Aptitude, or one’s ability to be successful within a given skill set, is often overshadowed by a person’s attitude, or willingness to contribute to the organization’s mission and success. Most managers tend to appreciate an employee’s attitude more than aptitude. Even though aptitude implies a ceiling to one’s skill set, skills can be taught. Attitude, generally speaking, cannot. This is why managers often take risks on new employees who are hungry, humble and smart. The employee’s attitude and willingness to learn will serve them, their manager and the organization far more than someone with strong aptitude and poor attitude any day.

Either directly or indirectly with a series of questions, a hiring manager should learn what motivates and demotivates every candidate before they are hired. Management styles, culture, growth opportunities and pace — all of these factors and more — contribute to a person’s attitude about their work. Fulfillment comes when a person is able to apply their unique skill set to a job and then realize the fruits of their labor. They need both: the sense that they are useful and the reward that comes when they are making a difference. 

Another factor is appreciation. Even a mediocre employee will rise to greatness when they feel valued. Some employees will seek the words “thank you” on a regular basis, and others will feel redeemed when recognized in public on the rare occasion. Recognizing where each employee falls on this spectrum is critical to managers who want them to perform at their peak and if retention is important. 

Demotivation can be more subtle. This happens when an employee feels undervalued or burned out. Managers should pay attention to signs of anxiety, depression, stress and tension. Oftentimes, these feelings manifest as physical symptoms and should be addressed with a sense of urgency and personal care. A toxic work culture, environment or manager can ruin a person’s well-being. In a field in which everyone is called to heal, causing harm to a co-worker’s mental or physical health would be a tragic leadership failure.

Finally, what is good for the individual is typically good for the organization. Happy, balanced, fulfilled employees are proven to outperform ones who aren’t. Tired, stressed, burnt-out employees are more likely to make careless mistakes that impede patient safety, healing, customer satisfaction and, of course, productivity. A manager should never lose sight of the individual’s well-being because that’s where the greatest influence stems from.