HR

How to Determine Employee Work Styles

I recently attended a management seminar.  One of the topics discussed was how to determine employee work styles. I have been asked this question many times since, so I wanted to share an overview.

So, how do you determine your employees’ work styles? You can determine your employees’ work styles by either observing their performance at work or simply questioning their preferences. You should also watch how your team members communicate with each other and handle sudden tasks.

A lot of employers assume that credentials determine an employee’s performance. But behind a person’s achievements is his or her work style—a critical factor you don’t glean from the resume.

Understanding Your Employees’ Work Styles

Determining your employees’ work style is more than just increasing worker productivity and efficiency. It’s also about making a comfortable working environment for your employees. Here are the ways you can know how they work.

1.     Monitor Their Performance

For your team to be efficient, you must monitor the members’ performance on a regular basis. Check their progress against the team’s goals and the employees’ respective duties. Who does their work ahead of time? Who tends to procrastinate? Are they aware of their progress vis-à-vis their teammates? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you do your part in making sure your employees succeed.

You can also check if they have attended training and seminars to improve themselves. Employees thrive when the company gives them time and opportunity to enhance the knowledge and skills they already have. What they know and can do affect their pace at work.

2.     Ask the Employees Directly

Determining your employees’ work styles is much quicker and clearer when you and your team talk about it directly.

Before you sit down with your team, you can ask them to prepare for this getting-to-know session by making a simple two-column table beforehand. On one column, they should list down their working styles. On the other column, they should indicate how they want the team to respond to each style. You, the manager, should make your list, too. Everyone should be ready to elaborate on their style and preferences and ask questions about the others’.

You can try to lighten up this meeting by praising your employees and recognizing their achievements. Doing this helps them open up about how they can best work with the team.

3.     Observe How Your Team Communicates

Effective communication builds trust and boosts productivity in the workplace. You can understand your employees by observing how they talk to each other and what they talk about.

You can know them better just by reading their emails to you. Email is the most accessible communication line in the workplace, and how they write them can be telling of their work style. Do they keep their emails short, or do they meander from their point? Do they use positive words a lot, or do they tend to focus on the negative? How much do they use first-person pronouns like I, me, and myself? Is the email littered with typos, or is it squeaky clean?

Body language also sends a message, so you could also look at how they gesture when speaking. People who often talk with their hands tend to be energetic and open-minded while those who are less animated tend to be cold and calculating.

You can also use office gossip to your advantage. Supervisors take their team’s pulse through it. You’d know how they feel about their work, especially after you’ve implemented some changes.

4.     Notice How the Employees Handle Sudden Tasks

Just like candid photos, sudden tasks brings out an employee’s authenticity and spontaneity.

For example, how do your employees handle stretched assignments? How do they respond when they have to take over someone else’s work? How fast do they adjust to unexpected things that happen at work? Also, who volunteers for additional responsibilities?

The Different Employee Work Styles

Before you can start thinking about strategies on determining employee work styles, you will need to learn what employee lifestyles there are. Many sources indicate different sets of employee work styles, but listed below are the accumulation of those sets.

Producers vs. Empathizers

Employees with a “producer” type of work style tend to focus on results. They like to jump straight to work and finish they need to do. As a result, they tend to see as relationships between co-workers as distractions. If producers have a motto, it would be “so long as the job gets done.”

Meanwhile, employees with an “empathizer” type of work style prioritize relationships between co-workers. They value group harmony and teamwork above anything else. However, it doesn’t mean they do not value results. Rather, empathizers see relationships between co-workers as a significant part of the work process.

Visionaries vs. Implementers

As the namesake implies, employees with a “visionary” type of work style tend to see things in a timeline. They work with long-term goals in mind. For this reason, visionaries tend to create long-term solutions and explore new options. They are also very strategic in reaching their long-term goals.

Meanwhile, implementers are the opposite. Employees with “implementer” type of work style focus on doing their current work properly. They carefully plan and accomplish all the details of the work. They also give an extreme focus on taking care of immediate goals and problems.

Planners vs. Movers

Planners love a good strategy. Employees with a “planner” type of work style love to create solutions and backup solutions for problems that they may encounter. When crafting these plans, they carefully account the advantages, disadvantages, benefits, and costs. As a result, they make take up time in planning.

Meanwhile, movers are also on-the-go. If confronted with a problem, employees with a “mover” type of work style tend to resolve it immediately. They quickly implement solutions and learn through feedback. When encountered in a similar problem in the future, movers will use their learning in applying a solution to the problem.

Controllers vs. Independents

Controllers are the type of the people who would love to be on the know. Employees with a “controller” type of work style ensure that other employees are doing their job. If an employee seems to be falling back from the usual work pattern, controllers may direct them back to the usual routine. They tend to be perceived as autocratic and bossy even if this is not intentional.

Meanwhile, independents like working their way. Employees with an “independent” type of work style work best when they are left unsupervised. Without interference, they can understand the goal and figure out what they need to do. They can appear uncommunicative due to their preference of working by themselves.

Organizers vs. Adapters

Organizers thrive in structured processes. Employees with an “organizer” type of work style work best in environments where policies, procedures, and systems are clear. They prefer organizations that establish work expectations from the beginning.

Meanwhile, adapters move through changes with ease. Employees with an “adapter” type of work style can quickly adjust to shifts if necessary. They are flexible; and as such, expect that their work environment is the same. They don’t work well in situations that are heavily structured.

Innovators vs. Traditionalists

As the namesake implies, innovators are those people who can easily come up with new ideas and solutions. Employees with an “innovator” type of work style love finding ways to improve systems and resolve problems more efficiently. For this reason, they tend to work best in environments where creative ideas are encouraged and nurtured.

Meanwhile, traditionalists are those people who love to stick to the textbooks. Employees with a “traditionalist” type of work style prefer solutions that have been time-tested and proven to be effective. They value stability and predictability in their work.

Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

You can already determine a person’s work style from a job interview alone. As long as you have the right questions in mind, you can easily find out if this person has the right work style for your team. So, if you’re interested in learning the questions that determine a person’s work style, read it below.

1.     “Describe your experience in this company.”

There is no better way to know how a person works by asking their work experience. By asking about an applicant’s work experience, the applicant would describe their decision-making processes and work ethic. You could also easily determine their priorities or preferences in work.

2.     “What motivates you?”

Motivation is the foundation of work styles. For this reason, this question is one of your must-asked questions in the job interview. Knowing the motivation of the applicants lets you determine the applicants’ goals during work. It also allows you to know how to incentivize this applicant to boost their work performance.

3.     “How do you communicate with others?”

Communication is an integral part of an employee work style. Some employees may prefer relaying their current tasks while others tend to dwell on silence to focus on the task at hand. Knowing how the applicant communicates with others lets you know how to approach them in times of need.

4.     “Describe your typical workday.”

Other than work experience, it also helps to know what the applicant does in their typical workday. How do they start their work? What would they prioritize in a busy day? How would they achieve their goals? Knowing how a person begins their workday lets you know more about their organization, planning, concentration, and critical thinking skills.

5.     “Do you work better alone or with a team?”

While employees are expected to adapt to work environments, some do well in a team better than others. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Knowing the preferences of the applicant allows you to position the applicant in an environment where they work the best.  

6.     “How many hours is your usual work time?”

Is the applicant used to taking work at home or working overtime? Or do they prefer working 9 to 5? Knowing these things lets you form expectations on the candidate during work. If the candidate is okay with overtime work, then you can assign him with some sudden or abrupt workloads. But if he isn’t, then you can expect him to submit his work by the end of the day.

How to Promote Diversity in Your Team

Great minds may think alike, but great ideas come from different perceptions. Working with people with the same work style may be comfortable and less challenging, but it doesn’t maximize your team’s best potential. What if your team are full of people with analytical and technical work styles? How would that team come up with a creative and innovative idea?

For this reason, the diversity of ideas is encouraged in any work setting. Here are some tips and tricks to promote diversity in your workplace.

1. Leverage the strengths of your team members.

Different work styles mean different strengths. Once you’re familiar with your team members’ work styles, you need to position them in areas where they thrive. For example, if your team member is logical and good at analyzing, then assign them tasks that need analytical expertise. Other than assigning them tasks that they specialize, it would also be helpful to provide other types of support to their strengths.

2. Ensure that each of your team members’ ideas is well-represented.

It may not be realistic to have all your team members’ ideas represented in your next project. However, you can take into consideration their work styles throughout the process. You can do this by asking the following questions:

  •        How will we accomplish the project?
  •        What would we need to accomplish the project?
  •        What is our desired timetable for the project?
  •        What are foreseeable challenges to the accomplishment of this project?
  •        What is our desired result for this project?

Their answers must be carefully evaluated and considered during the project making. In this way, you are being inclusive of your team members’ work styles and opening a safe and comfortable communication between diverse individuals.

Why Do You Need to Know About Your Team

Knowing how your team works and what makes them tick has concrete benefits on the overall effectivity of your organization.

1.     Connect with Your Employees

As a manager, establishing a connection between you and your team is important. You will need to set a work ethic in your group, so it would be easier to communicate needs and produce great results. To create this, you will need to be familiar with their work styles.

By knowing your team’s work style, you will know what to expect within your team and adapt your management style to it. It also helps to determine your management style so that you can share it with the team.

By sharing your and your team’s work styles, you’re able to set a work ethic which you and your team can abide.

2.     Utilize Your Employees’ Strength

Determining your employees’ work styles will also help you determine your employees’ strength. With this information, you can position your employees in places where they can utilize their strengths to their full potential.

3.     Utilize the Diversity of Your Team

While it’s good to have similar minds come together, you’ll need some diversity in your team. Being familiar with different employee work styles helps you select the best and diverse minds for your team.

Without knowing employee work styles, you may have just hired an individual with good credentials but not the work style that you need. But with knowing employee work styles, you’ll welcome the people with work styles that your need teams!

4.     Prevent or Easily Resolve Conflict

Different work styles can often clash and result in conflicts even if it’s unintentional.

By knowing the work styles, conflicts could be resolved—even avoided in the first place! The manager can relay how he works, so the team wouldn’t second guess what his actions mean. Meanwhile, the team can convey their work styles to the manager so that the manager can set his expectations. This scenario leaves no room for miscommunication.

5.     Make Your Employees Feel Comfortable

Most importantly, knowing your employees’ different work styles could help you create a supportive and comfortable work environment for them. If you know that your employees like listening to music while they work, you can offer headphones to use at work. This arrangement won’t bother your employees’ who prefer working in silence.

Related Questions

Are there different ways to determine employee work styles?

The Myers-Briggs test is a simple test that could be done online or on paper. Other similar tests include DiSC and StrengthFinder.

One popular method is the Myers-Briggs test. The Myers-Briggs test is an exam designed to assess a person’s personality type and how it translates to work performance. Organizations and companies have continuously used this exam as a framework for dealing with different employees and determining their strengths and weaknesses.

How do I adjust my management style to their working style?

You should be approachable to your employees. Answer their questions; set goals together. Like working styles, management styles vary. But it is best for managers to be able to execute all these styles, depending on the situation at hand.


Written by Kathleen Joy C H., 7 years of experience as a writer

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