The value of passionate employees

A lifelong Pirates fan, I love baseball more than other sports. Baseball sabermetrics created a Wins Above Replacement statistic in an attempt to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team as one useful reference point for comparing players. What if business had a similar measure: Passion Above Regular to demonstrate the value of a passionate employee over and above a regular employee?
A passionate employee searches for better solutions, takes measured risks, performs at a higher level year after year, works the hours needed to get the job done and is well connected to others internally and externally. They possess personal fortitude and a thirst for continual learning and improvement.
While engaged employees often move from having mixed feelings about a company to positive feelings and an improved attitude, the passionate employee typically provides longer-term enhanced value.
I am passionate about what I do and trust that others see my passion. But how do I unlock or awaken these traits in current employees? How should we look for this when hiring? Once employed, how can we be certain not to interfere or frustrate a person who has demonstrated passion qualities?
Cultivate it
Most people say that passion — to lead, serve or support a cause or product they believe in — is what drives them. When that fades, they question what they’re doing and can become less enthusiastic.
Keep employees fresh and challenged by providing different opportunities and challenges. Push them to take on roles that may, at times, be uncomfortable. Different viewpoints, especially approaches to solving problems, are healthy. Cross training, exposing employees to new assignments, including external functions, can only help in this area.
Hire for it
Consider the last person you hired: What did you ask? What skills did you look for? Were you more focused on the technical? Did you ask leading questions to determine if the candidate actually is or can be passionate about the profession or your company?
If not, how should the interview change? If the interviewer is left-brain dominant (analytical), how can he or she evaluate passion potential? Why not alter some of the interview’s approach or have one person focus on this specific tactic?
Don’t interfere with it
Once a passionate employee is hired, or a current employee’s passion is rediscovered, how can we foster this behavior?
Rather than continue with career tracks and promotions, what if we had these employees focus some time on areas of the highest business impact? What if we connected with people, internally and externally, who can help influence behaviors? What if we had passionate employees spend more time on projects that interest them, even if outside their job description? For instance, what if we engaged them more intentionally with clients and prospects?

The status quo isn’t sufficient. Since the Passion Above Regular employee will lead to more “wins,” business leaders must think differently to identify, encourage and direct initiatives to cultivate passion. In baseball a Wins Above Replacement of eight or more is an MVP. What Passion Above Regular would we need for an MVP?

Elliot N. Dinkin is the President and CEO of Cowden Associates Inc. Elliot’s strategic approach assists clients in the development of a total compensation benefit package that controls costs, adds efficiencies and enables the employer to attract, retain, motivate and keep employees engaged while meeting company objectives. Through his guidance, employers become more competitive by creating total compensation packages verses viewing benefits in silos.