Bored. Complacent. Uninspired. Those adjectives describe (at least some of the time) a vast majority of employees in the modern workforce. New Deloitte research found that more than 87 percent of America’s workforce fails to reach their full potential because they lack passion for their work.
This “passion gap” is a drag that prevents people from doing their best work. But the bad news doesn’t end there. The malaise can be contagious, threatening to pull down other employees’ satisfaction and 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,” says Deloitte.
There’s no panacea, no quick fix, to fight the affliction. A promotion or an employee outing might improve engagement, but passion runs deeper. Deloitte defines passion through three attributes: commitment to a specialty or area of expertise, questioning, and connecting. The ardent people who possess all three are driven, model employees that every business leader strives for. Some just don’t know it yet.
Recognize Workplace Passion as a Positive
So how can business leaders help employees break out of the funk and inject a bit of passion into the workplace? Business leaders' first step should be shedding bad connotations they might have with passionate employees. Passion is often trumpeted as a noble characteristic in life, but in the office that same quality is often (too often, according to Deloitte) associated with the emotional, risky behavior that makes an employee a HR nightmare. Not so, says Deloitte.
Shedding prejudices against passion is the first step. Then, managers should rid those same prejudices from the businesses’ processes. Institutional and business processes that stress conformity and process over creativity and passion can stifle passionate employees. The study suggests four workplace conditions that nurture passion among employees:
- Encourage connections: Allow and encourage employees to work with people in different departments, both within the company and in the industry broadly.
- Reward curiosity: Encourage employees to tackle projects and work that inspire them, even if those projects go beyond their daily responsibilities.
- Nix xenophobia: It’s a big world out there. Encourage employees to work and collaborate with people in the broader industry, beyond the office walls.
- Listen and innovate: Keep an open dialogue, at all levels of the organization, with customers to encourage fresh thinking.
Perhaps passion is one component of what Josh Bersin, founder of talent management consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte, calls the “irresistible workplace,” an antidote to the engagement and performance problems that plague companies.
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