Looking beyond engagement and into worker passion

Looking beyond engagement and into worker passion

Posted by John Hagel III and Maggie Wooll on August 10, 2017.

We are in the early stages of a shift from a global economy focused on angst, fear, and erosion of trust to one defined by creativity, curiosity, imagination, and social intelligence. To make this shift successful requires a broad shift in how institutions engage with employees and embrace the future of work.

Right now, the numbers tell a different story. According to our latest annual Worker Passion study, Deloitte LLPs Center for the Edge found only 13 percent of the US workforce are passionate about their jobs. Conversely, we found 68 percent of the US workforce are not engaged at work despite an expected investment by US corporations of $100 billion in training and development and $1 billion in employee engagement in 2017.

The gap between the investment and employee engagement is so vast that we have come to believe focusing on employee engagement alone misses the point. In a world of increasing performance pressure, getting workers to be proactively passionate—not just engaged—about their work is essential. An engaged worker shows up on time, follows directions, and feels good about participating, but may be just dutifully along for the ride. But a passionate worker is one who has a long-term commitment to making an impact through pushing boundaries, developing new tools, and connecting with others. A passionate employee is on a quest to learn and improve faster and can lead her company into new markets and new opportunities as the business environment changes.

Take for example the current wave in the rise of automation and smart machines. Contrary to popular belief, machines taking over mundane tasks does not pose a threat to human workers, but rather is an opportunity for workers to discover their passion in new jobs that foster creativity and intelligence—attributes machines can never offer.

Rather than playing defense with employee engagement, progressive companies can foster tribes of tenacious, self-starting collaborators who get fired up by the types of difficult challenges that may help companies leapfrog their competition.

The 13 percent of passionate workers had a notably different perception of their work environments than did their non-passionate peers: 71 percent willingly work extra hours, 89 percent feel energized by their work, 71 percent feel encouraged to work across corporate silos, and 67 percent rate their company highly for collaborating with customers. And, not surprisingly, 68 percent of these individuals voice optimism for their company’s future.

Think about that for a second. What might be possible for your own organization if more than 13 percent of people in your company behaved this way?

Every company’s journey is different, but there are four things you can do, today, to start yourself down the right path:

  1. Lead by example. Enthusiasm is contagious, but it requires you to be authentically inspired yourself. Ask yourself how inspired you feel? What’s getting in the way of your own passion? And where can you, yourself, lean into more experimentation, more challenge, more innovation, and more collaboration?
  2. Provide focus. Having a team of self-starters is excellent, but only if they know what to focus on to help the organization go where it needs to go. Give them a vision, but also visibility into what others are doing and how their work supports others, a set of actionable values, and a collection of resources to help them achieve success. Most importantly, help frame the strategic challenge by helping them to ask better questions about what problem to solve. Then trust them to solve it.
  3. Create the environment. To truly make the jump from fearful, isolated, and reactive to fearless, collaborative, and proactive innovation, you must create an environment in which both successes and failures are openly discussed and celebrated. Help people who are really excited about taking on tough challenges connect with each other. Create experimentation platforms to encourage creative thinking, intelligent and constructive questioning of the status quo, and experimentation while managing the risk associated. Define not just the end results but also the behaviors and human attributes that will get your company there—and celebrate them publicly.
  4. Test your perspectives. Many business leaders think such a working environment sounds wonderful, but just isn’t possible where they work. No doubt, creating a culture of passion is difficult, or else everybody would be doing it already. But a second look may reveal that what seems an insurmountable obstacle is actually an open invitation to explore new opportunities.

There will always be uninspired leaders trying to squeeze more productivity out of an uninspired workforce—but this is ultimately a race to the bottom. The organizations that succeed will cultivate and grow a workforce that is truly passionate about the impact they can make during this incredibly interesting time of change.

See our full report here: https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/talent/future-workforce-engagement-in-the-workplace.html


John Hagel III has nearly 35 years of experience as a management consultant, author, speaker and entrepreneur, and has helped companies improve their performance by effectively applying new generations of technology to reshape business strategies. John currently serves as co-chairman of the Silicon Valley-based Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge.

As part of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, Maggie Wooll draws on her experience advising large organizations on strategy & operations to engage executives and practitioners in the Center’s work.


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