Editor’s note: Ed Gash is president of Eagle Wings “Where Leaders Learn to Soar.”As a business owner, executive or manager, one of your primary concerns may be how to maintain a highly productive team of employees that will contribute to the growth of your business. The trick to doing this is to recognize the different types of employees that work for your company, and how to communicate effectively with them so that they meet your performance expectations.

Most of your employees probably fall into one of these four categories.

The Prisoners: These are the people who believe that they are being forced into a work situation in which they are trapped. They don’t want to be there and they are going to let everyone know how they feel. Prisoners like to argue and place blame on others.

Communication Tip: Be direct and firm with these employees. You can help them with the skills and drills, but their will to perform up to your expectations is entirely up to them. Talk to them about how attitude affects performance, how you need a team of high performers and how you hope they will choose to be part of that team. Keep messages simple with cause and effect statements and ask for their input. For example, you might say, “When you resist my feedback, it makes me hesitant to want to help you anymore. How do you suggest I tell you things you need to improve on without you taking it personally?”

The Vacationers: These employees believe the primary purpose of the workplace is for socializing. They are fun loving people, but may be interrupting other employees’ work so that everyone is less productive.

Communication Tip: You don’t want to stifle their fun and enthusiasm, but you want these employees to be long-term producers. Praise them for their keen humor, if it is worthy of that, but don’t praise inappropriate jokes, sarcasm or humor at the expense of others. Again a cause and effect statement is appropriate. For example, you might say, “I appreciate your humor. It breaks the tension and I need that in the form of passionate productivity. How can we transfer this?”

The Experts: They think they know it all and don’t need you to manage them. They might even feel that they should have your job!

Communication Tip: These employees possess or think they possess valuable knowledge and experience. If they indeed do, then you want to tap into that expertise without hurting them. If they don’t, then you need to communicate that they are not the subject matter experts they perceive themselves to be without devaluing their worth to the organization. You might begin the discussion by saying, “When you rely solely on your experience at the expense of new learning, it hampers or stifles your growth as a professional. What are you willing to do to become more open to new ideas?”

The Learners: Learners are interested in taking the time to gain knowledge or improve skills that can be applied to their jobs and to their personal lives. These employees may be new employees or they may be seasoned, high performers that have been with the organization for a long time. They are excellent mentors, teachers and coaches to Prisoners, Vacationers and Experts. They are also good change catalysts in the move towards an organizational culture of learning.

Communication Tip: Learners are key people to the success of your business. Retention will depend upon you treating them well, paying them well and continuing to expect the best performance from them. Communication is critical to reinforcing the desired behaviors of this group of employees. Solicit input from them whenever it is appropriate. You may start the dialogue by saying, “When you put so much energy into learning and growing it shows in your business development and increases your influence. How can we get others to have the same passion and hunger for knowledge?”

Take notes during your conversations with employees and seek ways to get them actively involved in facilitating changes in your organization. You may be surprised how many of your employees begin to soar like eagles, raising your business to new heights.

Ed Gash is president of Eagle Wings “Where Leaders Learn to Soar” (www.calleaglewings.com ), a Charlotte-based firm specializing in enhancing performance and building change resilience. He can be reached at 704.458.9184 or ed@calleaglewings.com