Although the worst may be behind us, most organizations are still cautious when it comes to their economic forecasts. Frozen budgets and downsized workforces persist, and some may find it difficult to entice and energize employees when traditional incentives remain impractical.
It is during these hard times that culture and workplace environment become absolutely critical. After all, according to a recent research report by Catalyst, even in the current recession high-potential workers aren’t afraid to jump ship, with 20 percent of respondents choosing to leave for other opportunities.
Passion — both for and within the company — is what retains and engages these crucial workers, said Dan Bobinski, president and CEO of Leadership Development Inc., director at the Center for Workplace Excellence and author of Creating Passion-Drive Teams: How to Stop Micromanaging and Motivate People to Top Performance.
“We’re seeing a lot of cutbacks. Unemployment is up. People are being asked to do more with less. And that can be very overwhelming,” Bobinski said. “It’s incumbent on the managers and leaders that they stay focused on creating those conditions for passion.”
Bobinski said he defines passion as when an employee has a thorough understanding of the big picture and how his personal activities and drives contribute to that big picture.
“When the whole team does that, and they openly share information back and forth, and they openly contribute without being stepped on, stolen, misused or abused, when they have a sense of camaraderie and commitment, then you can start to see passion emerge,” he said.
Although passion can’t exactly be taught, it can be fostered, Bobinski said. A big piece of that involves learning leaders linking training directly to the strategic objectives of the company — and making that connection clear both to front-line employees as well as to the C-suite.
“The CLO has to really work on emphasizing the value of the training and how the ROI happens and letting people see that,” Bobinski said.
To underline the importance of strategic learning in creating a passionate workforce, Bobinski pointed to an Emerging Workforce Study that found that in companies where training is perceived to be poor, about 4 out of 10 employees are thinking of quitting; and in companies where training is perceived to be good or excellent, only about 1 in 10 is considering leaving.
“When you consider the cost of replacing an employee versus the cost of training that employee, [it’s more economical to train],” he said. “[Further], if you’ve pared down your workforce in layoffs and you’ve kept your best talent, you don’t want to lose them.”
Learning organizations also should train managers to serve as teachers in the workplace, helping subordinates learn and develop on the job, Bobinski said.
“[You want to] not only train [your people], but let them put into place whatever it is you’ve trained them on,” he said. “That goes back to aligning all the training with the strategic vision of the company.”