How to Lead Employees that are Motivated by Different Things Than You

Knowing your direct reports archetype can be massively powerful to you assigning the right tasks


Malhar Lakshman , Tue 10 May 2022
As a manager, it is extremely important to understand what type of workers or direct reports you have.  Each person has a unique archetype that they tend to fit into. These don’t necessarily refer to how they are motivated, which is also another important aspect of your direct reports to keep track of. There are six archetypes that are commonly identified. 

What are the archetypes of workers?

In 2022, Forbes and Bain & Company worked together to determine how to organize workers and what characteristics each of these groups would have in common. Similar to the ubiquitous Enneagram tests or Myer Briggs tests, an aptitude test will suffice to test which group an individual fits into. The six most commonly identified archetypes are operators, givers, artisans, explorers, strivers, and pioneers. Each one of these groups has a uniquely defining trait, along with a few advantages and disadvantages.

Operators are individuals who are not really work-oriented. In the culinary world, there is a saying that there are two types of people. Those who eat to live, and those who live to eat. Operators are much closer to the former. They understand that there is more than work, and primarily work to be able to achieve other goals. Operators are excellent team players due to them not seeking recognition with every move they make and are extremely dependable. Conversely, they can lack proactivity, or will not take initiative frequently. According to Forbes, 23% of the working class in the United States are operators. This type of individual tends to align with having Job Work Orientation.

Givers are the exact opposite of the operators. They are highly results-oriented.  These individuals are often selfless and feel rewarded by making an impact in their organization or by helping others. They are a little rarer than operators, making up about 20% of the American workforce. You will often find these workers in service positions, such as in hospitality, customer relations, or even human resources. Their selflessness makes them great team players, but the amount of work they may take on could be impractical and can lead to burnout. This type of individual tends to align with having a Calling Work Orientation.

Artisans are even rarer than both operators and givers. They make up 15% of the workforce in the United States. These individuals are extremely common in fields requiring meticulousness and precision, such as in many STEM-related fields. The key identifier of an artisan is someone who is always pursuing some form of mastery in their field or a way to improve something at all times. They can be relied on to solve some of the hardest challenges out there but can get lost in the minute details and may have trouble keeping final goals in focus. They can also be aloof. Similar to givers, artisans fall into the dangers of burnout due to their need to perfect any work that they put out.  Artisans are especially common within the computer science industry, in positions such as developers or consultants. 

Explorers make up a tenth of the workforce and are frequently overlooked in favor of Operators or Artisans. Explorers typically seek out excitement and variety from work and are excellent multitaskers. However, they are not the best at finishing individual tasks. They are versatile, either being excellent team players, as well as good individual workers. Resourcefulness is a quality any explorer will have, along with a strong sense of individuality. The fashion industry is filled with explorers, with some of note being Levi Jeans and the North Face. At the same time, there are brands that allow creativity such as Starbucks which also welcomes explorers. 

Strivers can make some of the best managers in the world. Making up about a fifth of the workforce, these powerful workers are highly competitive and set high standards for themselves and their coworkers. In any successful team, you will find a striver at the forefront.  They are less risk-tolerant and are much more comfortable taking actions that are much more likely to yield success. However, having multiple strivers can lead to disaster due to their urge to be at the front of whatever project is ongoing. While they are disciplined, their competitiveness can be unproductive or worse, disruptive, in a team environment. Culinary environments such as Michelin star-rated restaurants are frequently run by strivers, such as Gordon Ramsay. This type of individual tends to align with having a Career Work Orientation.

Finally, are the rarest of the archetypes- the Pioneer, making up 8% of the workforce. These individuals frequently have a vision in mind and will stop at no end to achieve these goals. Pioneers are strong-minded and will do their best to create lasting change. However, they are uncompromising and may have trouble seeing anything other than their own view.  Many entrepreneurs are pioneers, along with activists. In today’s world, Greta Thunberg is known as a pioneer, with her strict views on climate change and global activism. She is seen as a leader throughout the world of sustainability but is often thought of as harsh due to her strict views.

Why do these archetypes matter?

                These archetypes are important to track due to the appeal of creating a cohesive team, as well as understanding what tasks are best assigned to which worker. For example, giving something that is extremely meticulous to a giver will end in success, but won’t necessarily be the best for their mental health, since they may try to do too much and burn out. Similarly, giving a task that is a gamble to a striver is a contradiction of what they will naturally want to do, and will not be the best possible task for them. 

In baseball, coaches frequently tell players to “play their natural game”, meaning that they should do what feels comfortable for them. In this case, you’re the coach. How will you choose to give tasks to your workers? By enabling them to do what they do best. 

Software such as AIM insights will be invaluable in this case by allowing you to understand your employees on a much better level. By using task completion rates and success rates, you can deduce what archetype of worker your employee fits in, and then assign better fitting tasks going forth. Archetypes will help you understand your workers, give better tasks, and get better results. 


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