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Why prioritizing passion can be the key to talent growth

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Sue Urses
Sue Urses is the Chief Human Resources Officer and a member of the Global Leadership Team at Packsize, an industry-leading global provider of Right-Sized Packaging On Demand® solutions and products. Sue is an experienced HR leader with 35 years in the field, 16 of which have been in the technology and manufacturing space.

Rethinking recruiting doesn’t have to be complicated. Companies can make significant strides in their recruitment with a single sidestep: making the shift from searching exclusively for talent with particular skill sets to searching exclusively for talent who share the organization’s beliefs, values and motivations.

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Our recruiting philosophy at Packsize is rooted in a simple idea: Passion trumps skill sets. This is why feeding our employees’ passions is such a priority for us—because we believe that everything else can be taught. This shift in approach is the future of talent development.

When the 2022 U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%, the lowest since May 1969, Utah’s (where our company is headquartered) reached a low of 2.4%. Despite these formidable conditions, we managed to double our employee base without implementing costly incentives. The key to our success was philosophy of conscious cultivation.

Conscious cultivation: fostering a culture of mindfulness, empathy and self-awareness

Conscious cultivation is an intentional effort to create a supportive, compassionate, socially responsible and generally positive work environment. It is rooted in empathy. The goal of conscious cultivation is to nurture employee wellbeing, growth and engagement in a sustainable way.

Organizations continue to run a huge risk by investing time and resources into training people, only to have those people take their new skills and knowledge to another company. Oftentimes, this can be the result of employees feeling like their employer simply isn’t listening.

In these conditions, building loyalty to reduce churn is a good idea. We’ve embraced conscious cultivation in this way to ensure that our refreshed approach to recruiting nets long-term results.

All kinds of companies can embrace conscious cultivation so that their employees feel valued, respected and empowered to make positive contributions. The first step is identifying candidates who display an eagerness to learn. This can’t be taught, but you can certainly teach them the rest.

Fostering loyalty by creating a sense of belonging

According to research from Gartner, when organizations help their talent build connections intentionally, their employees are five times more likely to be on a high-performing team and 12 times more likely to feel connected to their colleagues.

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In other words, ensuring that employees feel like they belong generates massive dividends.

See also: 5 benefits of elevating employees in business decision-making

But creating a sense of belonging goes beyond whether or not a person “fits” a particular role. It also means making them feel like they are part of a team, that leaders appreciate their work and that they feel supported in advancing their professional development.

Fostering close relationships at work to grow talent

Implementing formal training programs for mentors and mentees is a great way to instill a sense of belonging for all employees. In order to do this at Packsize, we first had to consolidate our training team and then double down on our investment in developing our team members.

We then re-evaluated our existing training resources, identified gaps and designed the right programs to fill those gaps.

Work has changed in so many ways, but here’s one thing that will never change: Great leaders will always attract, hire and inspire great people. Our program is rooted in the deep belief that team members who work with inspirational and strong leaders are more likely to be engaged and want to stay with us.

Importantly, mentors should include both those who are new to a leadership role in general and experienced leaders who happen to be new to your organization.

Monitoring program effectiveness for talent growth

How do you know if your talent development efforts are working? KPIs like employee retention and turnover rates are important, but the most important metric is leaders’ ability for self-reflection. That’s where the real value is.

The catch? It requires the capability for leaders to individually monitor their own progress in real time.

Talent is demanding more—which is good

The goal of change is to achieve stability. It’s a good thing that expectations have changed in how people hunt for jobs and how they think about career progress. Adopting the conscious cultivation mindset is a fantastic way to broadly instill a guiding principle on your path to becoming a more resilient, innovative company.

Related: How and why to put ‘irresistible’ leadership into action

But rethinking approaches to recruiting and talent development won’t work if organizations don’t have the full support of their senior leadership. Conscious cultivation is rooted in empathy, and empathy is rooted in listening, which needs to be a priority for the executive team.

Before you learn how to articulate your beliefs and values, before you learn how to identify candidates differently, before you learn how to implement new talent development programs, before you learn how to adopt a new mindset, learning how to listen is the true first step to transformation.