In a world of uncertainty and mounting performance pressure, organizations face a significant challenge. On the one hand, more powerful and less loyal consumers demand more value; on the other, more powerful and less loyal workers demand higher compensation and a work environment that supports their development. In this environment, organizations need workers with passion to realize extreme sustained performance improvement.
While much work has been done to understand and improve employee engagement, employee engagement is no longer enough. Times have changed. Worker passion—defined by three attributes rather than static skills that rapidly diminish over time—will be critical as we shift from a twentieth-century world characterized by scalable efficiency to a twenty-first-century world amplified by scalable learning.
We must figure out how to thrive—and not simply survive—in this new uncertainty, and we believe that individuals with worker passion will be the key. Three attributes characterize worker passion: Commitment to Domain and Questing and Connecting dispositions. Commitment to Domain can be understood as a desire to have a lasting and increasing impact on a particular industry or function. Workers with the Questing disposition actively seek out challenges to rapidly improve their performance. Workers with the Connecting disposition seek deep interactions with others and build strong, trust-based relationships to gain new insight. Together these attributes define the “passion of the Explorer”—the worker passion that leads to extreme sustained performance improvement.
While passion of the Explorer is easy to find in the worlds of online gaming and extreme sports, it is largely absent in the corporate environment. Results from a recent Deloitte survey of the US workforce reveal that only 11 percent have all three attributes that make up worker passion. The results are not surprising, considering many of our organizations are still structured to maximize efficiency by way of clearly defined roles and tightly integrated to eliminate variance against forecasts. The individuals exhibiting the three attributes—Commitment to Domain and Questing and Connecting dispositions—may struggle with clearly defined roles, organizational silos, and predictability.
To cultivate and nurture worker passion, organizations can redesign their work environments—the integration of the physical environment, virtual environment, and management systems. By adopting new ways of working focused on eliciting and amplifying worker passion, organizations will benefit from the sustained performance improvement that these individuals create. As individuals and leaders, we all have a role to play as we look to improve our performance and reach our full potential in an unpredictable world.
This report is meant to start the discussion around worker passion—and we welcome your thoughts, questions, and partnership as we continue to study this important topic.