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Worker Passion Drives Inter-Firm Knowledge Flows, Which Can Significantly Improve Firm Performance

The Shift Index

For further context and insight on this topic, please reference the following sections of the 2011 Shift Index report:

Key Themes
What exactly is worker passion and why is it important to firms? Worker passion, different from employee satisfaction, denotes a strong desire to continually improve performance. More than being satisfied with their current job, passionate employees constantly seeking to stimulate new thinking and creativity.

As cycles for innovation and knowledge creation speed up in today’s world, the stocks of knowledge held by any one organization or institution rapidly depreciate. Further, competition continues to intensify as technology based platforms make replication of services and solutions easier and faster. In this environment, companies must keep an eye fixed on developments across a broad range of industries, game changers, and new ideas — as they no longer enjoy the luxury of time to exploit accrued knowledge to generate value for an indefinite period.

In this competitive atmosphere where time-to-market is critical, creating and retaining passionate workers provides a strong competitive advantage to firms. Passionate workers drive sustained performance improvement, inspire innovation and possess both a “questing” disposition, which drives them to seek out new sources of knowledge and a “connecting“ disposition, which drives them to build relationships within the organization and outside of its walls to tap into the latest thinking and insights.

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Worker Passion
What exactly is worker passion? Passion is not commonly associated with work—HR departments often try to measure “employee satisfaction,” which is an entirely different thing. Passion is when a person discovers work that they love and when that work becomes more than just a mode of income. A passionate worker is fully engaged in his or her work and interactions and constantly strives to get to new levels of performance. Satisfaction, meanwhile, describes how content an individual is with a job. A satisfied worker can be content with a job, perhaps because it fulfills a worker’s income, location and scheduling needs, and yet have no passion for the work.

In our survey-based study, respondents were categorized as “disengaged,” “passive,” “engaged,” or “passionate” based on their answers to a series of questions. The survey also measured job satisfaction, job search behavior, and inter-firm knowledge flows. The overall worker passion score has hovered between 20% and 23% over the last three years, indicating that a low percentage of “passionate” employees in the workforce.

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Inter-firm Knowledge Flows
As the digital infrastructure and public policy shifts undermine stability and accelerate change, the primary sources of economic value are shifting. “Stocks” of knowledge—fixed and enduring know-how and experience—were once what companies accumulated and exploited to generate profits. In a less predictable and faster changing world, however, stocks of knowledge depreciate more quickly. The value of what we know at any one point in time diminishes. To succeed now, companies (and individuals) have to continually refresh what they know by participating in relevant “flows” of knowledge that extend beyond the four walls of the firm.

The Inter-firm Knowledge Flow score is an index value of participation in knowledge flow activity; thus it is best understood relative to other years or compared across industries or job types rather than as an absolute number.

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Social Media Activity
Society has embraced social media as a means of expression and a creative outlet, while technological advancements have allowed social media platforms to serve as catalysts for open innovation. The use of social media will continue to be driven by societal as well as technological changes. The increasing amount of time spent on social media as a percentage of time spent on the Internet reflects how the World Wide Web is evolving into a network of people as much as a network of information. This network is changing how people connect and interact with one another, blurring the lines between personal and professional, and forcing business leaders to rethink how best to engage employees and consumers.

Consumption of social media has exploded in the past few years. The average number of daily visitors on social networking sites doubled from 46M per month in 2007 to nearly 90M per month in 2011. Similarly, the total minutes spent by U.S. users on social networking sites grew 236%, from 25B in 2007 to 59B in 2011.

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