Having engaged employees is very crucial for your company.

When your employees are engaged, performance and productivity will soar, customer loyalty will increase, your employees will experience better job satisfaction, and your hiring costs and turnover rate will fall significantly.

Don’t believe me? Check out the following statistics from various research studies:

  • Engaged employees lead to 51% higher productivity in their companies compared to disengaged employees.
  • According to a survey by Towers Watson, a higher level of employee engagement leads to 9% higher returns for shareholders.
  • A study by the Conference Board found that engaged employees have 20 – 28% higher performance than disengaged employees.
  • A research by Serota Consulting in 2005 found that the share prices of companies with highly engaged employees rose by about 16% on average, against an industry average of just 6%.
  • A Gallup poll found that there is less absenteeism among companies with engaged employees.

As you can see from these numbers, there are clear benefits of keeping your employees engaged.

This is why companies are spending in excess of a billion dollars every year on employee engagement.

Despite spending all this money in a bid to increase employee engagement levels, most managers do not have an accurate idea of what employee management means. If you ask different managers what employee engagement means, you will get wildly varying answers.

This lack of a clear definition of what employee engagement means is clearly a problem.

Despite such huge sums of money being thrown at it, only slightly over one third of employees in the United States are engaged in their work, according to a poll by Gallup.


Employee engagement can be defined as level of emotional commitment shown by an employee to their company’s goals, their team’s goals, and their personal work.

Employee engagement goes beyond whether the employee likes their job or not, or whether they perform their work well or not. Instead, engagement is about how committed and emotionally invested the employee is to helping the company achieve success.

Engaged employees are committed to the values of the organization they work for and are motivated to work towards goals that move the organization closer to its vision and mission.

They also have a clear understanding of the relevance of the work they are doing and how this work ties to the greater organizational goals.


In most cases, managers oversimplify their view of employee engagement by using either personal satisfaction or employee performance as proxies for employee engagement.

Unfortunately, this simplistic view means that these managers miss key behavioral signals about how engaged their employees are.

For instance, you might find situations where an employee is quite happy with their job, but then this employee might not be as productive as another unhappy coworker.

Similarly, another employee might be highly productive, but then they might not be willing to go above and beyond for the sake of the organization, because they are not very committed to the organization.

To form an accurate view of how engaged employees are, managers need to take into account not only the employees’ behaviors and their performance, but also the employees’ perceptions.

Sure, an employee might be going out of their way to keep your customers happy, but is the employee feeling burned out as a result?

Another employee might have very positive perceptions about the organization, but of what use is her positive perception if the employee is not giving her all at work?

Looking at all these factors will help you to determine which levers you need to pull in order to get your employees engaged. Here, you will realize that what works for one employee might work for another employee.

To help organizations to figure out what matters to their employees and which levers they need to pull to keep their employees engaged, Sean Graber and his employees at Virtuali conduct interviews and surveys to evaluate employees’ perceptions in six key areas: job function, culture, management, company leadership, opportunities for advancement, and total rewards.

Sean Graber and his team also evaluate employees’ self-reported behaviors across six categories: company loyalty, level of effort, relationships, personal development, temperament, and relationships.

Graber and his team settled on these metrics by conducting a review of available literature on employee engagement and then using questions about what employees actually do to fill in the missing gaps.

With this approach, Graber and his team makes it possible for companies lacking people analytics capabilities to see how the perceptions of their employees influence their actions.

By plotting the scores of employees on these key metrics on a matrix with perceptions on one axis and behaviors on the other, Saber and his team are able to come up with 9 employee archetypes that show how engaged your employees are. The 9 archetypes are:

  • Saboteur: Has negative behaviors and negative perceptions.
  • Cynic: Combination of negative perceptions and neutral behavior.
  • Martyr: Combination of constructive behaviors with negative perceptions.
  • Delinquent: Combination of destructive behaviors and indifferent perceptions.
  • Drifter: Combination of neutral behaviors and indifferent perceptions.
  • Workhorse: Combination of constructive behaviors and indifferent perceptions.
  • Brat: Combination of positive perceptions and destructive behavior.
  • Underachiever: Combination of positive perceptions and neutral behaviors.
  • All-star: Combination of positive perceptions and constructive behavior.

As you can see from the employee engagement matrix, each type of person has a different engagement archetype based on their individual behaviors and perceptions.

Therefore, the best intervention for keeping an employee engaged will depend on the employee’s engagement archetype.

With this employee engagement matrix, it becomes easier to understand why focusing on either perception or behavior can lead to a skewed perception of employee engagement.

For instance, when you look at those in the “Brat” or “Underachiever” archetype, the fact that they have a positive perception of the organization does not necessarily make them all-star employees. For them to become more engaged, their manager needs to find a way to push them towards more constructive behaviors.

