Human Resources

7 Ways Whole Brain® Thinking Can Improve Employee Engagement 

4 April 2024



Several studies have identified employee engagement as a critical success factor for organisations. And it makes perfect sense – when employees feel valued and enjoy their work and colleagues, they’ll go the extra mile. But, with increasingly diverse workforces, how can employers tap into what appeals to different individuals to create environments that work for everyone? 


The Herrmann Whole Brain® Thinking model offers organisations a means to understand and leverage neurodiversity in the workplace. It promotes diversity, inclusion and belonging, facilitates effective communication and collaboration, and provides opportunities for professional development. By leveraging the benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking, organisations can create a work environment that stimulates engagement and drives success. As Michael Morgan, CEO of Herrmann Asia says, “It’s taking the Whole Brain® Model that sits behind the HBDI® and using that as a lens to look at the world.”  


Why Employee Engagement Matters 

A 2020 Gallup study is just one of the studies confirming that engaged employees drive organisational growth. Comparing top- and bottom-quartile business units and teams, they found those with engaged employees had the following differences in business outcomes: 

  • 81% less absenteeism 
  • 18% higher turnover for high-turnover organisations 
  • 43% higher turnover for low-turnover organisations 
  • 28% less shrinkage (theft) 
  • 64% fewer safety incidents (accidents) 
  • 41% fewer quality defects 
  • 10% higher customer loyalty/engagement 
  • 18% higher productivity (sales) 
  • 23% higher profitability 


Additionally, Gallup’s research confirmed that engaged employees were less likely to look for work elsewhere, thereby improving retention rates. Interestingly, while a further study in 2022 found that global engagement had increased to a record 23%, they found that half of all employees were still either actively or passively looking for new work opportunities. This later study quantified engagement as having almost four times the influence on employee stress as work location. We at Carole Cooper Consulting believe leaders cannot afford to ignore that. 


What is Whole Brain® Thinking? 

The Herrmann Whole Brain® Thinking model was developed by William “Ned” Herrmann while he was responsible for management education at General Electric. According to the model, individuals have different thinking preferences, which dictate how they process information and their preference for tasks and work environments. Herrmann then developed the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) as a system to measure and describe people’s thinking preferences or cognitive styles.  


The HBDI categorises individuals into four quadrants: A (blue quadrant), B (green quadrant), C (red quadrant), and D (yellow quadrant). Leveraging the full range of these thinking preferences is essential to optimise individual and team performance.  

  • Quadrant A: Analytical thinking — Individuals who prefer this quadrant are logical, fact-focused, and tend to analyse information critically. They excel in problem-solving and structured tasks. 
  • Quadrant B: Practical thinking — individuals who prefer this quadrant value application and practicality. They are action-oriented, prefer to focus on solutions and excel in hands-on tasks. 
  • Quadrant C: Relational thinking — Individuals who prefer this quadrant value interpersonal relationships, emotional intelligence, and collaboration. They excel in team settings and thrive in social interactions. 
  • Quadrant D: Experimental thinking—Individuals who prefer this quadrant are intuitive, creative, and innovative. They thrive in environments where they can explore possibilities and envision future outcomes. 




Understanding team members’ different thinking preferences and creating opportunities for individuals to leverage their strengths can significantly enhance team effectiveness, engagement, and workplace productivity. At Carole Cooper Consulting, we apply Whole Brain® Thinking to improve employee engagement using a seven-pronged approach. These are just a few of the benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking. 


1 | Aligning Work with Thinking Preferences 

Individuals almost always have a dominant thinking preference, but they may still be capable of subjugating their natural preference to fit a prevailing culture. They might not even know they are doing it, and as a result, they experience extreme frustration and unhappiness. It’s therefore essential to perform Brain Dominance Assessments, i.e. HBDI assessments, under the guidance of a Herrmann-certified practitioner, such as Carole Cooper Consulting.   


By understanding team members’ thinking preferences, we can help organisations align tasks and responsibilities based on individual strengths, fostering a sense of purpose and engagement. For example, individuals who prefer quadrant A thinking may excel in analytical tasks, such as data analysis or financial modelling. Individuals who prefer quadrant C thinking may thrive in team settings and collaborative projects because of their high emotional intelligence.  


Providing individuals with opportunities to work on tasks in settings that suit their preferred thinking mode will enhance their engagement and job satisfaction. Over time, this approach can create a workplace culture that values and leverages its employees’ diverse strengths, enhancing both engagement and performance. 


2 | Creating Diverse and Inclusive Teams 

Research by the Boston Consulting Group has found that diverse teams are almost twice as innovative as non-diverse teams. By embracing diversity, Carole Cooper Consulting helps organisations tap into a broader range of ideas and viewpoints, leading to more creativity, innovation, and better decision-making. But experienced leaders will know that getting people with different perspectives, backgrounds, values, and skills to work together isn’t easy.  


