Employee happiness and retention are very important topics at the front of most employers’ minds today. As companies work increasingly hard to provide a positive work environment, some employers are confused about why their employees aren’t fully engaged in their work. Personalities, strengths, and motivators all play significant roles in employee engagement and motivation. These pieces on their own are important key parts of what makes up a human being. 

Finding out how these pieces work together and how to use that information to foster a positive work environment is the key to employee motivation. Here we’ll review the differences between personality, strengths, and motivators, and how to connect this information to get the most out of your employees.

Personalities: The Blueprint of Individuality

There are many versions of personality tests online. Articles claim to know your personality based on the day you were born, the body part you wash first in the shower, or even which foot you start with when putting on socks and shoes. But personalities are much more complex and variable than these articles or quizzes allow for. Personality traits are basic characteristics and behaviors that shape how an individual approaches interactions within the workplace and work in general. By understanding your employee’s individual personalities, you will be better able to support and motivate them in the workplace.

You can have employees take personality tests such as Meyers-Briggs, Enneagram, or Color Code. These will give you (and them) important information about why they think the way they do or behave in certain ways. However, this typically doesn’t bridge the gap between personality and employee engagement and motivation. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, only that it’s one piece of the larger puzzle. 

The most scientifically validated and reliable personality test is called the Big Five personality test. This takes five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and helps predict the reactions, tendencies, and choices of individuals. This can be helpful in identifying jobs or tasks that would be most fitting for a person. 


Employees high in openness are usually receptive to new experiences, curious, and imaginative. They thrive in environments where their ideas and creativity are valued parts of their job description. They tend to be more adventurous and open to taking risks.


Individuals with high conscientiousness are more reliable, organized, and pay more attention to detail. They find motivation in structure, clear goals, and a sense of accomplishment. They prefer to plan ahead, whereas those with low conscientiousness don’t like having rigid schedules and are more prone to procrastination.


People with high levels of extraversion are energized by social interactions and thrive in environments where they can collaborate with others. They seek out opportunities to network, receive public recognition, and work as a team. Conversely, people with low extroversion (introverts) tend to be quieter and prefer to work on solo projects.


Employees with a high agreeableness score prioritize cooperation, harmony in the workplace, and building positive relationships. They are motivated by a sense of belonging and collaboration. They tend to be more empathetic, whereas those with low levels of agreeableness tend to be more competitive. 


Having a higher level of neuroticism leads to people reacting negatively to emotional or psychological stress. They tend to be more anxious and moody or even irritable. People with a lower level of neuroticism are more able to handle stress and are typically more emotionally stable.

Knowing your employee’s personality traits can give you valuable insights into how they perceive and interact with the world. However, this cannot give you a full picture of what motivates them or what affects their engagement levels. 

Strengths: Leveraging Personal Assets

Strengths are a person’s overall ability and traits that help them perform their job. Simply put, strengths are what you’re good at. A person’s strengths stay more or less constant throughout their life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are motivated by their strengths. In fact, in some cases, people can feel pigeonholed or trapped by their strengths. Employees may have fallen into a certain line of work because they are naturally talented at it, but they may not be fulfilled by it. 

This isn’t to say that having strengths that align with your workplace responsibilities is a bad thing. Using strengths and strength-led leadership encourages a positive growth mindset as well as innovative behavior. By finding a way to align strengths with motivators, employees can feel a higher sense of engagement in their work. This may be as simple as small tweaks to job responsibilities. 

Identifying, developing, and integrating employee strengths is crucial for maximizing motivation and engagement. It has been found that when people use their strengths regularly in their work, they’re more likely to report a higher quality of life. Strengths range from communication, planning, problem-solving, and determination, among others. Using this information in work assignments while being sure not to allow for growth in other areas is a delicate balance. 


Helping employees identify their strengths and weaknesses is the first step to increasing their motivation. Leadership should be able to identify some strengths by simply observing and interacting with employees. It’s also important to speak to employees about what they believe they bring to the table.


Provide employees opportunities to develop and improve their strengths. Training, mentoring, and giving more challenging assignments are ways to encourage growth, both professionally and personally. By investing in your employees, you help them feel a higher sense of belonging and engagement in their work.


Now it’s time to integrate their strengths into their daily responsibilities. Find ways to play to an employee’s strengths that align with the company’s goals. This part may take a little creativity and thought. Assign them tasks that work with their strengths in ways that benefit the organization as a whole. This creates a win-win situation for the employee and the company by increasing engagement and boosting the bottom line. 

Playing toward employee strengths helps them feel more engaged at work, but still doesn’t give a full picture of workplace motivation. As mentioned, just because someone has a natural talent in certain areas doesn’t mean that’s what motivates them. 

Motivators: The Inner Drive

Employee motivation has been a hot topic of conversation since the 1990s. Figuring out what makes people tick is the key to happy and productive employees. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Our research team surveyed over 850,000 people to find out what motivates them the most in their jobs. In doing so, we identified 23 key things that motivate employees. People are motivated by many of these factors to varying degrees. Understanding what motivates an individual instead of trying to motivate the group as a whole is vital. 

What motivates people might be surprising. For a long time, people thought money was the main motivator for all employees, but we found this to be almost the opposite. Only 9% of people identified money as a main motivator. 68% of people we polled said that “making an impact” was their highest motivator. These employees want to feel that they are important in the company and know they are making a positive impact. However, 32% of employees didn’t rank making an impact as very important to them. 

Company-wide (or even team) incentives will not be effective in motivating every individual employee. Some employees want to be recognized for their efforts, while others would love to be given a half-day to spend more time with their families. Others will be highly motivated by a gift card. Treating employees as the individuals they are is the best way to get the most engagement.

Putting Together the Pieces

Personality, strengths, and motivators are all important pieces of the puzzle that makes up your employee. They connect together to form how a person thinks, acts, and works. Finding ways to make this information work together encourages employee engagement and motivation. 


Aligning employees’ personalities and strengths with their job roles ensures a harmonious fit. Managing team dynamics in this way is also beneficial. Extroverted individuals who are motivated by developing others will likely thrive in leadership roles. People who are not motivated by teamwork and prefer to work solo will do better in roles that don’t require them to deal with other people as often. 

Strength-Based Approach

Finding ways to utilize employee strengths can enhance their motivation and performance. Assigning tasks that align with their strengths empowers them to put their best efforts forth and succeed. Leveraging this by finding what motivates a person is a winning combination for both the employee and the company as a whole. 

Motivational Strategies

Specially tailoring motivational strategies for each individual helps maximize engagement. For the employee that is motivated by public recognition, find ways to call them out for their excellent performance. Giving employees who are motivated by autonomy more free reign will help them feel more satisfied at work. Customize the rewards or recognition accordingly and watch your employees excel.

Motivating and engaging your employees requires a big-picture understanding of how personality, strengths, and motivators work together in an individual. Knowing that your employees are distinct individuals with unique preferences helps organizations develop targeted strategies to drive engagement and increase motivation. This, in turn, helps employers improve retention and job satisfaction. Using this knowledge, you can unlock the full potential of your workforce and create a culture of high performance and happiness.

To learn more about fostering employee motivation and engagement, schedule a free consultation with our experts today. Unlock the full potential of your workforce and create a culture of high performance and happiness.

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