Similarly, just because employees in the “Martyr” archetype have constructive behaviors, this does not mean that they are highly engaged, because they have a negative perception of the organization and could be unhappy with their work or suffering in silence from something like burnout.

To ensure they are engaged, their manager needs to understand this employee’s perception of the meaning of his work, his managers, the company culture, the company leadership, his opportunities for advancement, and total rewards.

In the same way, employees in the “Workhorses” archetype might be very effective at getting their work done, but these employees will hardly ever go above and beyond to exceed expectations.

Since they are indifferent about the organization, they do not care much about overall success of the organization. The only thing that matters to them is doing what is required of them.

To get such employees engaged, managers need to work on improving the employee’s perception of the organization.

As an employer or manager, you need to get familiar with these 9 employee engagement archetypes. Only by understanding them will you be able to keep your employees engaged.

To know where your employees fall within the employee engagement matrix, you will need to observe their behavior at work and ask them how they perceive their jobs.

You should then map their answers and your observations on the matrix to determine where they fall, with behaviors graded either as destructive, neutral, or constructive, and perceptions graded as either negative, indifferent, or positive.


Having understood how the 9 archetypes influence your employee’s engagement, let us take a look at some tips on how to engage your employees.

Give Your Employees Individual Attention

At a time when most workplaces are multigenerational, multinational and multi-ethnic, figuring out which approach works best for your workforce can be a bit of a challenge.

However, like we have seen from the employee engagement matrix, no single approach will work for your entire workforce.

The key, therefore, is to give your employees individual attention and find out what motivates each of your employees individually.

A good example of how to do this is to follow what a Philadelphia based shutter manufacturing company does.

The company, known as Timberlane, has around 70 employees. The company hired a people and culture specialist known as Brandi Yanulavich, who administers a test from The Predictive Index to analyze the individual tendencies of Timberlane’s employees.

The results from the test are then shared with Timberlane managers to help them know more about their new hires. For instance, they can tell which employees hate speaking to groups, and which ones want public recognition.

Using this information, it becomes easier for managers to motivate and engage their employees or to match employees with tasks the employee is most comfortable with.

The results from these tests also help the company to hire candidates who are best suited for particular positions, which results in a higher level of engagement.

The point here is that instead of using a blanket approach, Timberlane seeks to understand the individual tendencies of each employee and use them to decide what approach to use to keep employees engaged.

For instance, by assigning employees to tasks that they love doing, these employees are going to be more engaged compared to employees who are assigned without taking their preferences into consideration.

You can use a similar approach by focusing on your employees individually, which is the same kind of approach encouraged by Sean Graber’s 9 engagement archetypes model.

Show Your Care About Your Team

This point is closely related to the previous one. Your employees are not automated machines designed to mindlessly handle certain tasks. They are people with their own individuality and their own unique interests, opinions, and attributes.

If you want to keep them engaged, you need to show them that you care about them as people, not just as cogs in your wheel.

For instance, you might be surprised that John, who falls in the “Workhorse” archetype on the employee engagement matrix, is indifferent about the company because he knows his manager doesn’t really care about him as a person, he only cares about the work John does for the company.

To show your employees that you care about them as people with their own individuality, you need to be radically candid.

You need to be interested in them beyond what they do for your company.

Get to know them personally. Ask how they spent their weekend, learn about their background, ask about their family, learn what they are planning for their next vacation, ask about their personal goals, and so on.

The point is to create a strong rapport and develop a personal connection with them. You also need to give them a chance to allow their personality to shine.

When your employees know that you care about them beyond what they can do for your company, they are more likely to be committed to ensuring the success of your company.

In addition, beyond the tests and observations, this kind of interaction with your employees makes it easier for you to determine on which employee engagement archetype they fall, which you can then use a basis for figuring out the best way to keep them engaged.

Regularly Meet with Your Employees to Review their Tasks and Explain the Relevance of What They are Doing

We saw that one of the factors that influences an employee’s perception of the organization is how their understanding of the meaning of their work.

If your employees do not know the purpose or relevance of their work, this might lead to a negative or indifferent perception of the organization, which as we saw, is one of the factors contributing to employee disengagement.

To feel engaged, it is important for your employees to know understand how their work relates to the bigger picture.

To ensure that your employees have a clear understanding of the relevance of their work, managers should plan for regular staff meetings where they need to share the short term and long term goals of the organization.

Connecting an individual’s tasks with these organizational goals will build purpose for your employees and help them identify with what they are doing, which can lead to higher engagement levels.

Diagnose Reasons for Disengagement and Take Action

One of the main arguments of Sean Graber’s 9 employee engagement archetypes model is that disengagement is usually driven by different things, depending on the employee.

