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All Employee Engagement is Not Equal

To sustainably improve business outcomes requires far more than changing behaviors. It also requires a focus on the perceptions of each individual – which drives the behavior change. The challenge is that there are many different facets of an employee’s disposition and behaviors – each of which requires a different approach to engage effectively. According to a 2015 Harvard Business Review study, 9 employee engagement archetypes developed by Sean Graber of Virtuali, Perceptions (from Negative to Indifferent to Positive) and Behaviors (from Destructive to Neutral to Constructive) generate a total of nine different combinations of employees as a result.

tumblr_o173esPGGd1qzdepwo1_400They are as follows:

  • Negative-Destructive = Saboteur
  • Negative-Neutral = Cynic
  • Negative-Constructive = Martyr
  • Indifferent-Destructive = Delinquent
  • Indifferent-Neutral = Drifter
  • Indifferent-Constructive = Workhorse
  • Positive-Destructive = Brat
  • Positive-Neutral = Under-achiever
  • Positive-Constructive = All Star

As you can see, each type of person, based on their individual perceptions and behaviors, generate very different outcomes. Therefore, the best intervention is one that aligns with their unique type.

One of the more interesting counter-intuitive findings is that an employee can be destructive – even when they have a positive perception of the organization. These “Brats”, for example, will often “act out” when they feel strongly about the company but feel like certain things are not being done in the proper way. Another is that “Workhorses” get the job done, but perhaps stop short of exceeding expectations – merely doing what is required because they feel indifferent about the company.

Engaging employees is not a task of motivating them. Studies show time and time again that we cannot truly motivate others. However, we can do the better option: Discover what uniquely motivates them and connect that to the behavior/goal. Engaging the way that you would like to be engaged will only work if they are exactly like you. Otherwise, it is a losing proposition.

The bottom line is that successfully engaging your employees requires connecting with their unique selves, rather than a one-dimensional implementation plan. Identifying individual perceptions and helping them develop a more positive AND constructive mindset is the path to really connecting with your employees, and to them really connecting effectively with their customers.

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