If someone says “employee engagement” to you, what do you think of? Good communications, goal setting, meaningful assignments, getting people in the right seat on the bus, making everybody happy? Whatever definition you use, you likely have concentrated on developing and implementing change initiatives based on the overall aggregate results. It’s not uncommon for companies take a one size fits all approach when implementing changes or introducing programs to enhance employee engagement, after all a one-size-fits all approach does provide certain economies of scale and is much easier to implement and measure. But what if you sliced the data differently and developed change initiatives based on the needs of different employees and provided programs to engage different work groups differently?

A recent study conducted by the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills, and Society at Kingston Business School, in the United Kingdom, highlighted companies who are taking a different approach and leveraging engagement initiatives based on 4 different employee types identified. The 4 employee types identified were:

  • Grand Prix Driversthese are your ideal employees, always engaged with their work and  taking on more and more responsibility, but are in jeapordy of burn-out!
  • Pole Vaultersthese employees are also highly engaged, but less frequently than their Grand Prix counterparts. Although these employees are highly motivated by certain aspects of their work, their engagement can wane when they are doing less appealing aspects of their job.
  • Long Distance RunnersThese are your steady-eddie, employees. Less engaged than the Grand Prix Drivers and the Pole Vaulters, they are nevertheless committed to the organization and provide value.
  • Flatliners – These employees are bordering on disengagement, and when they slip over into the disengaged category, they can be openly negative and hostile.  These are the cancer you don’t want to grow, because they can be so de-motivating to others on the team.

Do you recognize any of these employee types on your team? Are you doing anything to address their unique needs to ensure your organization is performing at an optimal level?

In their study, the researchers noted several best practices the participating companies used to tailor their engagement strategies to the unique needs of  their employee groups. For example:

  • Grand Prix Driver – Nampak Plastics Europe in South Africa devised a system to ensure work was equitably distributed among its employees in an effort to prevent the Gran Prix drivers from overcommitting and burning out.  In another example, a UK Support Services firm, Amey, began providing a variety of stress relieving activities such as stress management workshops, sports tournaments, and wellness programs to their Grand Prix drivers to alleviate burnout.  In both cases, these efforts have paid off. Amey was able to reduce the amount of annual sick leave taken per employee by more than 2 days from 9.6 days to 7.1 days per employee. In addition, they also reduced their attrition rate from 13% to 7% and boosted internal company referrals for new hires resulting an a 50% increase in hires directly attributable to internal referrals.
  • Pole Vaulter – To address their pole vaulters, Amey appointed them to their Engagement Champions network. This network of 150+ employees promotes company-wide engagement, encourages the Pole Vaulters to deepen and broaden their participation and involvement with company initiatives.
  • Long-Distance Runners – To keep these employees in the race for the long hall, UK based consulting firm Mace Group focuses on job design – specifically focusing on the creation of projects that offer challenging roles to hold their Long-Distance Runners’ interest over longer periods of time. They also elevated their corporate citizenship activities to benefit their communities and provide employees time off to participate in those activities.
  • Flatliners – These are the most difficult employees to deal with, but Nampak was able to reduce the percentage of employees in this category from 13% to 7% by launching several programs, including a visible recognition program designed to recognize and engage this group of employees. Each organization should assess this group to determine how or even if efforts to engage this group (and keep them engaged is worth the investment).

The bottom line is this, engaged or disengaged, employees are at the heart of your organization’s culture.  And that culture, done right (aka – engaging the workforce), can enhance business results through improved loyalty and commitment to the organization often resulting in lower healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism & attrition and improved productivity, quality and safety, all of which go directly to the bottom line.   The next time you’re looking for that magic pill to improve and grow your business; don’t forget to consider your most valuable asset – your employees. They’re the ONLY thing your competitors can’t duplicate, so why not leverage them for a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace?