Employee Training and the Six Worker Archetypes

How often have you heard someone say, “that may work for you, but I’m not wired that way?” Most people resist a one-size-fits-all approach to anything.  And when employees feel their company puts them through a cookie-cutter training program, they go through the motions at best.

Anyone who has worked in a collaborative environment knows that worker personalities and preferences vary widely. Employees come from diverse backgrounds, have a variety of life experiences, and have widely differing beliefs about the world we share.

Research has shown that people have widely dissimilar attitudes about work.   They differ in the degree of autonomy and camaraderie they value, the extent they are motivated by money and status, their tolerance of risk, and their desire to make a difference in society.

In a recent report, Bain and Company, Inc. concluded that “thinking about what the average worker wants from a job no longer makes sense in the modern economy because there is no ‘average’ worker.”

Bain and Company identified patterns in the worker data that they collected and used this information to develop six primary work archetypes:

  1. Operators – Mostly find meaning outside of work
  2. Givers – Care about work that helps others
  3. Artisans – Seek work that inspires them and pursue mastery
  4. Explorers – Value freedom and look for variety and excitement
  5. Strivers – Are motivated by success and compensation
  6. Pioneers – Desire to change the world

As a manager, you want to engage and motivate your employees. Leaders that take these different personality types into account will be more effective. Training should be customized as much as possible to match the needs and priorities of each primary type of worker.

Each archetype, of course, has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you will notice the shortcomings first and be tempted to write off that worker.

So, what does each of these archetypes want and need, and how can we stay positive and optimize training programs to fit these needs and preferences?


Operators tend to see work as a means of achieving other goals. They work to live. They’re motivated by what work secures for them outside of the workplace. But they also tend to care about their fellow workers and see them as friends. They can be loyal, make great team players, and be the solid foundation for any organization.

Because they don’t have a strong desire to improve their status, they can be a challenge to train. But organizations can motivate these workers by emphasizing the importance of their role as part of the team and how training will allow them to serve their team better. Also, when the material is divided into more manageable pieces and presented interestingly, organizations make it easier for Operators to stay engaged.


Of the six archetypes, Givers are the least driven by money. They see work as an opportunity to serve others. They love to see the positive impact of their work on individuals, their community, and the world. They highly value camaraderie and doing work that goes beyond themselves.

Givers can seem unrealistic or impractical at times but try to look past that. You will engage them by providing training that emphasizes how your organization brings good to people’s lives. Show Givers how their excellence boosts the morale of the rest of the team and makes their lives better. Show them that training can be an opportunity to be better equipped to make a significant difference in the world.


Artisans crave work that is stimulating or complex, dreading menial tasks. They are passionate about mastering their craft. They are motivated by continuous improvement and are always looking for ways to get better. But they desire a high degree of autonomy, so don’t take their aloofness personally.  Artisans can help make excellence a part of your organization’s DNA. They are great at solving complex issues that may confuse or frustrate others. Try your best to avoid boring or micromanaging them.

Since artisans naturally seek opportunities to get better, they’ll jump headfirst into training that they believe will make them better at what they do. Artisans will value training that allows them to deepen their expertise. Artisans may also appreciate having input into the type of training provided, as it’s likely that their knowledge of their craft gives them the best idea of what they need to improve.


Explorers tend to see life as an adventure, craving variety and enjoyment in their work. As a result, they may appear to lack depth or direction in life.

Keep looking for what Explorers are passionate about. They can be solid agents for change within their organizations. Explorers will throw themselves into their work with great enthusiasm when challenged with new and exciting projects.

If you are willing to think outside the box and provide less conventional training, your organization is more likely to harness the enthusiasm of Explorers. This can mean simply taking training offsite to new and exciting locations.  Consider addressing diverse topics or applying typical elements of game playing and friendly competition to encourage engagement. You can also provide variety and autonomy by allowing employee choice in the type of training offered.


Strivers want to advance and hold themselves to a high standard. They care about compensation, status, and opportunities for future growth. They are often very disciplined and help organizations run successfully.

Strivers are ambitious and highly competitive, which will sometimes cause friction with other team members, and may need a friendly reminder that we are more likely to succeed by working together.

Organizations can motivate Strivers by providing financial incentives for training in the near term and by tying training to opportunities for advancement in the future. Like Explorers, they will also respond positively to the good-natured competition of gamification strategies. Strivers want to succeed, and good training will give them the tools.


Pioneers are visionaries out to transform the world. They are future-oriented risk-takers. Pioneers have strong opinions about the way the world should be.  They are driven to implement their vision and are often willing to make great personal sacrifices. Pioneers can be uncompromising and domineering, so you will probably need to sharpen your conflict resolution toolkit. Try not to be thin-skinned.

Pioneers value autonomy highly, so giving them a voice in training programs is more likely to engage them. Allow for flexibility in how training is completed. Pioneers want leaders to clearly articulate the relationship between training and the future achievement of their vision. Then learning becomes the fuel to turn a powerful dream into a reality.

Developing effective training programs in the modern workplace is challenging, and varying personalities is just one of the many variables organizations must consider. But a growing awareness of these variations and willingness to make appropriate changes will help your organization achieve greater employee engagement and satisfaction. The training of the future will be tailored to the needs of individuals rather than the “average worker.”

You can take a brief quiz on Bain’s site to help you discover your archetype and those you work with.