As companies continue to grapple with an ongoing labor shortage and record-setting quit rates, leaders and HR professionals are left wondering how to attract and retain talent for positions from the entry-level or early career all the way to the C-suite. New research from ADP Research Institute and Marcus Buckingham suggests that traditional approaches to attracting and retaining talent miss a crucial element: love of work. When people love just 20% of what they do, Buckingham suggests, they are more likely to stay, remain engaged in their work, and become alumni employees who care about and promote their former employers.
How can companies cultivate this “Love+Work” ethos?
1. Consider Love+Work Aspirational
Talking about competencies and outcomes requires a common language, and that takes time to develop. “If you try to give steak to a baby, it’s not going to work,” says Daniel Stewart, President. “There’s an aspect of maturity to this.” As a company becomes more mature, a common language can develop, and leaders and employees can start to tailor work in more customized ways. “Taking small steps toward the ideal is not bad as long as we keep advancing,” says Stewart.
2. Use Assessments
One obstacle to helping people design work they love is that often, people don’t know what they love. “It takes time for people to discover what they like, what they don’t like, what they are really good at, what they’re good at but don’t want to do, and so on,” says Kristin Derwinski, Executive Consultant and Coach. “There’s a lot there, and helping people discover it is not a natural leadership skill.” Using assessments such as StrengthsFinder, leaders and employees can start narrowing down the specific aspects of the work they love.
3. Understand the Complications
Figuring out what they love to do isn’t always easy for employees. “It’s all about self-discovery, and there’s a spectrum on how long that might take someone to do it right,” says Erin Ellis, Executive Consultant, and Coach. “It might take a week, or it might take months or a year.” She also points out that sometimes finding what one loves may introduce uncertainty into work. “It can take courage to undergo that self-discovery. Often, people don’t want to admit what they love or don’t love. They might fear they’ll put their jobs at risk,” she says. Designing work people love is not a simple equation or input/output process; it’s something that requires patience, transparency, and trust.
4. Start Leaders Early
Trying to train leaders how to help their direct reports design work they love looks at the problem from the wrong angle. “This is an idea that should start brewing long before someone has direct reports,” says Taura Prosek, Director, Business Development. “Start building this skillset and encouraging the ideas early in the career.” By getting people to think about the Love+Work idea as early as possible in their careers, leaders and their direct reports will be more likely to find the work they love as they grow.
5. Look at the Bigger Picture
Much of designing work people love comes down to mission, values, purpose, and personal relationships—the human side of work. “You may not love making fifty copies of a packet for me, but if it’s for a big meeting that will help secure our funding, you might do it because you value the bigger mission of our team,” says Prosek.
6. Break It Down
Buckingham suggests three questions to help determine what people love, but Peter Stewart recommends breaking those questions down even further. For example, “Was I excited to work every day last week?” might be too broad a question for someone. “Break it down to, ‘if you were excited, what part of the day made you excited? What were you doing?’” says Stewart, Managing Partner.
7. Bring it Back to Culture
Many leaders may look at the requirements of some jobs in their organization and wonder how to make those jobs into something people love. However, it’s not always about the specific roles or duties of one’s position. “Companies should focus on creating an environment and culture people love,” says David Thurston, Director, Business Development. “What are the elements of that environment and culture that everyone will love?” By focusing less on employees' specific jobs and duties and more on a healthy, engaging culture, leaders can create a place where everyone can find something to love.
There is no perfect formula for a workplace or job. However, integrating the idea of loving our work into an overall approach to development, engagement, and retention can help everyone across functions and roles craft work that they love for the long-term—and create stronger, more successful organizations with a clear purpose in the process.
- Do I know how my team members feel about their work? If not, how can I improve employee surveys to gather this information?
- Does my team have a general sense of engagement and purpose? Are we generally connected with each other?
- What is one thing I can do to encourage team members toward work they love?