Customer satisfaction is impacted by so many elements that it can be difficult to decide what to work on first. A recent BusinessWeek article suggested that the fastest way to increased productivity and profitability was to improve employee engagement. While true, employee engagement is about much more than squeezing every last drop of productivity from your people and is more than a management fad. Employee engagement is a shared responsibility between employee and employer. Both must work together to find the right position for the skills (and passion) the employee brings. Failing to find that right position weighs heavily on an individual’s morale and takes a toll on company profitability like an unseen cancer.
Identify Passion – It begins with employees. Know thyself. Sadly many people don’t know what they like to do. With their constant barrage of “Top 10 Professions” and “Fastest Growing Jobs” lists, the media don’t help matters. Parents, mentors, advisors steer people towards money rather than towards a passion. I have a friend who became an architect because he liked to draw. Success in that profession meant that he quickly moved into project management which he disliked more and more each year. Years later he began drafting again – and loved it! Had he identified his passion as drawing (rather than architecture) sooner, his engagement level would have been higher and his sense of self-fulfillment would have been richer.
Be a Matchmaker – Employees learn only so much about a company in the interview process. Later the real learning begins. As your experience increases you may recognize unaddressed problems or spot untapped opportunities. When this happens be bold about finding ways to match your passion with the company’s need(s). If you’ve chosen the right company (i.e. a company that believes and operates as if your success contributes to their success) your decision to change will be supported. A word of warning to the novice: be aware that because the company hired you to fulfill a need they may not support frequent employee-shuffles.
Make Courageous Decisions – As you continue to contribute to your company you may find that your passion evolves. Or you may find that the position fails to inspire your passion. Either way, as your job passion wanes, you owe it to yourself to make a move. One sure sign that courage is required is to examine your experience of time. The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is a good guide to judge whether or not you are working at your passion. If time drags, and you’re having no fun… you get the idea.
Recognize that the very need for courage presupposes the existence of fear. In my work, I see two primary obstacles employees fear. First, after employees develop personal relationships with people in the company their loyalty to themselves may dip as they rationalize how much people depend on them. Second, personal financial concerns may cause people to delay finding their passion.
The pivot point of being an engaged employee is to find ways to make your passion your work. If you can’t do that, then be prepared to leave, be prepared for time to fly, and be prepared to succeed.