Remember the last time a long-term employee left your organization? Remember all the valuable things he/she could do that weren’t required in their job specification? The unofficial event organizer, counselor, mediator, computer whizz, to name just a few. Sometimes the person is remembered more for those reasons than for the work they were paid to do. These types of attributes provide the glue that binds an organization together.

We all possess an amazing array of abilities, a unique mix of skills and talents, many of which come to the fore mainly when pursuing passionately-enjoyed leisure interests . Yet most businesses still focus on the skills and abilities stated on job specifications. Skills audits rarely ask, let alone encourage, “what skills and abilities do you enjoy using in your personal life?”

The work ethic has a lot to answer for, not because it dignifies work but because it has for generations demeaned leisure. Traditionally, business has seen leisure as virtually a competitor to work and work productivity. …”leisure is the opposite of work, it means doing nothing, lazing around”…”a waste of valuable money-making time”… “what my staff do in their own time is none of my business” (and, in terms of privacy rightly so, I hasten to add).

Certainly the pressures of modern living have caused people to re-evaluate the growing importance of leisure interests as part of stress management – the ‘fight and flight’ syndrome. But suggesting that leisure interests actually add to business capabilities – that’s not so easy for business to swallow.

Employees, in their personal lives, are responding to the massive changes affecting and developing their personal lives. For example, the person who uses the internet intensively at home, and devours everything new in social and mobile networking. Technology is an obvious example, there are of course many others. It’s not just the passion they have for their interests but the way their mind works when pursuing them.

Such personal skills can provide an amazing source of knowledge and abilities that could dramatically help the company grow if it was built into their business training and innovation programs.

I read recently of a progressive company giving staff paid time to work on any project they like, to see what opportunities the outcomes might create to help the company grow and prosper. To use one of my own expressions, when you lose yourself in an interest you love, you find yourself. You come alive, enthusiasm bubbles, creative thinking breaks free, goals are pursued. The person experiences a rise in self esteem, self belief, self confidence and their sense of self worth, creating a ripple effect that impacts positively on everything else they do. Fantastic potential for any business that thrives on being creative.

It’s time for business to formally recognize that the skills, talents and abilities needed to achieve its aims and maximize its growth don’t just come from work-centred training and development. Everything we do, at work, home, or play, affects everything else we do – again at work, home and play. We aren’t compartmentalized. Passion promotes potential and for many people, those experiences occur more often in personal interests than they do at work. To ignore that fact is a major loss to the workplace.

So how do you go about applying this philosophy without seeming to pry into employees’ private lives? You don’t have to be a Google office with lots of corporate-funded leisure facilities. Office-sponsored leisure facilities and events certainly have their place, but I tend to regard them as a band-aid measure because they only suit some staff interests some of the time. No one can decide how another person should enjoy themselves, or when to do so. It’s a very personal and powerful form of control in a world which is so much out of our control.

A powerful way to start is

* senior management, preferably the CEO, to let staff know the company recognizes the potential corporate benefits to be gained from encouraging staff to enjoy their person life, including following their passionate interests. Of course, it works best if the CEO practices what he/she preaches!
* Look at ways in which business projects can incorporate and utilize the talents and skills staff enjoy using in their favourite leisure pursuits.

By building into business’s workplace culture a philosophy of recognizing and encouraging people’s desire to pursue passionate leisure interests, you will be amazed at how much the company eventually gains:

* Awareness and use of an amazing array of personal skills and abilities that office-based training is otherwise likely to miss
* Greater commitment by staff to an organization that recognizes staff individuality and passions
* Greater marketplace recognition as being an employer of choice who attracts, retains, nurtures and sustains the right people for its business
* Reduced costs of excessive absenteeism, staff turnover, unproductive people management time, and more.

It’s also a great strategy for baby-boomer managers who want to improve relations with and commitment from gen x and y employees.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Nicholls is Australia's People Gardener - Growing Better People. His background is over 40 years of professional experience in recreation and leisure planning and development. Passion unlocks potential. Go to to explore this further.