There is a big problem we often face in today’s workforce, and it might not be what you think. Deloitte completed a large study and found that a full 88% of employees don’t have passion for their work, so they don’t contribute their full potential, which means their teams don't perform as well as they could.
What Is A Passionate Worker?
Prior research has shown that job satisfaction — how satisfied and happy we are at work — does influence performance (a recent Wall Street Journal study found 51% of workers are satisfied). Beyond satisfaction, job engagement — how engaged we are at work — has been shown to be even more important to performance than satisfaction (unfortunately, Gallup research shows about 30% are engaged). But for optimal performance, workers need to move beyond satisfaction and engagement to become passionate about their work.
What is a “passionate” worker? Deloitte’s report explains, “Passionate workers are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, companies need passionate workers because such workers can drive extreme and sustained performance improvement — more than the one-time performance “bump” that follows a bonus or the implementation of a worker engagement initiative. These workers have both personal resilience and an orientation toward learning and improvement that helps organizations develop the resilience needed to withstand and grow stronger from continuous market challenges and disruptions.” When an employee is passionate about what they do, they consistently look for better ways to improve themselves, their role, and the business in general. Passionate employees can spread their passion to others, have more energy and motivation, are more loyal, and have lower absenteeism.
Martin Luther King, Jr. beautifully describes what a passionate worker looks like in this classic quote, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well'.” We need passionate workers like that, don't we?
Why Aren’t Employees More Passionate?
Deloitte’s report hits on a major part of the problem — managers aren’t creating the type of environments where passionate workers can thrive. The report states, “Unfortunately, not only do many companies not recognize the value of worker passion, they view it with suspicion. Many work environments are actually hostile to it. The types of processes and policies designed to minimize risk taking and variances from standard procedures effectively discourage passion. Passionate workers in search of new challenges and learning opportunities are viewed as unpredictable, and thus risky.”
Managers are missing out on a huge opportunity by being too risk averse. We need to be much more trusting of our employees if we expect to achieve great things. Most people would like to get passionate about their work, want to do good work, and desire to continuously develop. For many different reasons (politics, processes, and policies, etc.) employees can get turned off and lose that passion.
How Do We Develop More Passion at Work?
Fortunately, there are strategies we can use to help create work environments where people can develop passion for their work. Following are some ideas to consider, which I have derived from the Deloitte report, other experts, and from my personal experiences and observations:
1) Set a positive example. Sadly, the Deloitte found that 80% of managers aren’t passionate about their work. How can we expect employees to give 100% of their effort and go above and beyond if we as leaders aren't passionate? On the other hand, if we are passionate, our passion is contagious.
2) Give them purpose; explain the why. Purpose is what gives a team the “why” to go the extra mile as they work for you. It can be described as something that is bigger than us which we can work towards. Purpose is a psychological need that is basic and pursued by every person who wishes for a brighter tomorrow.
3) Build connections with each other. Whether it’s a team lunch, celebrating employee birthdays, or a volunteer project, these events provide our team members with the opportunity to interact on a personal level with each other. They also serve as a great opportunity for boosting engagement levels in our workplace.
4) Maximize people's strengths. There are two important aspects to this strategy. First, place people in positions where they can use their strengths and giftedness, and avoid placing people in roles they are ill-suited for. For example, if you have an extroverted team member who is very friendly and engaging with people, place them in a customer facing role, not a back office role with minimal human contact. Second, identify people's strengths and intentionally work at using and developing them further. Dr. Kenneth Leithwood wisely said, "Great leaders build trust and collaboration while focusing on developing people's capacities rather than focusing on their limitations."
5) Fan the flames. Find ways to share and celebrate the passion of your team. Recognize, reward, and highlight your team successes. Look for opportunities to share the good work your team does in your company newsletter, by shooting videos of your staff in action, and making time to celebrate your joint accomplishments.
6) Appreciate and recognize. Do you like to be shown appreciation for what you do? Of course; we all do! Showing sincere appreciation and recognizing people for who they are and for their specific contributions is priceless, and will help build great passion in the recipients.
7) Encourage creativity and sharing of ideas. The Deloitte study really hit on the importance to make sure that politics, processes, or policies not get in the way of people sharing their creativity and ideas to make work better. People want to have a voice and have their ideas heard, especially the millennials and the upcoming Generation Z workers.
8) Give team members autonomy. It’s hard for someone to get passionate if they don’t have the autonomy to grow as a person. If someone’s micromanaging and controlling every move they make, there’s no way they’ll be able to develop passion and feel that excitement for what they’re doing.
9) Listen. Asking team members for feedback and implementing their ideas may well be the easiest way to engage your workforce. If people feel they contribute to decision making, they’ll feel more entrenched in the team and committed to working toward team success.
10) Trust. Trust is foundational for having positive relationships and inspiring people to give their best efforts. Trust can be built by admitting we don't have all the answers, asking for help, admitting mistakes, and showing our human side and allowing others to be human too. Our goal is for our team members to trust us and for us to trust our team members.
11) Don't sedate your rock stars. We should give all our team members the autonomy to do the work that interests them as best we can. Then watch what happens when they put their energy and talent fully into their role. This is especially true for our most talented and committed stars; we need to encourage them and let them shine and not hold them back.
12) Have fun! Having fun at work makes it a happier place to be and keeps the team motivated if they see that you care about their happiness as well. Taking your job seriously is not the same as taking yourself seriously. Have some fun in the way you deliver exceptional customer service. Customers like dealing with happy motivated people. And when customers are delighted with the service they receive, our team members feel better about themselves and the potential for increased passion is created.
Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high-performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar!, has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you. Wes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 971.806.0812.