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Beyond Engagement: How to Inspire Work Passion

Jason Diamond Arnold

October 20, 2022

By now you’ve heard and read about the latest HR topic, quiet quitting. While the phrase “quiet quitting” is new and trendy, the topic of disengaged employees has been a significant issue in the workplace for well over a decade, replacing an older catchphrase “Quit and Stay.”

In the latest phase of the employee engagement crisis, human resources professionals are using the term “quiet quitting” to describe employees who simply aren’t engaged in their work — but have decided not to join the Great Resignation — doing the bare minimum to simply retain their job amid a sea of personal and social changes. There are many ways to describe this latest human resource trend, but what’s really at the heart of quiet quitting is an old business challenge — how do we keep our employees engaged? But you may consider a question even more meaningful for your organization — how do we help our employees experience a passion for their work?

Today’s Big Business Problem: Lack of Engagement

Engagement has been a significant business problem since the dawn of the information age, from which the knowledge worker has emerged. The engagement slump has worsened over the last two years, down from 36% of employees engaged in 2020 to 32% of employees engaged in 2022. What is more alarming is the fact that actively disengaged employees have risen from 14% in 2020 to 17% in 2022. Even though these numbers look small on the surface, consider that a 4% drop in employee engagement and a 3% rise in disengagement are significant when you consider the economic damage disengaged employees can cause to your organization. 

Even at the high-water mark of 36% employee engagement in 2020, you still only have about one-third of employees truly engaged in their work. This remains one of the major business issues of the 21st century because engaged workers are more productive and are more likely to stay with the organization in the long term, resulting in significant positive business results.

To overcome the engagement crisis, employers need to inspire more healthy, productive work experiences that get to the hearts and minds of employees. Organizations need to seriously consider how to move their employees from “quiet desperation,” into a passionate pursuit of critical business outcomes.

How Traditional Engagement Surveys Fall Short

There are numerous strategies for improving an employee experience that directly impacts employee engagement. But understanding how engaged your employees are shouldn’t be a once-a-year assessment, it should be part of continuous conversations taking place in your organization. Leaders at every level of the organization need to know the pulse of their employees in real time. Without meaningful and accurate employee engagement data, it’s impossible for leaders to understand their organization's most important asset: their people.

But traditional engagement surveys often don’t tell the whole story when it comes to the employee experience. The problem is, most employee engagement surveys are one-dimensional and fail to provide a complete picture of how the individual thinks and feels about the organization and their work. 

In their breakthrough research, The Employee Work Passion Company has discovered that most engagement surveys today don’t measure the complete employee experience. That’s because most employee engagement surveys only measure one of two foundational aspects of the employee experience — either the employee’s feelings about their job commitment (burnout, well-being) or their organizational commitment (intent to stay, intent to endorse) as it relates to the work they are doing. Most of today’s employee engagement surveys don’t measure all of these aspects of the employee experience within your organization.

Beyond Engagement Through Employee Work Passion 

To gain a deeper understanding of an employee’s work experience, organizations need to go beyond simply ensuring employees are engaged, and into a culture that cultivates a passion for the work they are doing for the organization and its clients. There are two critical factors that make up an employee’s work passion — their intellectual (cognitive) and emotional (affect) feelings about various aspects of their work experience. Furthermore, for the benefit of the organization and the individual employee, a good engagement assessment seeks to understand an employee’s passion (their deepest intentions) for both the organization (culture) and the job (roles and goals) they are performing within that organization. Only with a complete understanding of the employee experience can you begin to gain deeper insights into what inspires or keeps an individual from thriving in work.

The Definition of Employee Work Passion

Employee work passion (EWP) is a continual assessment of an individual employee’s thoughts and feelings about a variety of job and organizational factors that influence their work intentions and behaviors.

The Employee Work Passion Assessment 

There are 12 critical factors that influence the intentions of an employee’s sense of their work experience. These factors, gleaned from years of employee engagement and work passion research, are understood in three overarching categories: organizational, job, and relationship factors. These factors are measured through the Employee Work Passion Assessment (EWPA), typically done on an annual basis throughout the organization. The factors can also be measured through continual performance management pulse surveys, which are often aligned with a regular performance cadence throughout the year.

Organizational Factors of Work Passion

The four organizational factors of the EWPA are Distributive Justice, Procedural Justice, Growth Opportunities, and Performance Expectations.

Job Factors of Work Passion

The four job factors of the EWPA include Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Workload Balance, and Task Variety.

Relationship Factors of Work Passion

Rounding out the EWPA factors are five relationship factors that include Connectedness With Colleagues, Connectedness With Leaders, Collaboration, and Feedback

While traditional surveys fall short of delivering the full picture of employee engagement, the Employee Work Passion Assessment is more valuable to an organization and the employee because it goes deeper into the heart and mind of an employee. With this data, leaders can better identify where employees are thriving or struggling and make informed decisions, changing policies, offering support, or exploring solutions that may be keeping the employee from thriving.


To take a proactive approach to employee engagement — and by extension, retention, optimal performance, and other business success metrics — employers need actionable data that tells the full story of how an employee is doing at work. With employee work passion, leaders can go beyond the kind of data they typically have access to in order to gain a fuller understanding of what’s driving or limiting engagement in their organization. Employee work passion also allows individuals to clearly express their work intentions in an environment that inspires passion about the work they are engaged in.


Special thanks to our partner

Dobie Houson, Founding Partner