Let me start by stating the obvious: giving someone a job, and giving someone purpose in their job are two different things.
It’s obvious, but as entrepreneurs and business leaders, that can sometimes be tricky to comprehend. That the work itself (and the money paid for it) is not its own reward is something we tend to overlook when we’re blinded by our passion for our goals.
The cost is great. According to a 2014 study from Deloitte, less than 1 in 8 American workers are passionate about their work. It’s astounding, and the so-called ‘passion gap’ is only set to expand in a future in which the definition of work is sure to change dramatically.
So what can we do?
Mission statements and organisational guidelines are great for presenting the vision of a company when employees first start, but as the work becomes routine, it’s easy for them to get lost in the day-to-day.
Therefore, it is our job as leaders – as the source and embodiment of the passion we wish to imbue into our staff – to take a more active role in sparking the flame, and ensuring it remains lit.
It’s all a matter of taking the time to communicate and adapt to the needs of employees. Here’s how you can do just that:
Discuss projects in development: If you’re building a product or service, talk about it with the team throughout the process. Sure, as their leader, it is ultimately up to you to make the final decisions, but giving employees the opportunity to get involved is the perfect way to ensure their unique knowledge base and experiences are used to their full potential.
Be flexible: How often do you hire someone whose skills and abilities can only be applied within their immediate position? Let me answer that for you: never. So why confine them to their job description if they have the ability to contribute in other areas of your business? Not only is the variety likely to keep them active and engaged, but it serves as a mark of respect.
Oh, and if you don’t know what skills your employees have, ask.
Provide opportunity: How often do you allow staff members to develop their own projects? Obviously you’re not just going to hand over the reigns, but a little willingness to put trust in the people around you is always appreciated. Plus, it’s a great way of inspiring intrapreneurship, and supporting your team in their growth.
Consider their future: Here’s the thing – even the most passionate of employees aren’t necessarily going to cement their career within a single business. Losing staff is tough, but by acknowledging their goals and helping them work towards them through the meeting of your own needs, you build a relationship and tribe mentality that has the potential to provide serious dividends in the future.
Disengaged Nation, a new report from SACS Consulting detailing the productivity slump, showed that older employees are more likely to be passionate in their work.
Why? Is it because millennials are the self-entitled narcissists the media portrays them to be? Is it because older people tend to have more familial and financial responsibilities, so are careful about not losing their jobs?
I don’t think so.
I think that it’s because employees are willing to spend their entire working lives searching for what makes them passionate and engaged. I think it’s because they value the work as much as any member of The 8 Percent, they just do so in a different way.