Whole Brain® Thinking can be instrumental in supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and building diverse teams in several ways: 

  • Understanding Cognitive Diversity: HBDI assessments provide insights into individuals’ thinking preferences and cognitive styles. By understanding the diversity of thought within a team or organisation, leaders can leverage the perspectives offered by neurodiversity in the workplace to solve complex problems and make more inclusive decisions. This understanding promotes the emotional intelligence necessary to value and integrate diverse ways of thinking, not just demographic diversity. 
  • Breaking Down Communication Barriers: Whole Brain® Thinking encourages individuals to recognise and appreciate different communication styles and preferences. HBDI workshops can lead to more effective communication and collaboration across diverse teams as members become more adept at expressing themselves in ways that resonate with others who may think differently. 
  • Enhancing Problem-Solving Abilities: Diversity in thought processes can lead to more innovative and creative solutions to challenges. When teams reflect neurodiversity in the workplace, bringing together individuals with diverse cognitive preferences, they can approach problems from multiple angles, leading to creativity and innovation that results in richer and more robust solutions. 
  • Creating Inclusive Work Environments: DEI initiatives aim to create environments where all individuals feel valued and included. Whole Brain® Thinking can support these efforts by fostering an environment where individuals are encouraged to express their unique perspectives without fear of judgment. This can help mitigate biases and create a culture where everyone’s contributions are respected. 
  • Improving Employee Engagement and Retention: When employees feel that their unique perspectives are valued and their voices are heard, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. By embracing cognitive diversity through Whole Brain® Thinking, organisations can create an inclusive culture where all employees feel respected and supported, increasing employee satisfaction and retention. 


By embracing cognitive diversity, organisations can position themselves for long-term success in an increasingly complex and interconnected world through increased team effectiveness. Additionally, diverse teams can provide a richer learning experience, promoting personal and professional growth for employees. 


3 | Effective Communication 

Effective communication is vital for employee engagement, high-performing teams, and high-performing organisations. In fact, lack of communication is the #1 complaint we receive from team members. Clear and transparent communication ensures employees understand their roles, goals, and expectations. It also creates a sense of trust and openness, enabling employees to voice their opinions and concerns without fear of reprisal.  


Carole Cooper Consulting leverages Whole Brain® Thinking to help organisations communicate more effectively and engage employees. By understanding team members’ cognitive preferences, leaders can tailor their communication strategies to resonate with diverse audiences. For example, individuals with a preference for analytical thinking may prefer data-driven communication, while those with a preference for relational thinking may respond better to stories and anecdotes. 


By incorporating insights from Whole Brain® Thinking, leaders can encourage employees to adapt their communication styles to better connect with colleagues who may think differently. Effective communication is essential for problem-solving so that all employees can contribute their ideas and perspectives and problems can be approached from multiple angles. When diverse voices are heard and valued, a more inclusive and equitable work environment is created. 


Whole Brain® Thinking also encourages leaders to solicit feedback and input from all team members, creating a sense of ownership and empowerment. This can increase employee satisfaction, motivation, and commitment to organisational goals. 


4 | Professional Development and Growth Opportunities 

This study published in Frontiers in Psychology exposed the positive relationship between providing growth opportunities and enhancing employee engagement. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they have professional development and growth opportunities. We can use Whole Brain® Thinking to enhance professional development and growth opportunities for individuals within organisations in the following ways: 

  • Identifying Strengths and Development Areas: By understanding their strengths and areas for development, employees and their managers can make more informed decisions about their professional development goals and focus areas. 
  • Tailoring Learning and Development Initiatives: Knowing employees’ cognitive preferences allows tailored learning and development initiatives that meet individual needs. For example, individuals with a preference for analytical thinking may benefit from data analysis training, while those with a preference for relational thinking may excel in interpersonal skills workshops. 
  • Promoting Cross-Training and Skill Diversification: We can leverage Whole Brain® Thinking by promoting cross-training initiatives that allow employees to learn from colleagues with diverse cognitive preferences. This not only enhances individual skill diversification but also fosters collaboration, team effectiveness and knowledge-sharing across teams. 
  • Facilitating Career Progression: Employees who actively engage in Whole Brain® Thinking and embrace diverse perspectives are better positioned for career advancement. By demonstrating their ability to adapt to different situations and collaborate effectively with colleagues, individuals can stand out as valuable contributors within their organisations.  
  • Creating a Culture of Continuous Learning: Organisations that promote Whole Brain® Thinking foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, where employees are encouraged to take ownership of their professional development journey. This not only benefits individual employees’ creativity and innovation but also contributes to the organisation’s overall success and resilience. 


