thinking

High-performing employees possess strong problem solving and critical thinking skills. They’re able to analyze complex situations, identify root causes and come up with innovative solutions. These employees have a natural curiosity and are always willing to explore different perspectives. They are not afraid to challenge the status quo and are committed to continuous improvement.

How to identify high-performance employee behaviors

Once you know what behaviors to look for, the next step is to effectively identify them in your employees. This can be accomplished through various methods.

Observe employee interactions

Observing how employees interact with others can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to how your employees communicate, collaborate and engage with one another. Watch for indicators of initiative, problem solving and effective communication in day-to-day interactions.

Evaluate output and productivity

Another way to identify high performance behaviors is by evaluating the output and productivity of employees. Look for team members who consistently meet or exceed performance goals and deliver high-quality work. When in doubt, use productivity management software to set benchmarks and regularly gauge performance. 

Conduct performance reviews

Performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to assess behaviors in employees. During these reviews, ask specific questions that address the key characteristics noted above and encourage employees to provide examples of their own achievements. Performance reviews can be a great resource for uncovering the underlying attributes you’re looking for.

How to nurture high-performance employee behaviors in your team

Identifying high performance behaviors in your employees is only the first step. To truly maximize the potential of your team, it’s important to nurture and develop these behaviors. You can do this by:

Providing opportunities for growth

If you use workforce analytics to identify habits of top performers, this data is helpful to train others to mirror those same behaviors. For example, you might provide insights on how much time should be spent in meetings versus focused work, or which technology is likely to work best for different tasks. In addition, encourage employees to take advantage of training programs, workshops and resources that will help them grow professionally.

Offering unbiased feedback

Whether you meet quarterly or schedule weekly one-on-ones, providing constructive feedback regularly is essential. Keep your feedback specific and actionable, and tie it to the high performance behaviors you want to encourage. And don’t just focus on improvements that need to be made — offer positive reinforcement by celebrating small wins, too. Recognizing achievements can be a powerful motivator when talking to employees about productivity.  

Rewarding high-performance

Rewarding employees who consistently demonstrate high-performance behaviors is a great way to retain top talent. By celebrating both individual and team successes, you can foster a culture where employees are consistently motivated to perform at a high level. At times when monetary rewards are not an option, get creative with other performance-based incentives such as additional PTO or verbal praise. Simply sending a thoughtful “thank you” can send a strong message that you value the hard work of high performers.

Identify high-performance employee behaviors with ActivTrak

Identifying top employees is a critical task for any organization. By following the strategies above, you can build a team of high-performing individuals who are committed to achieving excellence and driving the success of your organization.

ActivTrak provides the unbiased insights you need to do just that.

Our productivity management software lets you see how employees are doing, what tools they’re using, how much time they’re spending on tasks and when they’re outperforming benchmarks. 

Request a demo to learn how ActivTrak can help you identify and understand high performance employee behaviors to inform strategic decisions.

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