How to Make Passion Projects a Priority


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If efficiency, productivity, and forward motion are top priorities for your company (and they should be), you need highly engaged employees. You might even say they should be so engaged that they can’t wait to get to work in the morning. But while this might be every manager’s dream, it’s often difficult to achieve.

How can you keep employees engaged, eager, and happy to be at work? The answer is in what I call passion projects. These projects are work-related, interest-tailored assignments that employees work on for blocks of time each day that benefit the company as a whole and give employees something to take ownership in.

Your Staff Is an Asset — Not a Liability

When you view an employee as an asset instead of a liability, it’s easier to think of ways to make that asset work best for the company. Often the best work happens when managers get out of the way long enough to let their employees do what they’re good at.

People who are inspired to come to work each day are more engaged with customers. Give your employees the opportunity to work on passion projects to foster this engagement. They’ll work more effectively and efficiently if they know they have time to spend on projects they’re invested in.

Making Passion Projects Part of the Workday

Before our employees are free to work on their passion projects, they go through a course to learn how to pitch projects and organize new ideas. With every idea, they complete an exercise to clarify how it will benefit the company. They can pitch management on their idea, and management helps coach them as they work on their projects. We also set aside three hours a day for every individual to work on passion projects: one block in the morning and one in the afternoon. Employees are happy to come to work when they know their passion projects await them.

Starting from Scratch

If you don’t already have something like this in place in your organization, it could be hard to revamp an entire company-wide schedule overnight. Here are some tips to get you moving:

• Start small.
Three hours a day is a large amount of time to work on passion projects, especially in the beginning. Start with a smaller timeframe and increase it as people get used to regularly working on projects and begin thinking of new ways to add value to the company.

• Provide guidance.
People who rarely communicate their ideas will need some coaching in this area. If your employees are insecure about sharing new ideas, plan and implement ways you can get them to open up. Group brainstorm sessions or casual one-on-one meetings might do the trick.

• Allow for mistakes.
The overall benefits and return for the company will more than compensate for small mistakes and failed projects that happen as a result. The less scared people are of failure, the more they’ll take beneficial risks.

• Reap the benefits.
Our company has produced valuable practices and products as a result of this process. We all get to spend less time on tedious work and more time being creative and advancing the company.

If you sense that your employees drag themselves to work every day or are desperate for a Starbucks double shot, you need a change in routine. Your employees need a way to grow those little ideas brewing beneath the surface into valuable opportunities. If you give them that chance, you’ll get the pleasure of working with loyal people who love their jobs, and you’ll have a company that is passionate about growth.

Lena Requist
Lena Requist established herself as a powerful force in business before joining ONTRAPORT as COO in 2009. Her background in corporate finance and successful business building has helped to grow the ONTRAPORT organization 5,000 percent, landing ONTRAPORT at No. 102 on the 2012 Inc. 500 list. Lena has a passion for helping female entrepreneurs and is the founder of a virtual Women in Business group, where empowered women can share their strengths, struggles, and triumphs with each other. Connect with Lena on Google+.


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