9 Employee Personas, and how to motivate them
A company is only as good as the people who work there – but what can you do when your team lacks motivation? And what if their lack of motivation is affecting not just their own mental health, but also the success of the company?
When a team lacks motivation, there are consequences. The most common are frequent absences, high staff turnover, and low productivity. On the other hand, highly motivated employees are 50% more likely to exceed their performance goals! So how can team leaders keep their employees motivated?
The first step is understanding that everyone is different, and that includes at work. Having employees with different personas is a good thing for an organization, because they each bring different strengths and working methods to the table. A team filled with a variety of personas is a strong team, able to come up with creative ideas and new solutions.
As a manager, part of your job involves recognizing and fostering your employee’s individual strengths. A heterogeneous team is a strong team, but it can be hard to remember what different team members need and how best to support them. As a society, we usually look down on stereotyping, but a certain amount can help you to understand the roles your employees embody and how to support them appropriately. So, are we encouraging you to pigeonhole people? Of course not, because no one can be reduced to a stereotype. However, using personas can help you pay more attention to your team members’ different aptitudes and how best to coordinate them.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of employee personas, how to identify them, and the tips and tricks you can use to motivate each one.
One classic employee persona model is the team role model created by English social scientist Belbin, which was developed in the 1970s. It describes 9 roles in 3 categories: social, action, thinking. Each group has its own strengths and weaknesses, allowing a team leader to select those employees whose strengths make them best suited to a particular project.
Since then, many additional personas have been developed to better analyze employee needs in the modern world. This article highlights the 9 most common personas; you are sure to find examples of each at your workplace.
Persona 1: The Defender
This persona wants security, stability, and a routine. Defenders are good at saying no, and like companies that are organized down to the smallest detail, offering clear roles, defined processes, and obvious career paths.
This persona does not react well to departures from the norm, exceptions, or changes made at short notice, which is why these employees are often seen as narrow minded. Team leaders appreciate defenders for their reliability, conscientiousness, and sense of duty.
How to motivate a defender: Communicate, communicate, communicate! Defenders always want to know what is going on, even if it doesn’t affect them directly. Regular briefings, e-mails with updates, or personal water-cooler conversations are great, because they keep the defender in the loop. Set out your expectations in writing and be as explicit as possible; make sure the defender knows that you appreciate their loyalty and faithfulness. In tumultuous times, or times of transformation, you should be prepared to provide extra support to defenders to help them accept and adapt to any changes.
Persona 2: The Friend
This persona is looking for fulfilling relationships and harmony at work, and wants to feel like they are part of their team. Friends are helpful and empathic; they are often the glue that keeps the team together. They prefer tasks that focus on collaborative success. Friends work best when they feel included and know that their opinion is both heard and valued.
How to motivate a friend: Make sure there are regular, informal get-togethers that focus on social interaction between members of your team. Maybe the friend would like to take on the organization of these events as well? After all, this persona thrives on knowing that they are relied upon and trusted.
Persona 3: The Star
This persona is looking for recognition, respect, and social esteem. The star is very attached to their job title and always knows how to secure their next promotion. They seek the office spotlight and want opportunities to shine and attain success. This persona has excellent powers of persuasion and the drive to achieve their goals.
How to motivate a star: Success is a star’s biggest motivation. Satisfy their need for acknowledgment by having them work on projects that are well respected within the company and offer clear career advancement opportunities. Positive feedback is a great way to motivate a star, particularly when offered in a public forum. So when this persona achieves an ambitious goal, make sure that all the world can see their success.
Persona 4: The Director
This persona wants power, status, and influence over others. Directors prefer management and leadership positions with big budgets, high levels of responsibility over other staff members, and clear opportunities to rise through the ranks. Team leaders love this persona because they are high performers who thrive when taking on responsibility.
How to motivate a director: Motivate directors by giving them the responsibility they crave. Need someone to fill in for you in some capacity? Let a director take over; they love to be in demand and needed. Job titles that reflect their power and high position in the organization are a great reward for directors, as are coaching sessions designed to help them achieve their personal goals.
Persona 5: The Builder
This persona is searching for material satisfaction and a good salary, which they need to maintain their high-flying lifestyle. The builder prefers it when rewards are directly linked to performance, and likes roles that are well paid and offer clear advancement potential.
How to motivate a builder: The prospect of a raise or material perks are what really motivates a builder. Give them a clear career path, regular progress reviews, and the responsibility they want. When setting goals, make it clear what rewards are attached to their success. Remember, builders are very competitive, so any type of challenge or competition is a great way to get them to give it their all at work.
Persona 6: The Expert
This persona is searching for knowledge and a specialization, and loves ambitious goals and challenges that require specialist knowledge. Experts are great at focusing on one specific task, and are therefore often seen by colleagues as not particularly communicative, or even as ‘difficult.’ Team leaders love their ability to solve problems and their expertise.
How to motivate an expert: As a team leader, you will want to give your expert employees ambitious goals that allow them to prove they are experts while expanding their knowledge. Set them up as mentors for other members of your team, because they love sharing what they know. Bonus: this will help the expert integrate into your team; without mentoring or other professional relationships as a platform, they may not interact much with the rest of your group.
Persona 7: The Creator
This persona is always on the hunt for innovation, change, and the chance to share their ideas. Creators come alive when finding solutions for difficult problems and doing development work. They prefer innovative, dynamic companies and hate routine tasks and rigid processes.
How to motivate a creator: Get creators involved in generating ideas, ask for their input when solving problems, and assign them to projects that require creativity. As team leader, you need to understand that creators require an inspiring environment to do their best work, including even simple things like what the office looks like. Involve them in regular brainstorming and innovation meetings: make sure you give them free rein to discuss their ideas!
Persona 8: The Spirit
This persona is looking for independence, freedom, and autonomy. They love flexible roles that allow them to control how they spend their time and to make their own decisions. They respond poorly to micromanagement and frequent check-ins.
How to motivate a spirit: Allow spirits to work as independently as possible. Explain the company’s vision in detail to them, so they know the boundaries they are working within, and be specific when you discuss expectations. This ensures that they know their limits and can move freely within them.
Persona 9: The Searcher
This persona is looking for meaning and the opportunity to do something good with their time and their work. Searchers prefer working for companies that champion a good cause, especially those focusing on social issues and sustainability. They prefer tasks involving communication, networking, and building trust.
How to motivate a searcher: As a team leader, you’ll want to provide your searchers with regular feedback on their work and their conduct and praise them for work well done. Searchers feel most motivated when their own goals are in line with the goals pursued by their team or organization, allowing them to understand the impact of their work. Give this persona important tasks with lots of variety, and make sure they know how they are contributing to company success.
Pigeonholing: is it useful?
Can your employees really be categorized into only 9 different personas? The answer is… well, yes and no. Of course, we are all individuals, and nobody likes being stuck with a label. Personas like those described above will always be a simplification; they can never represent a whole and unique individual. What a relief!
Still, this approach can help you understand how to motivate different employees. It makes it easier to recognize recurring patterns as you work with your employees on a day-to-day basis. After all, you can’t give your employees what they want and need to stay motivated and do their best work… unless you know what that is!
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