June 2022
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TD Magazine

Recognize Employees’ Individualities

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Research shows six archetypes of workers with unique priorities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Employers that recognize what motivates employees and then appeal to their personal priorities have a higher probability of retaining their staff. That's a central message in The Working Future: More Human, Not Less, a Bain & Company report.


The management consulting firm surveyed 20,000 workers in 10 countries to uncover the six archetypes employed in organizations: operators, givers, artisans, explorers, strivers, and pioneers. With their own priorities, strengths, and weaknesses, each archetype offers a unique contribution.

Operators find meaning primarily outside of their jobs. They work because they seek stability and predictability, and they often view work colleagues as friends.

Givers are attracted to jobs that enable them to directly improve other people's lives, and they gravitate toward caring professions or roles. Their empathetic nature makes them an asset to their teams, but they can be cautious and hesitant to pursue new opportunities.

Artisans look for work that inspires them and are motivated by their pursuit of mastery. They desire autonomy to practice their craft more than they seek status.

Explorers value freedom and experiences, pursuing careers that offer variety, autonomy, and flexibility. They adopt a pragmatic approach to professional development and may experience multiple occupations during their lifetime.

Strivers are motivated by professional success and value status and compensation. While they can be disciplined in their work, they also can be competitive and transactional in their relationships.

Pioneers identify profoundly with their work. This archetype is the most risk tolerant and future oriented. Although pioneers can mobilize their infectious energy, their work relationships are highly transactional.


Some archetypes naturally gravitate toward certain occupations, the report notes. For example, people working in manufacturing or construction are more likely to be operators and artisans, whereas strivers and pioneers are often drawn to knowledge roles in management, professional services, and technical professions.

Likewise, the data reveals that different jobs tend to lead to higher or lower levels of satisfaction. Case in point, pioneers are 22 percent less satisfied in service-related jobs than other jobs, and explorers are 12 percent less satisfied in administrative jobs than other jobs.

But Bain reports that while some workers present clear manifestations of the archetypes, the line can blur in others between two or more. Additionally, archetypes can change over time as events and environments shape individuals' attitudes toward a specific career path.

"Business leaders should view these archetypes as impressionistic rather than precise," the report recommends, adding that they're simply another tool managers can use "to help make sense of the messy world of individual personalities."

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected]

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