6 types of employees—and how to win each over


My mom always reminds my siblings and me that family is the most important thing in life. While friends may come and go, your family members will always be there. You can always count on them.

You can easily apply this advice to the workplace. If an organization can’t count on its employees to promote or defend it, who can the organization count on?

Weber Shandwick, along with KRC Research, recently developed a report (pdf), “Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism” about the importance of having employees who will advocate on your organization’s behalf. Micho Spring, chair of global corporate practice for Weber Shandwick, said this in the report: “Engaging them [employees] can provide companies the best way to humanize and unify their enterprise voice—a strategic imperative in today’s environment.”

But while employees have the potential to be wonderful brand advocates, not every employee wants to sing your organization’s praises. While some are highly engaged and love their jobs, others will do everything in their power to bring a company down.

The report explains that there are six types of employees. Some are highly engaged, while others can barely explain what their organization does. If you want to turn your employees into advocates, you’ll need different tactics to appeal to each group. Here is a description of each group, as well as the best ways to turn them into brand activists:

1. ProActivists

Who they are: ProActivists make up 21 percent of the global workforce, and are the embodiment of employee activism. Almost every action they take on behalf of their organizations is positive. ProActivists are highly social and engaged with their organizations. They tend to be millennials, university educated, hold executive or managerial positions, and use social media for work.

How to appeal to them: ProActivists already advocate on behalf of your organization, so your goal is to encourage them to keep doing so. Do this by continuing to do what ProActivists value most-maintaining a positive corporate reputation and treating all employees fairly. Also regularly provide socially sharable content that shows how you are doing these things. Additionally, encourage leaders to regularly communicate with employees.

2. PreActivists

Who they are: At 26 percent, PreActivists are the largest group in the workforce. They have average engagement levels with their employers, and tend to be younger Baby Boomers. While they take many positive actions on behalf of their organizations, they do have a few negative things to say, as well. This group has a high potential for becoming ProActivists, but aren’t quite there yet, primarily because of their low use of social media.

How to appeal to them: PreActivists are close to becoming ProActivists—they just need a little push—so it’s worth it for you to invest in this group. While PreActivists are less social media savvy than other segments, more than one-third of them say would be more inclined to share their organizations’ news online if they were given easy-to-understand guidelines, access to social media at work, and helpful tools. PreActivists also want better communication with leaders.

3. HyperActives

Who they are: HyperActives are the wildcards of the workforce. They are the smallest group at just 7 percent, but they have the highest potential of helping or hurting their organizations. This group tends to consist of millennial males who are highly engaged with their companies. Two-thirds of HyperActives have a job that involves social media, so they are highly social, but half have posted something online about their employers that they regret.

How to appeal to them: Handle HyperActives with care. It’s imperative that you make sure HyperActives’ positive actions override their negative impulses. Create positive shareable content they can easily post, and establish a set of social media guidelines. HyperActives strongly value their organizations’ ability to keep employees informed, so communicate with them regularly, and ensure senior leaders acknowledge their contributions.

4. ReActivists

Who they are: Making up 11 percent of the workforce, ReActivists are somewhat engaged with their workplace, but also highly critical and, worse, social. Do you remember the employee who created a video to tell her employer she was quitting, and it eventually went viral? She is an example of a ReActivist.

How to appeal to them: ReActivists are highly critical of their workplaces and quick to take their opinions public, which could damage their organizations’ reputations. You should clearly and consistently share information about your goals and values, and focus on internal issues, such as employee training and diversity. Regularly provide social media tools, guidelines and shareable messages. It also wouldn’t hurt to get your organization on a best places to work list.

5. Detractors

Who they are: Detractors have nothing nice to say about their organizations, are disengaged and distrust leadership. Making up 13 percent of the workforce, they are not very active on social media, but they inflict damage offline. Detractors are not likely to become activists, so employers should focus on diffusing their criticism and lessening the potential reputational harm. Detractors tend to be female, not university educated, and most likely to have experienced a big change at the company, e.g. massive layoffs or a leadership change.

How to appeal to them: You should focus on defusing Detractors’ negativity. Since Detractors have such a strong distrust of leadership, focus on rebuilding that trust. Even if your company has already been acquired or undergone a leadership change, implement a change management program. Simply showing effort will help. Also, even though this group isn’t very social, the organization should have social media guidelines in place, as well as online monitoring tools.

6. InActives

Who they are: Twenty-two percent of employees in the workforce are InActives, meaning they don’t support or detract from the employers. They don’t put much effort into their jobs, and can’t explain their organizations’ missions. There isn’t much that motivates them to do a good job-not even pay increases. It’s not worth it to invest in making them activists. Focus on building engagement with them instead.

How to appeal to them: Focus primarily on engagement, not activism. This group needs to connect with the organization before they can advocate for it. Institute an engagement program that connects InActives with direct supervisors. Show them that the organization cares about their thoughts and opinions.

Read the full Weber Shandwick report here.

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