Think of a time when you really loved your work. The work itself, not the team or organisation you belonged to. When you ask most people this question they think of a time when they were learning. If you want high levels of passion amongst employees you need to provide a situation where they are learning each day.

You can feel it. As you are learning new and interesting subject matter, as you are building your skills and confidence, the passion rises in you. Research has demonstrated for decades that the human brain evolved in order to become more and more capable in learning and adapting to new situations. Our brain rewards us when we learn by feeding us reward chemicals such as dopamine, which gives us a feeling of satisfaction and even exhilaration.

This is also why when people have been doing the same job the same way for a long period of time their levels of passion and engagement tend to decline. All things being equal if you measure levels of engagement of staff in this situation it will drop year by year until something happens to shake things up.

In 2015 SACS partnered with Deakin University to undertake what may be one of the biggest studies of staff engagement ever undertaken in Australia. Over 2600 people entered questionnaires measuring their levels of engagement as well as the behaviours of leaders which caused that engagement. We identified the 10 most important leadership behaviours which drive people’s levels of engagement, but one was particularly important for causing people’s levels of commitment to their work – the degree to which the leader created a learning environment.

This does not mean that leaders need to send people on courses. Of course external training can be extremely valuable but proves to be nowhere near as important a driver of staff learning as opportunities to learn on the job. So, if you want people to have passion then you need to create options such as:

  • Coaching from trusted leaders.
  • Mentoring from experienced colleagues.
  • Getting staff involved in improvement activities which cause them to build their skills.
  • Delegating to them and empowering them to take responsibility for new work.
  • Asking people what they would like to learn about and then providing in-house opportunities such as team activities to ensure that they learn these things.

Learning causes passion. If you would like to be able to measure the leadership behaviours mentioned in this article check our pages on Engagement Survey or 360 Degree Feedback Tool.

Andrew Marty