5 | Recognition and Rewards 

Recognition and rewards are powerful motivators that can significantly enhance employee engagement. When employees feel appreciated and rewarded for their contributions, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the organisation. Whole Brain® Thinking can help organisations set meaningful rewards and recognition systems that promote employee engagement by considering their workforce’s diverse preferences and motivations. Here’s how: 

  • Understanding Individual Motivations: Organisations can tailor their rewards and recognition systems to align with employees’ preferences by understanding what drives each individual. For example, individuals who prefer analytical thinking may value rewards based on objective metrics and performance indicators, while those who prefer relational thinking may appreciate recognition for their contributions to team collaboration and cohesion. 
  • Offering Varied Incentives: Whole Brain® Thinking encourages organisations to offer a variety of incentives that appeal to different cognitive preferences. This ensures that rewards and recognition programs are inclusive and resonate with all employees. For example, organisations may offer monetary bonuses for achieving specific targets, public recognition for outstanding teamwork, and professional development and growth opportunities. 
  • Promoting Team-Based Recognition: Whole Brain® Thinking emphasises the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Organisations can leverage this by incorporating team-based recognition initiatives into their rewards programs. By recognising and rewarding teams for their collective achievements, organisations foster a culture of collaboration and mutual support, leading to higher levels of team effectiveness, employee engagement and satisfaction. 
  • Encouraging Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Whole Brain® Thinking encourages employees to appreciate and value their colleagues’ contributions. Peer-to-peer recognition programs where employees can nominate and acknowledge their peers for their contributions can harness this. Peer-to-peer recognition not only fosters a sense of camaraderie and teamwork but also promotes a culture of appreciation and gratitude. 
  • Providing Opportunities for Personal Growth: Whole Brain® Thinking emphasises the importance of personal growth and development. Organisations can enhance their rewards and recognition systems by offering opportunities for employees to pursue their interests, develop new skills, and advance their careers. This may include funding for further education and training, mentorship programs, or leadership development initiatives. 


6 | Supportive Leadership Practices 

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering employee engagement. Supportive leadership practices, such as regular feedback, coaching, and mentoring, create a nurturing environment where employees feel supported and empowered. Whole Brain® Thinking allows leaders to adapt their support to individuals based on their cognitive preferences. This encourages autonomy and decision-making, allowing employees to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organisation’s success. By delegating responsibilities and trusting employees to make decisions, managers can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment, enhancing engagement. 


7 | Aligning Organisational Values and Culture 

The alignment of organisational values and culture is crucial for employee engagement. When employees feel that their personal values and beliefs align with those of the organisation, they are more likely to be engaged and committed. Whole Brain® Thinking can be instrumental in aligning organisational values and culture by: 

  • Identifying Core Values: Whole Brain® Thinking assessments can help organisations identify their core values by understanding their employees’ preferences and priorities. By considering diverse perspectives, organisations can develop values that resonate with all workforce members, promoting a sense of belonging and shared purpose. 
  • Communicating Values Effectively: Whole Brain® Thinking encourages organisations to communicate their values in ways that resonate with diverse audiences. For example, organisations can use a combination of analytical data, emotional appeals, storytelling, and collaborative discussions to convey their values and foster buy-in from employees with different cognitive preferences. 
  • Embedding Values in Organisational Practices: Whole Brain® Thinking can help organisations embed their values in various aspects of organisational practices, including decision-making processes, performance evaluations, and employee development initiatives. By aligning organisational practices with core values, organisations can reinforce desired behaviours and promote a culture of integrity, accountability, and respect. 
  • Promoting Inclusive Leadership: Whole Brain® Thinking encourages inclusive leadership practices that value and leverage diverse perspectives. Leaders who embrace Whole Brain® Thinking are more likely to solicit input from all team members, consider multiple viewpoints when making decisions, and foster a culture of open communication and collaboration. This promotes trust, transparency, and empowerment within the organisation. 
  • Facilitating Cultural Change: Whole Brain® Thinking can help organisations navigate cultural change by understanding how different cognitive preferences may influence resistance or acceptance of change initiatives. By addressing potential barriers and leveraging diverse perspectives, organisations can facilitate cultural change efforts more effectively and ensure alignment with core values and strategic objectives. 
  • Building a Resilient Culture: Whole Brain® Thinking promotes adaptability, emotional intelligence, and flexibility, which are essential for building a resilient organisational culture. By embracing diverse perspectives and encouraging experimentation and innovation, organisations can navigate challenges and seize opportunities more effectively, reinforcing their core values and driving sustainable growth. 



Employee engagement is a critical factor in the success of organisations. By leveraging the concept of Whole Brain® Thinking, organisations can create a work environment that stimulates engagement and drives success. Understanding the individual preferences of employees, promoting diversity and inclusion, facilitating effective communication and collaboration, providing professional development opportunities, recognising and rewarding achievements, fostering supportive leadership practices, and aligning organisational values and culture are key strategies to enhance employee engagement. 

By implementing these strategies, organisations can create a culture of engagement where employees feel valued, empowered, and inspired to contribute their best to the organisation’s success. 


To realise the benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking in your organisation, speak to us at Carole Cooper Consulting about the following:  

  • Individual HBDI assessments 
  • HBDI team workshops 
  • HBDI-led training and development initiatives 
  • HBDI-led organisational structuring 
  • HBDI-led coaching