One employee might be disengaged because they feel that they are not being compensated well, another might be disengaged because they are experiencing burnout, another might be disengaged because they don’t believe in the company’s management, while yet another one might be disengaged because they feel like they are no opportunities for advancement within the organization.

Before you start thinking about what you need to do to ensure your employees are engaged, you should first try to identify the reasons behind their engagement.

Sometimes, an employee might even be disengaged because of personal issues or issues not related to work.

There are a number of ways you can use to determine the reason behind an employee’s disengagement. For instance, you could have the employee fill out a survey, or you might opt to call them for a one on one meeting.

Once you figure out the reason behind the disengagement, you can then take action to remedy the situation.

For instance, if the employee is overwhelmed with work, you can assign someone to assist them or transfer some tasks to another qualified employee.

Similarly, if the disengagement stems from the lack of clear opportunities for advancement, you can sit with the employee and come up with an advancement plan for them, highlighting what they need to do in order to move along this path.

Encourage Professional Development

Lack of development opportunities is one of the factors analyzed by Sean Graber which affects an employee’s perception of the organization.

This view is supported by the 2019 Engagement and Modern Workplace Report by Bonusly, which found that 91% of highly engaged employees are happy with the opportunities for professional development within their organizations, in contrast to only 28% of actively disengaged employees.

Another poll by Gallup also found that 69% of millennials and 87% percent of millennials consider professional development to be a crucial aspect of their jobs.

The truth is that employees do not want to sit around doing mindless tasks that do not challenge them. Instead, they want to do work that requires them to use their mind and develop their skills. They need to feel that they are constantly getting better at their job.

Once it gets to a point where their job gets monotonous, when there is nothing to challenge them and grow their skills, your workers will become bored, which is a key driver for disengagement.

Even worse, if they notice that their colleagues are constantly growing and advancing while they are not, it might feel to them like they are retrogressing.

Therefore, one of the keys to keeping your employees engaged is to encourage professional development. There are several ways of doing this. These include:

  • Providing coaching: This can be a little hard to implement because finding time for it might be a challenge, but it is definitely worth it. Still, you can find ways to do it, such as setting aside time every few months for employees to be trained on some subject related to their work, holding regular lunch and learn events, and so on. Coaching also boosts your employees’ confidence, which is great for increasing employee engagement.
  • Encourage them to take courses: Today, there are numerous online courses where your employees can learn about almost all kinds of subjects related to their work, and you should encourage your employees to take advantage of these courses. You should have a budget for this. At the same time, resist the temptation to ask your employees to pay for the courses with an offer of reimbursement. This might backfire on you.
  • Encourage development: In addition to providing the above assistance, you should also regularly communicate with your employees and encourage them to keep improving their skills and abilities. This will show them that you care about their career, and will make them more committed to your organization. You can also encourage development by offering a job rotation program so employees can learn different skills, giving employees greater responsibilities to prevent boredom, and so on.

Provide Continuous Feedback

According to the 2019 Engagement and Modern Workplace Report by Bonusly, highly engaged employees were 3.3 times more likely to report that they receive adequate feedback for their work compared to actively disengaged employees.

In addition, highly engaged employees were 3.1 times more likely to say that feedback is taken seriously within their organizations compared to actively disengaged employees.

The truth is that it is impossible to have employee engagement without feedback. It is important for your employees to know how they are doing and how they can improve.

Therefore, if you are not doing it already, you should start providing feedback to your employees.

With the fast pace at which organizations move today, feedback should be done in as near real-time as possible. Don’t wait for monthly or annual reviews.

So much will have passed that the feedback will be ineffective if you wait for so long.

You should also get your employees used to understand that feedback is okay. In most cases, people view feedback as a negative thing, and are therefore not open to receiving it. You need to help your employees understand that the role of feedback is to help them improve.

Aside from giving feedback, you should also start soliciting for feedback from your employees. Set up easy, accessible and anonymous methods for your employees to provide feedback on what they feel needs to be done or improved.

However, don’t stop there. You should also make sure that the company’s leadership acts on the feedback that employees give.

By giving and asking for feedback, you are giving your employees a chance to grow and get better, while at the same time allowing them to share their concerns and get heard.

This will definitely have a positive impact on employee engagement.


A lot of managers and employers struggle with employee engagement because they are often looking for a blanket approach to improve engagement among all employees.

If you want to improve employee engagement, you need to understand your employees individually and connect with their unique selves.

To do this, you first need to identify their perceptions and behaviors and determine where each employee falls on the employee engagement matrix.

Once you know their engagement archetype, you can then focus on measures that will improve engagement, not for all employees, but for that particular employee.

This holistic approach ensures that you do not misunderstand your employees and therefore allows you to adopt approaches that will really get your employees committed to doing their best work.

9 Employee Engagement Archetypes

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