Every employee works and learns in different ways, and knowing who works how is the best way to build productive and happy teams. At Vitru, we’ve distilled several kinds of employee traits into the five most predictive and important categories: Originality, Focus, Agreeableness, Sociability, and Need for Stability. Each of these traits is a spectrum of indicators, and by taking a closer look at how they all work through personality assessments, we can make better decisions about how we assess workers and how we can use different traits to maximize potential throughout the organization.

Focus is a measure of our capacity to work without interruption, to plug away at long and repetitive tasks and accomplish goals. The ends of the Focus spectrum are “Agile” and “Driver,” and both of these ends have their own appeal.

Being Agile allows employees to think on their feet, undaunted by shifting demands while still delivering on the main objectives. Being a Driver, on the other hand, trades adaptability for speed, turning around single objectives faster as long as they know what they’re doing. A balance between these two traits allows an employee to work as an Aligner, understanding different levels of priorities and hunkering down. What are employees who lean on either side of the spectrum like? They’re a lot like Josh and Gita.

Agile Josh and Focused Gita

Josh can turn on a dime. In fact, he prefers to. Rather than working on a single task for hours on end, he likes to hop from one task to the next, making sure he’s caught up on email in between, just in case something urgent comes up. Receiving a new task unexpectedly or seeing that he has to change course on his current one is both exciting and scary. He doesn’t want to disappoint, but sometimes it feels boring and distracting to work on one thing for so long. And hopping back and forth means keeping his mind fresh, which helps him work with a clearer head and not get tunnel vision. He’ll get everything done eventually, but with all his task-hopping, it can take a little bit of extra time. However, his bosses are just fine with his work ethic since it allows them to drop small tasks on him and have them done by the end of the day.

Gita’s not as fond of distractions. She likes to tackle big projects headfirst and get them out of the way as soon as possible. She has nailed a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign to her door so everyone knows that when the door’s closed, she’s working on something big. It’s not that she never checks her email… it’s just not relevant to her right now and she may not reply until she’s done. Gita works on one thing at a time, and this strategy has never failed her. In fact, she’s one of the best workers at her office, dependable and reliable as long her managers know she’s better at long-term projects and crafting quality responses rather than rapid-fire communication or handling quick tasks.

Gita and Josh are both good at their jobs. They’re knowledgeable in their industries and know how to balance projects and work while interacting with their co-workers. But neither feels like management understands their working style, and they often feel like they’re swimming upstream. Both of their styles are a bit outside the norm, and their companies aren’t flexible when it comes to allowing them to work the way they want. Josh works in an open office while Gita has a corner of her own, but both of them, along with 43% of employees, believe the biggest things killing their productivity are all the unnecessary interruptions from coworkers they deal with.

Maximizing Drive and Agility

Gita and Josh seem like diametrically opposed employees, but when it comes to managing them and letting them work at their best, the same approach works for both. That is, being more flexible when it comes to work arrangements would allow both to work the way they work best, which will lead to better results.

For Gita, the constant distractions are maddening. Even with her sign, coworkers will bother her with questions they could answer themselves, and most of the interruptions aren’t so important they couldn’t be dealt with after she’s finished a critical task. She wants to work at home because she knows she would get more done and without distractions, but her employer doesn’t want to take the chance she’ll end up being less productive. However, remote working doesn’t hamper productivity, and Gita could work distraction-free, get more done, work happier and be less likely to quit. Working at home, she’d only get the most important details sent to her through email and calls, and she could get more stuff done. Even if remote work isn’t a possibility for Gita, working with her to avoid pointless meetings, allowing her to move to a different space in the office or supporting her “distraction-free” policy from the managerial level will help her work better (and happier!)

Josh thrives on having something new to do constantly, and loves having the stimulating office environment. However, his managers are a little concerned his tendency to switch tasks could mean he’s sacrificing some productivity. And while it’s important to measure results, implementing structures to produce those results often makes things worse. David Hassel, (@dhassel) CEO and Founder of 15Five, wants more companies to move away from caging their employees in unnecessary regulations:

“When people are failing, adding pressure will only make matters worse. . . One way to get people motivated is by providing positive feedback in the context of who the employee is becoming — not what she has been doing. We all want a pat on the back for a job well done, but that praise is temporary. Long-term motivation results from reflections that an employee is becoming a more effective manager, innovative thinker or otherwise evolving into greatness.”

Employees like Josh need feedback so they can prioritize, but until there’s a noticeable change in quality, it’s best to let them work and not interfere with a good thing. While very few people can successfully multi-task, Josh may well be one of them. If so, his managers should avoid giving him multi-faceted projects, instead of lobbing him tasks that take advantage of his “johnny on the spot” personality, like social media management, final run-throughs, event oversight and even customer service.

Adapt and Conquer

Every employee needs a little something to get them working at thei...If you see a Gita being distracted from hunkering down and getting into her zone, let her work alone and support her as a colleague and a manager. And if a Josh is overwhelmed by all the tasks he’s trying to handle, give feedback on what you need done and when before locking him down. Employees like it when managers listen, and finding the right solution for every work situation will lead to better workers and better teams.

Bio: Ryan Mead, CEO/Partner

Vitru is an online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams. Powered by science yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams. From students and nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies Vitru works!

Great organizations, regardless of size or mission, understand that powerful team chemistry is impossible to force; but when it happens, it’s magic.

Vitru allows team leaders to create and assess teams virtually and in doing so helps quantify what makes an outstanding team outstanding.

Want more? Visit our blog and sign up to automatically receive our fresh-weekly articles.

Tweet me at @GoVitru

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