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Organizational Change
Cultivating Employee Passion Can Give Firms Competitive Advantage

Organizations that hope to address perpetually mounting competitive pressures need workers who bring passion to their jobs to navigate challenges and accelerate performance improvement, according to new research from Deloitte’s Center for the Edge.

Unlocking Passion of the Explorer found that only 11 percent of U.S. workers are passionate and possess the attributes needed for sustained extreme performance improvement.

The effect of mounting competitive pressure can be seen in the downward trend in Return on Assets (ROA), which has been declining for U.S. organizations over the past 47 years, despite gains in labor productivity, and it shows no signs of stabilizing.

The data suggests that the typical corporate response of reducing costs and squeezing more productivity out of the remaining workers by making them work harder is not an effective long term solution to competitive pressures. While recruiting wars have typically focused on finding particular skills, Deloitte discovered that the typical modern work skill becomes outdated within five years.

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Rather than recruiting skillsets, organizations would be better served by recruiting passionate people and fostering passion in existing workers, Deloitte says. However, the passion of the explorer — workers who embrace challenges as opportunities to learn new skills and rapidly improve performance — is rare in the U.S. workforce, and outdated practices and structures are to blame, as many organizations do not cultivate the passion of the “explorer”.

“CEOs are struggling mightily to position their organizations within the hypercompetitive global economy, but instead of simply squeezing harder on costs, they should take a step back and reconsider exactly how they are pursuing their mission," said John Hagel, director, Deloitte Consulting LLP and co-chairman, Center for the Edge. "Unleashing the passion that is latent within existing employees is a long-term solution versus narrowly focusing on just recruiting passionate people. Passionate people will naturally drive their organization to the next level and set up their employer for longer-term success."

The survey notes that one of the fundamental considerations for any business leader is how to create a passionate employee population. Recruiting employees with passion and creating work environments that foster this elusive characteristic can help companies to effectively respond to the diverse challenges of a globalized marketplace.

Workers who demonstrate passion are more committed to their employers and are more likely to see new opportunities for success, according to the research. Some 79 percent of workers who demonstrate the most robust passion say they already work for their "dream" organization even if they are not currently in their dream work role.

While only a small minority of U.S. employees possess the passion of the explorer, 45 percent of U.S. employees demonstrate at least one or two of the three attributes necessary to build passion – long term commitment to a specific domain (those that maintain long-range goals and perspective, despite short - term disruption), questing disposition (those that embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and get stronger), and connecting disposition (those that seek to build strong, trust-based relationships essential for collaboration and rapid feedback) — just not all three.

Individuals with any of these characteristics are important to organizations since these attributes can provide a foundation for cultivating the passion that drives accelerated learning and sustained high performance, Deloitte says. Creative approaches to work environment redesign can help to catalyze and amplify the passion of the explorer among employees — executives should not view passion as a given quantity but rather as something that can be nurtured and expanded over time.

However, these characteristics are not equally distributed across the workforce. The passionate tend to work for smaller organizations, and the prevalence of workers with the passion of the explorer drops, from 13 percent to 9 percent, in organizations with more than 1,000 employees. The research revealed that differences in the level of passion across industries were not statistically significant.

The most passionate workers also are likely to be in the management and marketing functions (17 percent and 16 percent, respectively) and are least likely to reside within the customer service (5 percent), accounting / finance (7 percent), human resources (7 percent), or manufacturing (7 percent) areas.

The survey further notes that passion of the explorer correlates with compensation. Higher pay brackets have a higher concentration of passion; among those making more than $150,000, 44 percent are passionate versus just 15 percent or fewer in lower income brackets.

Saatchi & Saatchi recently worked with AT&T’s Citizenship & Sustainability team to design an employee activation and internal communications platform called Do One Thing (DOT), which positions employees as change agents within AT&T and empowers them to choose and implement sustainability-oriented actions that positively impact their lives, communities and the company. To date, AT&T employees in over 1,000 cities in the United States and more than 25 countries around the globe have chosen individual or team-based DOTs.


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