Why Having a Passionate Workforce Matters

Create Harmonious Passion

FresnoFirst Fresno Bank has five core values: loyalty, service, flexibility, local focus, and passion.

When their key employees are asked if one of the core values is most important, almost everyone says passion. They maintain that passion is the driver for the other core values and for success of the business.

Researchers Robert Vallerand and Nathalie Houlfort say passion is a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, find important, and in which they will invest their time and energy.

Isn’t passion what we want out of our employees and team members?

Vallerand and Houlfort also introduce the concept of harmonious passion in which the inclination is autonomous, as opposed to controlled or forced, and this leads individuals to engage in the activity that they like. In other words, harmonious passion is a passion that is not forced or contrived. It comes from within the person and it is in alignment with other aspects of a person’s life.

Research suggests that when harmonious passion exists in an individual’s life, that individual will engage in a task in a more flexible manner, better focus on the task, experience task engagement more fully, and be positively impacted by the task. In addition, employees are more likely to show more persistence in their work, both in the short and long term. Finally, work performance is likely to be higher when the employee is passionate.

Companies like Fresno First Bank, who have built a passionate workforce, illustrate this is true.

How do you create a passionate workforce?

Research by Dr. Joan Finley, a graduate of our sister doctoral program in organizational development, shows four conditions are required to activate passion.

  1. Inspiration – leaders should create an inspiring mission for the company. By capturing the imagination of their employees, and collaborating with employees toward achieving this goal, passion can be activated.
  2. Passion readiness – In order to create passion readiness, leaders should help employees become aware that there is a value congruence between the employee’s values and the company’s values. In addition, employees need to recognize opportunities for success, compassion and joy.
  3. Social connectedness – When employees socially connect with like-minded people, passion is more likely to follow. Employees should be focused on the same goals and have a sense of collaboration. Leaders, through communication of company values, culture and goals, can facilitate this process.
  4. Awareness of positive impact – People seem to have an innate need to positively impact the world around them. Leaders should take a holistic view of how their companies impact the communities in which they operate, whether it be products, environmental.

Turning back to First Fresno Bank, one can begin to see why passion is the dominant value of the organization. When harmonious passion is activated, the connection to the bank’s other values of loyalty, service, flexibility and local focus become apparent. Activating passion within the bank increases higher adherence to the other values. With all of the values in operation, the bank’s potential for success is increased. All stakeholders of the bank – employees, owners, the community – are positively impacted.


Dr. Kevin Lynch is Leadership Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. As a practitioner, academic and consultant, Kevin specializes in assisting organizations that are experiencing rapid change, particularly with regard to strategic growth decisions, and the implementation of appropriate organizational infrastructure. Before joining the Center, Kevin was a senior executive in the real estate industry. He also is co-owner of Williams and Hall, a wilderness canoe outfitting business in Ely, Minnesota.


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