Origami paper birds flight abstract background.A few years ago, there was an article circulating on the social media circles about a software company that had hired an artist to lead its customer service department. Because this artist kept hours outside of the regular workday, was able to find creative solutions to problems and constantly thought outside the box, the profit margins of the company increased dramatically. The point of the article was to open our eyes to a new way of doing business: honoring the individual.

In 1965, Gordon E. Moore observed that technology and innovation grow exponentially – an observation that directly affects the world of economics and social change. Companies are eager to not only keep up with innovation, but also to anticipate, create and capitalize on it. A business’s bottom line has always been a key factor in motivating the innovation race. What if there is another way? What if there is a way to align this exponential development with, not just financial gain, but also individual passion and fulfillment?

As they try to keep up, businesses are finding that the traditional expectations of corporate behavior are not necessarily getting them where they need to go. Instead, companies are finding that exploring and embracing the individual talents and skills of their employees can mean faster growth and more money. It may sound counterintuitive, but studies have shown that employees are interested in much more than simply bringing home a paycheck. A key motivating factor for workplace productivity is actually the chance to contribute to society – to give back and impact the world in a positive and personal way.

Business leaders can cultivate this personal connection by spotlighting the strengths and passions of the individual and bringing meaning to the workplace. While everyone in an organization may be on board with the company’s mission, it is only when one feels that his or her personal strengths are recognized as contributing to the fulfillment of that mission that genuine job satisfaction can occur. This contribution can become a catalyst to move the company forward – a catalyst that is defined by more than compensation.

Are you aware of what your employees are involved in outside of work? What they are most passionate about?

Is it worth taking the time to ask the question?

Sometimes, even within the breakdown of job descriptions, we can help our co-workers identify smaller projects that may speak to their personal passions and connect them to the workplace on a much more invested level.  And companies who can do this can also win big time.

A recent study found that many African American employees in Fortune 500 companies are deeply involved as leaders in their communities through church or civic activities. However, not only do most of them not discuss this involvement at work, many of them feel they need to hide it. They are getting real-life, hands-on experience as leaders outside of work, yet because their companies do not create an environment where they are encouraged to share this experience, their organizations miss out on a vastly untapped pipeline for leadership.

Tamara is the CEO of a non-profit organization. When the company decided to rebrand, she sat down with each of her core executives and asked them one question, “What specifically are you passionate about?” Her goal was to build the company’s new brand out of the vested interests of its key players, giving each executive an avenue within their job descriptions that would serve them both financially as well as personally. The result was that her employees were self-directed, eager to contribute and motivated by more than the bottom line. They believed their presence made a difference.

In the end, leadership does not mean constantly guiding employees towards the goals of the organization. It means finding incentives for employees to guide themselves and each other towards these goals. Imagine being able to harness the passion and dedication that your co-workers exhibit in their personal lives by giving them the space and opportunity to shine within the work environment.

Combining the personal investment of the individual with an overall belief in the social contribution of the organization can spark the kind of growth that cannot be created through financial motivation alone. Personal fulfillment – the kind someone seeks when they volunteer for leadership positions at church or at a local non-profit – does not have to be separate from an income-driven environment. It can actually drive the workplace just as powerfully, as long as there are opportunities created where that fulfillment can occur.