There Are 3 Types of Employees—but Only 1 Is Exceptional

UPDATED: October 9, 2015
PUBLISHED: April 28, 2015

Barbara Boegner and Gustav Myburgh were late—for their own wedding. Their guests waited… 15 minutes, a half hour, nearly an hour… but they weren’t too worried—probably nothing more than a traffic jam.

But it wasn’t a traffic jam. While driving to the chapel, Barbara and Gustav spotted three armed men holding a truck’s driver at gunpoint. The couple, her in a wedding dress and him in a suit, confronted the hijackers, who jumped into a truck and fled. So what did the soon-to-be-married duo do? They chased them and eventually caught up, and the bad guys were arrested.

Barbara and Gustav are law enforcement officers, and on their special day, they faced a choice—carry on and continue to the church to get married, or deal with the gunmen. Their personal allegiance to their work guided a difficult decision, made in a split second. They represent a different type of employee—the one who comes to work to fulfill a mission, the one who derives personal meaning and fulfillment, not merely a salary, from their work.

Not all employees are like Barbara and Gustav, though. There are three different types of employees, and only one that’s truly exceptional:

1. Job People: Their motivation is survival. The question highest on their mind is, “What is my next job?” leading to high turnover and negative impact on business.

2. Career People: They often think “What’s in it for me?” and are identifiable through the stack of papers they always carry and an attitude that seems to speak, “I’m in a meeting, therefore I am.” Turnover is average, as they work to climb the corporate ladder, and impact on business is neutral.

3. Missionaries: They are true contributors, those who have elevated themselves to a mission. A commitment to higher purpose—helping others, solving problems, making people’s lives easier—drives missionaries, and if they can believe in what your company does, turnover is low and because their commitment energizes not only their work but also the organization itself, business impact is positive.

Your job—your mission—is to bring in the missionaries and then provide them an occupational environment where they’ll excel. Here are some steps you can follow to create the kind of company that attracts the best of the best:

• Change the way you think about your workplace and the profile of people you seek to attract. A product-centric company doesn’t care about passion—they only need people who can operate processes.

• Design customer experience around the employee. One of the most common mistakes is focusing on customer experience strategies while taking employees for granted. No matter how carefully you plan the elements and execution of customer experiences, employees who don’t find meaning in their jobs will doom your customer experience strategy to failure.

• Recruit for passion and attitude even above skill sets. And more specifically, seek people who are passionate about your specific product. You can’t train passion or attitude—so you must hire it in and nurture it. According to studies, only 23 percent of employees are classified as engaged. They fully believe in the company, they want to contribute, take initiatives and go above and beyond.

• Cut bait. When employees are unable to find or maintain their passion under the new direction or vision of their companies, let them go so that their misery, contempt or skepticism doesn’t influence other employees.

Do you love what you do? Or are you not so sure you have the passion you should? Check out 3 tips to help you recommit to landing your dream job.

Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group, a customer experience transformation firm, and the author of six books.