Many in the corporate world lost their way after the Lehman Shock. In Japan, this feeling was compounded with the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A survey of 600 Japanese workers revealed a lack of passion that threatens productivity in Japan – and similar findings are likely in other countries as well.
The following article excerpts key findings from the survey and discusses methods that corporate leaders can use to increase and sustain passion in their workforce.
PASSION FOR WORK – Some 595 responses to a 2009 internet survey show that the majority of Japanese are not passionate about their job (Graph 1). 

Males between 30 and 39 showed the lowest level of passion, with 76.7% reporting as being unpassionate about their work (see Graph 2).

Several factors explain these results.

  • JOB AFFINITY – Few Japanese (only 16.8%) love their jobs. This number is low and most endemic among 30–39 year old males.
  • JOB CHANGE READINESS – The majority of Japanese workers (57.3%) want to change jobs. This number is very high and highest among workers 40–49 years old.
  • JOB MOTIVATION – Only 9.1% of workers are very motivated at work and 21.4% are not motivated at all. Males 30–39 years of age scored lowest (see Graph 3).

  • SENSE OF PURPOSE – 27.1% of Japanese have no sense of purpose for their work. This rate decreases with age.Further, 9.1% of Japanese find no meaning at all to their work, a figure highest for 30–39 year olds.
  • INFLUENCE OF PASSION ON SUCCESS AT WORK– 21.3% of Japanese, particularly those in their 30s, do not understand how passion impacts their success. While 58% of respondents stated passion is very important for success, males aged 40 and older consider passion more important than younger people do.
  • IMPORTANCE OF PASSION FOR RECRUITING – Most Japanese (94%) view passion as very important for recruiting.
  • INTEREST IN LEARNING ABOUT PASSION – 72.9% of Japanese havean interest in learning how to apply passion to their work.

How to Increase Passion with a Passion Management Approach
Companies need a systematic approach to supply a passion that satisfies different interests and stakeholders at all levels of the organization (corporate, division, department, team, individual).
Passion Management has the following elements:

  • Training for passion awareness
  • Change from top-down to self-management
  • Setting strong values
  • Inspiring visions and goals
  • Identifying passion
  • Measuring and tracking passion
  • Rotating jobs to ignite passion
  • Recruiting for passion

Training for Passion Awareness
The survey found 72% of Japanese want to learn how to apply passion to work. Companies would therefore benefit from training about the importance of passion.
Changing from from Top-Down to Self-Management
Companies need to change their management style to self-management. Employees should be encouraged to “work for yourself.”
A word of caution, complete self-management can be risky and lead to random activity. To align passion and productivity, companies need a strong vision and strong values.
Setting Strong Values
Without values, people feel value-less or worthless. Values provide meaning and create a powerful vision.
Inspiring Visions and Goals
Companies need the boldness, courage, and vision power of a leader like Steve Jobs. It's the president's responsibility to draw an inspiring corporate vision that pulls the entire organization to a desired direction. It's the managers' duty to set goals to achieve that vision. Such actions should be designed to invigorate employees into a passionate workforce.
Identifying Passion
Companies must clearly identify the passion of individual employees. People will love their work if they can do what they are passionate about. Managers often try to encourage, coach, train, or incentivize staff who are underperforming. These actions rarely mitigate the fact that workers are detached from their work. The survey found 18.3% of people aged 30 to 39 consider their work “boring.” Behavioral psychologist Frederick Herzberg was right when he said: “You cannot motivate anyone to do a good job unless he (or she) has a good job to do.”
Measuring and Tracking Passion
Companies need a Passion Measurement System to measure and sustain passion. Such evaluations should be standard in any project assessment. Furthermore, in addition to measuring the additional quality and profits an executive brings to a company, added passion too should be considered.
Rotating Jobs to Ignite Passion
Japanese companies need to improve their job rotation system. Blindly moving people can have serious and deleterious effects on passion. Instead, companies must develop career plans that match employees with their passions and provide opportunities to gain the corresponding skills.
Consider engineers at Honda Motor Corporation bored with developing motorbikes. They wanted to apply their expertise to new fields. Using this passion, Honda Motors has succeeded beyond motorcycles into automotive, power equipment, and jets.
Recruiting for passion
HR personnel and hiring managers need training on hiring for passion. This includes:

  • “Passion First” hiring procedures and mandatory new “must-be-passionate” requirements in job descriptions.
  • Hiring students on the basis of their specialization and individual passion and assigning them work accordingly.
  • Using additional tools for screening passion such as multimedia resumes.

If someone has low passion, why bring him into the organization? Hiring for passion will reduce employee turnover and the cost of searching and training replacements.
In Japan passion and motivation are at alarmingly low levels, hurting work productivity and company output. When hiring, companies need to emphasize not only skill, but also passion. Further, much like providing tools to learn new skills, companies should provide tools to rejuvenate passion. An important first step is for companies to reorganize themselves in a manner that prioritizes and measures passion.


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