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How to Motivate Employees by Personality Types

Human Resources

If you're unclear about how to motivate employees, you're not alone. Most businesses are plagued with this issue. According to a Gallup survey, “Just one in five employees strongly agrees that their company's system motivates them.” As a result, Gallup estimates the cost resulting from a failure of management to motivate employees (and the subsequent drop in productivity) “to be between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year.”

But instead of rushing to implement a one-size-fits-all employee engagement program, consider the possible result of tailoring your motivational strategies to meet certain personality types. Broad generalizations can't account for all of your employees, of course, but if you find that many individuals on your team fit a certain category, it could signal a great time to refine your management approach in order to strengthen motivation and engagement.

Take every opportunity to inspire and motivate employees

Allowing for some overlap in these personality types, here are some suggestions on how to motivate employees more effectively:

Type A (star performer). This individual seeks to perform at a consistently high level and is, therefore, a greatly desirable employee to keep motivated. These men and women feel driven to achieve great things and to be recognized and promoted for those achievements. Consequently, various types of micromanaging could backfire. Instead, be generous in your recognition of their hard work, and don't hesitate to move these self-motivated individuals steadily up the career ladder.

Creative types. Some employees thrive when their creativity and imagination guide their work output. In other words, they are problem-solvers who get easily frustrated doing the same things day in and day out. Satisfy their craving for a stimulating work environment by assigning challenging projects or initiatives, where their creative skills are welcome and rewarded. Given the right motivation, they might end up dramatically boosting your company's revenue-generating potential.

Team player. This personality type excels as part of a stimulating social environment. They get charged up in situations where a team effort is encouraged, and they can work alongside other employees in a team-building culture. To keep these individuals motivated, give them challenging, team-based problems to solve.

The free spirit. Similar in some ways to the creative type, the "free spirit" employee enjoys a high degree of autonomy. They have confidence in their ability to get the job done, and deeply resent any bureaucratic obstacles placed in their way. It's acceptable to give them a high-level objective, but if you truly want to motivate them, the best approach is to provide whatever tools and resources they want, and then get out of the way.

Those who want to make a difference. Some employees strongly feel their individual contributions, and those of the company they work for, should have a positive effect on the community in which they live. Some go further and want to actively change the world. While every business strives to generate a profit, it's also true that no company exists in a vacuum. You may not immediately see how the growth of your company can contribute to the greater good, but if you give them the chance, these individuals could help guide the way toward this lofty goal. They may also be more effective employees with the proper motivation.

For these and other personality types, here are additional motivational tactics to keep in mind:

Keep continuous coaching in mind. Many employees see their managers as people who can help guide them to strengthen their own individual skill set. Managers should take every opportunity to coach employees who struggle with on-the-job challenges and be willing to share what they know. This helps keep employees engaged and interested in learning more.

Walk the walk. Do you want your employees to show confidence in their jobs and tackle problems on their own, or to be enthusiastic about the company's future? Lead by example. Be upbeat when interacting with employees, generous with praise for their hard work and dedication to detail, and share details of your company's strategic plan, while emphasizing the role each individual plays in this overall effort. Effective leadership should inspire and motivate; strive to serve as a model for the behavior you want.

As much as possible, senior executives as well as managers should take every opportunity to praise employee contributions to the company's growth, infusing their staff with the sense that 'we're all in this together.' This can make the difference between a highly motivated employee and one who's begun thinking of finding new job opportunities elsewhere.


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