There are three kinds of productive employees. What kind do you need and what kind do you hire?


To a worker, you are simply a job. Workers show up on time, leave on time and do what they are asked.

You can count on a worker to do exactly what is asked of them … nothing more, nothing less.


As the name would suggest, Contributors bring a bit more to the table. They also show up on time and leave on time, but they add a li’l sumpin’ sumpin’ to what is asked.

While they are at work, they are thinking strategically. They are the employee that is always thinking of ways to improve … provide better service … streamline processes.


To a Professional, you are not a job, but a career. In their mind, the Professional never leaves work. They regularly are jotting ideas down in the middle of the night. They are the ones you get email from on Saturdays.

There is no judgement. One style is not, necessarily, better than another. It all depends on what you need.

Last night, my family and I were at a local pizza place when I overheard two servers talking. They were discussing a new employee and the discussion went something like this:

“I try to tell him how we do things, but he’s always trying to come up with ‘his’ way to do it. I told him that we don’t want his way, we do it the way the owner says to.”

This is a classic case of a restaurant wanting a Worker, but hiring a Contributor … and it was driving them crazy.

You may be looking for Workers on your teller line. Show up on time and do your job. Treat the members well and make sure the drawer balances.

You may be looking for Contributors on your teller line. Show up on time and do your job. Treat the members well and find new ways to provide better service. At the end of the day, delight the members and make sure your drawer balances.

I learned about the three types of employees when I was younger … the hard way.

I’ve been laid off from three different ad agencies in my life. Ultimately, they were all failing and none of the three agencies exist today (I like to think it’s not completely my fault).

Before my first layoff, I was a Worker. I showed up on time, left right at 5:00 every day. I never brought work home with me (physically or mentally). From 9:00-5:00, I gave my all and knocked out the tasks that my manager assigned to me. When my client, SeaLand, was bought out by the Maersk Group, the agency lost some business and I was easily expendable.

So, I learned my lesson. I needed to add value … to Contribute. Before layoffs two and three, I was also an account executive at ad agencies. I managed large clients. I showed up on time every day, but still left right at 5:00 most days. I was in my 20’s and had a life to get to. While I was at work, I managed my client’s, per my account supervisor’s instructions, and regularly brought new ideas to the table. But I still didn’t see the agency as a career. To be honest, in my mid 20’s, it was still a job … it was beer money. When work was out of sight, it was out of mind.

All of these jobs needed Professionals. They needed someone who saw the agency as more than beer money. They needed someone who would drive down the road on a Sunday, see a new business in town and think about how we could pitch them as a new client. My clients also deserved a Professional, someone who was as invested in their success as they were … constantly thinking of way to better reach new targets with their product.

I know a few 30-40 something Workers that have good jobs and help their companies grow. They are reliable. You know that a job will get done on time, on budget and exactly how you asked for it. It is your job as manager to identify each style in your employees and find the niche that fits them – where both the employee and credit union can success.

But remember, people can evolve if they want to. In your one-on-one meetings, detail each style to your staff and ask how they see themselves and what they want to be.

As a manager, you can coach your team into new roles. If a Worker wants to contribute, or a Contributor wants to be Professional, you need to guide them.

Empower Growth

Many Workers don’t contribute because of the corporate culture. A manager who likes it “their way” may stymie staff contributions.

When I was a Contributor, I didn’t think about adding more value. If I had a manager who sat me down and coached me to look for new business leads or encouraged me to generate new ideas, I would have been a better account executive (and, if the agencies had those kind of managers, they may still be going strong today).

Provide “Insider Information”

You hire smart, motivated people. If you share more information with them, you’ll give those smarty pants’ the tool to better contribute.

  • Consider cross training between departments so people understand each other’s jobs. It will generate more empathy, teamwork and possibly lead to new ideas to improve your business.
  • Consider tag-team training. Pair two employees with different skill-sets and have them work together to create new ideas for products, service or processes.
  • Consider having a CEO or Manager for a Day. Allow the employees you are coaching to shadow the CEO or manager for a day and see what happen “behind the scenes.” When they are provided with more information, and treated like management, they may start to think like management.

From the moment you consider hiring a new employee to the moment they leave your company, you should be thinking about what kind of employee they are, what corporate culture you nurture and where you need them to fit into the overall structure for everyone’s best success. Do you need Workers, Contributors or Professionals?

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