Bridging the Employee Passion Deficit (Part 1 of 3)

Why people are passionate about their work but not their employer – and what you can do about it.

I have been discussing how personality plays, or should play, a key role in the selection of leadership. We hear time and again about the importance of engaging employees. Engagement not only in their job, but engagement in the organization itself. In my work as a leadership coach, I see the importance of engaging employees at all levels of the organization.


An engaged employee is switched on and committed to their work. A passionate employee has all the characteristics of an engaged employee, but also has a strong emotional connection to the organization they work for—they are proud of their association with it and are committed to its success, not just their own.


Much academic research in recent years has demonstrated the impact of employee engagement on organizational performance. The Gallup Organization, which surveys engagement levels around the world, has shown that “engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry.”


A study titled “Bridging the Employee Passion Deficit, Why people are passionate about their work but not their employer – and what you can do about it”, was published by Keith E. Ayers, Founder Intégro Leadership Institute, Dr. Frank Cahill, Psychologist, BA. Grad Dip Applied Psych, Dpsych, MAPS with Dr. Elizabeth Hardie, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. The researchers wanted to test the idea that many apparently engaged employees are in fact not passionate about their organization.


The research covered three themes. The first was employee needs and the degree to which they are satisfied by the organization. Research focused on the following five needs which have been demonstrated to ignite employee passion:

1. The need to be respected

2. The need to learn and grow

3. The need to be an insider

4. The need to do meaningful work

5. The need to be on a winning team

First, employees were asked how important these needs are; second, they were asked about the degree to which these needs are being satisfied.


The second theme covered was the trust levels within the organization. The focus was on eight key values that contribute to high trust levels:

• Respect—being valued for who you are

• Recognition—getting the recognition you deserve

• Receptivity—giving new ideas and methods a fair hearing

• Disclosure—communicating openly one’s own ideas and opinions

• Straightforwardness—being clear about what is expected of you

• Honesty—having high standards of honesty in everything we do

• Seeking Excellence—doing our best in everything we do

• Keeping Commitments—following through on our responsibilities

Employees were asked how important these values are to them personally and how well their organization operates by these values. The gap measures the level of trust employees have for their organization and their leaders.


The third theme addressed was employees’ perceptions of their current level of passion, focusing on both their passion for the job and for the organization. The survey asked respondents to choose which one of five descriptions best describes them. The descriptions outline the behavior, thinking, and feeling of employees who fit the following five categories:

• Level 5: Passionate about both the job and the organization

• Level 4: Passionate only about the job

• Level 3: Passionate only about the organization

• Level 2: Not passionate but still conscientious

• Level 1: Disconnected from the job and from the organization

In the next article we will look at the data behind the study. Some interesting facts emerge! If you would like more information on this or just want to have a conversation about it, you can reach me here or on LinkedIn.