Article by Ed King
My team and I talk a lot about what really makes employees tick. We seem to always come back to tapping into ones’ passions and purpose at work. Personally, I have always been passionate about uncovering why people behave the way they do. And my personal passion is applying that understanding to help my clients get the very best out of their workforces.
It’s an idea that sparked a game-changing project: The GAP Index.
Here’s the premise: Experience shows there’s a direct correlation between people’s passions and achieving their full potential. By infusing an employee’s passion into their everyday job, leaders can close the gap between current performance and untapped potential – enhancing a person’s Growth And Potential if you will (enter: GAP).
The more time I spent exploring this, the more convinced I became that this idea really did have legs. And coincidentally enough, as I worked on something I was passionate about, I became even more motivated to drive our business (and my clients’ businesses) forward. Anecdotal though that may be, it’s certainly notable.
While each employee is different, this project has uncovered some universal ways leaders can inspire an engaged and invested workforce – take a look and let me know if any of these resonate based on your experience.
- Rally around shared purpose. Identify and consistently communicate your company’s goals, as well as your mission, vision and values. Aspiring to something larger than themselves is key to getting employees to apply their passions at work every day.
- Tap into meaning. Help employees discover some intrinsic significance in their day-to-day role, and ideally, tie what they do every day to the company’s purpose.
- Prioritize mentorship. I’d venture to say most of us didn’t get to where we are today all on our own. Having a coach or mentor – and even being a coach or mentor – has benefits for everyone involved and often inspires employees to be more actively invested in their peers’ success.
- Establish trust. While there’s no magic bullet for building trust among your team, getting to know your people on a personal level AND letting them get to know you can go a long way.
- Encourage voluntary participation. Give people the opportunity to volunteer for passion projects outside their day-to-day work. Going above and beyond can be contagious, and intentionally recognizing the interests of your team can create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their passions.
- Uncover and apply underused skills. It may sound simple, but ask your employees if they have a skillset they aren’t currently using in their job or expertise they feel could help the company. You may be shocked by the answer.
- Discover and nurture unique strengths. At KWI, we use the Clifton StrengthsFinder program to understand our teams and motivate employees based on their intrinsic Strengths.
- Bolster relationships. Facilitate at-work and out-of-work programs that provide opportunities for employees to cultivate meaningful relationships and build rapport among peers and superiors.
- Recognize and celebrate individual contributions. Everyone likes being recognized for what they do and achieve. Maybe not all in the same way, but celebrating accomplishments is universally important to motivating employees to continue offering their best work and being their best selves.
- Don’t underestimate favorable working conditions. Create a flexible office policy that accommodates most people’s life needs and remain open to the varying needs of your team.
- Create proactive growth plans. Create a specific, measurable plan to actively drive your employees’ development, and be sure to infuse passion-focused aspects and account for their unique interests.
- Support learning and development. Allow and encourage employees to learn new skills – even skills considered outside of their current role.
- Promote comfortability with change. Understand each worker’s change tolerance and customize a plan to normalize what’s next.
- Enable risk-taking. Encourage your team to bring innovative ideas to the table and give employees air cover to try new things – even if they don’t pan out.
- Invite collaboration. Actively encourage problem-solving by introducing cross-departmental collaboration.
These recommendations are based on the 15 foundational attributes outlined in the GAP Index. And I could talk with you about them for hours. Our unique, 64-question assessment is designed to codify, identify and amplify peoples’ passion at work by measuring and evaluating three categories: Employees’ level of commitment, contentment and capability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ed King is Head of Insights at KWI Communications. His lifelong passion of uncovering why people behave the way they do drives him to help organizations get the most out of their workforces. Connect with Ed on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.