Three Types of Employees – Miscategorize at Your Own Peril


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I’ve had the privilege of writing fairly regularly on the subject of customer experience strategy. We’ve explored tools and process up until now, looking at tactics and methods for customer delight. I want to use this installment to take us onto a slight tangent, but an important one: to better understand employees and, in specific, to take a closer look at how we engage and reward our employees as a means of creating a customer-centric culture.

If we do this well, our employees will reward us each and every day with quality work, positive energy, and creative contributions. While I’ve not worked a day in my life in an HR role, it’s plain as day that our employees are the critical link to customer satisfaction and profitable retention. Assuming we can accept this notion, let’s set our sights here on understanding our employees better, such that we have the greatest possible likelihood of building the culture we want and, in doing so, inspire our employees to do what’s right for our customers, our company, and themselves.

Without over-personalizing this article, I want to reflect on something a manager of mine once said to me, and use his point as the basis of this post. He said that his experience showed there were only three types of employees at almost any company.

First, he said, were those of us who seek work purely as a means of personal sustenance through the paycheck. These people work purely for the money and nothing else.

Second, he said, there are those who work for certain companies or in specific roles as a means of satisfying ego. These people take prestigious jobs at blue chip firms to boast or feel good about themselves simply by association.

Finally, he said, there is a rare third group; the Missionaries. These people, he pointed out work for companies because they believe those companies are making the world a better place and that working for them allows them to participate in that missionary work.

There are, in considering his points about these three types of workers, few outside exceptions and indeed most people can probably fold into one of these groups. I think he really nailed it. Let’s deepen this a bit.

Here’s why I share his story about the three types of employees: if we miscategorize our workers in how we engage and reward them, we do so at our own risk. We will have blown it, and missed the opportunity to get the most from them; or worse, we will have driven them from our company’s ranks, potentially to our competition.

Understanding employee categories will allow us to empower them to use their talents for everyone’s benefit. We will be able to reward them in ways that motivate and fit their personalities, and develop a culture built around quality, consistency, employee and customer delight.

Let’s unpack this a bit and try to understand more about each personality type.

The Paycheck Employee

This employee is there for the money. This could be because it’s an entry-level role and one which only rewards with the paycheck and little else, or because the job is attractive mostly in light of its offering a significant pay raise from a previous job, blinding the employee to other considerations.

Continuing to reward the paycheck employee with frequent raises and bonuses will inspire him to engage and create, but if personal financial gains flatten or are at risk, we only then expose those motives and have little left to satisfy and inspire the employee.

Plainly, the paycheck employee is there for the buck and as long as the money flows, the employee will produce. Dial back the money, and the contribution will diminish. The connection between compensations and work product is highly correlated with this employee.

No other rewards will likely matter to the Paycheck Employee. Explain to him how the company’s work improves others and he’ll likely see you as a half-baked zealot and laugh at you. Tell him how important his own contribution is and he’ll consider you a liar if not backed by financial incentives.

The Ego Satisfier 

This employee wants to have an association with a blue-chip organization and to have an impressive role in it. He wants to have bragging rights about his work with friends and family and wants to show everyone possible that he works for that meteorically rising-star company, or that he was promoted into a senior job.

The Ego Satisfier wants prestige. He wants to feel good about his work purely on the basis of being better than others.

Clearly this is a dangerous type of employee since he’s so focused on self-aggrandizing that he often loses sight of the company’s goals or of how working in a customer-centric culture often results in a diminished sense of self.

Much like with the paycheck employee, attempts to create positive engagement with the Ego Satisfier by talking excitedly about the company’s mission won’t be met with positive results. Often, higher compensation may not entirely content the ego satisfier either, although experience has shown that these lines sometimes do blur since the paycheck may become the basis of the bragging rights the Ego Satisfier seeks.

The Missionary

The Missionary needs to believe in the company and the team around him. He needs to wake up in the morning feeling that the company is creating value and that his role adds to that value. He needs to feel a sense that he is fulfilling the greater good with his work, almost regardless of tangible personal gain. This employee can be both the most influential and the most dangerous.

Positive engagement with the Missionary results in the employee giving 110%, 24 hours a day. It’s not hard work for the missionary; it’s passion. His work for the company is a positive outlet of himself and what he believes is right.

Dangers arise, however, if the Missionary becomes frustrated or, worse, disengaged. Since his work is based on pure conviction, losing that sense of purpose with him risks creating mistrust and, in the worst possible case, subversive behaviors.

The Missionary takes his work incredibly personally and is less motivated by prestige, excess compensation, and even professional growth. Instead, show him how his work, within the context of the company’s own charter creates positive outcomes and he’ll reward you with boundless energy and ideas.

If we seek to understand our employees and can identify which of these groups our staffers fall into, we will best align our rewards, supervision and compensation programs to them and create a culture of positive energy and non-stop contribution.

Miscategorize, and we face a high probability of driving a permanent wedge between the company and employee, create an atmosphere of mistrust and suboptimal results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Mandel
Marc Mandel is a Regional Sales Director at Allegiance, Inc.


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