The Secret to Creating Star Employees

How Identifying and Applying Motivators Keeps Employees Engaged

By Mindy Bortness

I once worked with a client who had been promoted to assistant manager for a national pet store chain. He had performed well in every other job he had held with the company, but when it came to the routine of his new role, he found himself disenchanted and disengaged. His manager couldn’t figure out why he was suddenly an average employee instead of the star employee the team had come to expect.  

This situation happens too often, and it’s not isolated to certain industries, locations or positions. It’s common practice to promote people to their greatest level of disengagement. We take our best sales person and make her sales manager. She hates it. We are sure the best choice for the new CEO is the current CFO. It doesn’t work out. When employees are not performing to expectations or are simply not fully present in their jobs, the first reaction is often to reprimand them. And if things don’t start to change, the next step is to look for a replacement. 

Replacing once-great employees doesn’t need to be a factor. The secret to keeping employees engaged is discovering their motivators and driving forces—and placing them in positions that fulfill those. By identifying what matters most to employees, companies can proactively match their people to positions that will engage their minds and hearts. When leaders hire to, then illuminate and regard, the motivating factors of their employees, this leads to greater levels of productivity and profitability.   

Simon Sinek said, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.”  If employees are doing what they are passionate about, they will not only be fulfilled, but will also be dedicated, hardworking and effective. 

The great news is that identifying what drives your employees can be done using a simple assessment. Assessments have become mainstream lately because they give leaders so much insight to optimize their teams. There are several assessments that measure drivers, but you want one that gauges the six motivators that move all people to action. Everyone has them all, at varying levels. But it’s the top three that are most revealing because that’s where you find your greatest satisfaction. 

The drivers that don’t motivate you are also noteworthy. You don’t want to be trapped in a job that is contrary to your drivers; that’s a recipe for disaster.

Find an assessment that measures the following motivators:

Theoretical – Intellectual or Instinctive
Intellectual people have a passion for identifying truth and gaining knowledge.  
Instinctive people focus on relevant knowledge, and going with their gut or intuition.

Utilitarian – Resourceful or Selfless
Resourceful people have a passion for ROI when it comes to time, talent, and money. They value function over form. 
Selfless people value giving, and the actual accomplishment versus the payoff.             

Aesthetic – Harmonious or Objective
Harmonious people crave balance and life experience. Things need to “feel” right.
Objective people are able to detach and compartmentalize, and they work within chaos with ease. 

Social – Altruistic or Intentional
Altruistic people are driven by a need to give and be of service to others without expectation of return. 
Intentional people are interested in personal benefit and opportunity.

Traditional – Structured or Receptive
Structured people make decisions from a defined set of principals and strong beliefs. They lean toward proven methods. 
Receptive people are into new methods, options and possibilities.

Individualistic – Commanding or Collaborative
Commanding people value self-assertion, recognition and personal power.  
Collaborative people are more about sharing and cooperating with the team.    

After my client took the assessment, we discovered that his top drivers were Harmonious, Resourceful and Commanding. This was valuable information to his manager, who quickly found a way to use his talents to design store floor layouts, plan new store openings and show employees how to position goods on the store floor. He was engaged and able to live his passions at work. He became a star performer again.
Leaders who care enough about their employees to help them identify their drivers and place them in positions that best align will reap the benefits. Whether it leads to entire career upheaval or a small adjustment in responsibilities, taking the time to assess and have a conversation sends the message that each employee matters.  

Mindy Bortness is CEO of Communication Works. She uses proven techniques to help her clients select, develop and retain top talent. Mindy is also a faculty member for the Complete Leader.