Article - Intermediate

The Enneagram, Engagement and Talent

By Dirk Cloete | 26 November 2018 |
article ennegram engagement talent

The latest trends in employee engagement and talent management are very clear on the need to craft a unique development path and strategy for each individual – but how are managers supposed to know how to do this? The Enneagram and Professional iEQ9 report offer a solution...
Organisations have invested a great amount of time and resources in engagement in recent years, and this remains a key priority.

Employee engagement describes the relationship between an employee and the organisation, and the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment that the employee feels towards their job. Employee engagement is an internal state of mind, taking into consideration discretionary work effort, commitment and satisfaction.

In recent years, more and more corporate clients have been working with the Enneagram and researching its applicability to organisational challenges, including engagement and motivation.

The Enneagram framework has proved powerful in helping our corporate clients understand not only the diverse tapestry of individuals that make up their teams and businesses, but also in starting conversations to find out about individuals’ experiences of the organisation. These conversations lead to strategic choices about employee engagement and performance.

The first step is to accurately type individuals, identifying their unique motivators and drivers, and then to enable organisations to analyse and target the motivational needs in their workforce.

Engagement correlates strongly with a wide range of important performance measures across different organisations, industries and regions. When employees are engaged at work, organisations see benefits in increased customer satisfaction, the ability to retain talented staff, more individual effort, improved productivity and bottom-line results. Engaged employees feel personally invested in the success of their organisation. They care about their work and the performance of the company but also want to feel that their efforts make a difference in the world.

They bring their creativity and energy to their work and do more than the minimum required. They offer ideas, support their colleagues and persevere through difficulties. Organisations offer their members an enabling environment, support and rewards in exchange for their contributions to achieving shared goals. As workplaces have become more diverse, however, organisations are finding that traditional incentives do not determine engagement for all individuals.

“Employee engagement and retention today means understanding an empowered workforce’s desire for flexibility, creativity, and purpose. Under the evolving social contract between employer and employee, workers become “volunteers” to be re-engaged and re-recruited each day.”-Deloitte University Press

Engagement Needs To Be Highly Individualised

There has been a shift in recent years from seeing engagement as a corporate solution driven out of head office, to a growing recognition that a one size fits all solution may be less effective. Research from global organisations such as Deloitte & Touche, Gallup and CCL indicate that as little as 25-30% of staff in the average organisation feel actively engaged and that their best contributions are being harnessed. This means that the remaining 70% are either disengaged or "actively disengaged", at a cost of billions to productivity every year.

“Engagement starts with each person and is subjective. Employees don't check their personalities at the door when they come to work. Knowing that they are respected as individuals at work can have a significant impact on how employees view their overall lives.”-Gallup Research

Increasing specialisation and diversity within organisations means that the engagement priorities and needs of distinct parts of the business may vary greatly. Exit interviews and research suggest that people “don’t leave organisations, they leave managers”. The actual factors leading to engagement are individualised and local – a result of how the individual employee experiences the organisation, through their own filters and the interactions they have with the specific individuals, teams and managers in their immediate surroundings, day to day.

This shifts the responsibility for engagement back to the manager and the team, based on understanding individual perspectives and finding ways to utilise diverse strengths in the service of a shared purpose. Talent management and development have also become focused on individual, custom journeys, rather than designing strategies for basic, limiting segments like “middle managers”, “female staff”, “high potentials” or “older employees”.

“In talent management a tailored individual approach is very important. If you know what the capabilities of people are, what their wishes are and in what direction they want to develop, you can design opportunities that fit best with the individual needs and wishes. With the technology of today, you are able to know your employees better than they know themselves.”-Tom Haak, HR Trend Institute

With five generations in the workplace and a need to attract and include more diverse perspectives, the ability to listen to, understand and motivate diverse people is becoming a critical skill. How well do these organisations understand the people they are trying to engage? How are organisations and their talent professionals to know how to go about this?

The Enneagram Helps To Decode Engagement Needs

To support this vision of individualised engagement, organisations need a tool that enables them to assess, analyse and address the engagement needs of their workforce. For our clients, the Enneagram and the iEQ9 questionnaire have enabled leaders and practitioners to understand what intrinsically motivates different people, what engages them and what risks disengaging them. Based on decades of research, we can flag nine different motivational systems, with additional layers of complexity behind them, for example the kind of goals they are likely to prefer, their needs in team engagement and their preferred focus of recognition.

The Enneagram and iEQ9 reports offer engagement strategies for the 9 Types, such as:

Type Traditional Team Building Team Coaching
icon ennea 1 Ethical leadership; empowerment to improve Their accuracy and the quality of their contribution
icon ennea 2 Strong relationships; making a difference to others Their generosity and the relationships they build
icon ennea 3 Opportunity to shine; recognition as the best Their achievements and successes, in public
icon ennea 4 Meaning; making a unique contribution Their creativity and their meaningful contribution
icon ennea 5 Opportunity to learn; quest for wisdom Their ideas and knowledge, preferably in private
icon ennea 6 Healthy teamwork; commitment to a cause Their loyalty to the team and troubleshooting
icon ennea 7 Flexibility; unlimited options and possibilities Their contributions, ideas and enthusiasm
icon ennea 8 Power and influence; a chance to make an impact Their strength and support of others
icon ennea 9 Connection with others; working in harmony Their insight and respectful interactions

Leaders need to understand the individuals they work with on a deep level, and then need the ability to deliver coaching in a way that the individual can hear, internalise and self-sustain. This may be a challenge for leaders, as we often tend to assume that what motivates and engages us personally will also motivate and engage others, when in fact the opposite might often be true.

If, for example, an Enneagram 5 leader follows their own preferences, they might try to improve engagement by giving people more independence and space to complete their work. For some Types, this will work well; for others, such as the highly collaborative Enneagram 6, this might feel like being isolated or sidelined. The strategy could end up disengaging them instead.

The Enneagram and Professional iEQ9 report give leaders pointers on engagement and communication strategies for the 9 Types they work with. Clients who introduce the Enneagram and iEQ9 tools in their organisations find that this shared language and education on the different drivers of engagement can empower leaders to understand and engage followers.

The Enneagram and associated iEQ9 reports offer an opportunity to illuminate the real drivers of engagement in the diverse group of individuals that make up an organisation, empowering leaders and practitioners to take a strategic, data-driven approach to engagement.


Want to work with teams? Join our Level 2 Advanced Enneagram Team Dynamics training. Register for level 2