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Deloitte Research: Organizations Must Tap Into Worker Passion to Address Competitive Pressures

Only 11 percent of US workers are passionate and possess the attributes needed for sustained extreme performance improvement

San Jose, September 17, 2013 — To address perpetually mounting competitive pressures, organizations need workers who bring passion to their jobs to navigate challenges and accelerate performance improvement. Yet only 11 percent of U.S. workers surveyed by Deloitte possess the necessary attributes that lead to accelerated learning and performance improvement. These and other insights are highlighted in a new report from Deloitte’s Center for the Edge entitled "Unlocking Passion of the Explorer."

The effect of mounting competitive pressure is visible in the downward trend in Return on Assets (ROA). According to Deloitte, ROA for U.S. organizations has been declining for 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 a long term solution to competitive pressures. Recruiting wars have typically focused on finding particular skills, but Deloitte uncovered that the typical modern work skill becomes outdated within five years.

Instead of recruiting skillsets, organizations would be better served by recruiting passionate people and fostering passion in existing workers. 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challenges as opportunities to learn new skills and rapidly improve performance – is rare in the U.S. workforce, and outdated practices and structures are to blame. Many organizations squelch rather than cultivate the passion of the explorer. In the fall of 2012, Deloitte Center for the Edge surveyed approximately 3,000 full time U.S. workers (more than 30 hours per week) from 15 industries and across various job levels to measure their levels of passion."

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 will help enterprises 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. In fact, 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. 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.

Interestingly, 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.

Moreover, the most passionate workers 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.

Furthermore, the survey 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.

"Faced with uncertainty and disruption, organizations must rely on workers at all levels," concludes Hagel. "The optimism and willingness those with the passion of the explorer have to go the extra mile is a valuable quality to organizations. Couple that with exposure to new trends and developments that the passionate gain from participating in external groups or ecosystems, passionate workers are more likely to help organizations navigate challenges and identify new opportunities essential for learning in a fast-moving environment."

For more information and the full "Unlocking Passion of the Explorer" report, please visit: www.dupress.com/articles/unlocking-the-passion-of-the-explorer/.
Connect with us on Twitter: @DeloitteTMT

About Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Practice
Deloitte’s technology, media & telecommunications practice is comprised of more than 1,400 clients in the U.S., including the vast majority of market category leaders across all sector segments. Deloitte practitioners, many with direct industry experience, deliver a breadth of services including professional audit, consulting, enterprise risk management, financial advisory and tax. The practice is also home to the Deloitte Center for the Edge, which conducts original research and develops substantive points of view for new corporate growth. The Silicon Valley-based Center helps senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology. 

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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