Deloitte Study: US Workers Lack Passion

By Jason Bramwell
As competitive pressures within the US workforce continue to mount, businesses are searching for workers who bring passion to their jobs to navigate challenges and accelerate performance improvement. However, according to a new report from Big Four firm Deloitte LLP, only 11 percent of US workers possess the necessary attributes that lead to accelerated learning and improved performance.
In fall 2012, the Deloitte Center for the Edge surveyed approximately 3,000 full-time US workers who work more than thirty hours per week from fifteen industries and across various job levels for its Unlocking the Passion of the Explorer report.
The "passion of the explorer" – the term Deloitte uses for workers who embrace challenges as opportunities to learn new skills and improve performance – are likely found in the management (17 percent) and marketing (16 percent) functions. Passionate workers are least likely to reside within the customer service (5 percent), accounting/finance (7 percent), human resources (7 percent), and manufacturing (7 percent) areas.

Additional Key Survey Results

  • Overall, passionate workers reported the companies they work for perform better in the marketplace in terms of profitability (46 percent), growth (48 percent), and market share (44 percent).
  • Individuals with the passion of the explorer are more excited and willing to take on new tasks and challenges. When asked if work enables them to achieve their full potential, the average response for explorers was 5.9 (on a 7-point scale where 7 is "completely agree") versus 4.7 for the rest of the workforce.
  • Explorers are more likely to tinker: 37 percent report experimenting with alternative approaches, even if a product or process works, just to try out new ways of doing things. Only 24 percent of the rest of the workforce report such tinkering.
  • Passionate workers are more likely to reflect on recently completed tasks in order to internalize lessons learned and adjust future processes (37 percent versus 28 percent).
"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," John Hagel, director of Deloitte Consulting LLP and cochairman of the Center for the Edge, said in a written statement. "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."
Instead of recruiting skill sets, Deloitte recommends organizations would be better served by recruiting passionate people and fostering passion in existing workers. This 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.
According to the survey, 45 percent of US employees demonstrate at least one or two of the three attributes necessary to build passion – just not all three. Those three attributes are:
  1. Long-term commitment to a specific domain. Those who maintain long-range goals and perspective despite short-term disruption.
  2. Questing disposition. Those who embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and get stronger.
  3. Connecting disposition. Those who seek to build strong, trust-based relationships essential for collaboration and rapid feedback.
The survey found these characteristics are not equally distributed across the workforce. Passionate workers tend to work for smaller organizations, and the prevalence for workers with the passion of the explorer drops in organizations with more than 1,000 employees  from 13 percent to 9 percent. The research revealed that differences in the level of passion across industries were not statistically significant.
The survey also noted that passion correlates with compensation. Higher-pay brackets have a higher concentration of passionate employees: 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," Hagel said. "The optimism and willingness those with the passion of the explorer have to go the extra mile is a valuable quality to organizations. 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."
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