Let's face it; not all people have their dream job. Many people become something entirely different than what they dreamt of as kids. If not, we'd have about a billion astronauts. As we grow older, our dreams evolve and our interests change and mature. Security, which once was provided by our parents, is now our responsibility, whether it's financial, housing or nutrition.

You have probably never heard any of your friends say:
"I'll just work as a starved artist until I'm 40 and then I'll find something stable like becoming a corporate accountant."

It's usually the other way around, people sacrificing their dreams until they're stable enough to follow their deep desires. We can assume this does not have a positive effect on the employee's engagement at work.

The first step to fix this is not to avoid hiring people (or firing people) for having dreams, but to acknowledge that some employees want to be doing something else. Figuring out what your employees are interested in can be turned into a massive strength for the company, increasing employee retention and even increase their engagement and productivity.

Let me introduce you to Hannah, a great developer at a medium-sized tech company in San Francisco. She went into the IT field because she's great with numbers and she was told that the IT business provides excellent job security and benefits.

But when Hannah was younger, she loved making beautiful desserts for her siblings and parents. Her dream was to study to become a pastry chef, but a chef's salary would probably not sustain her well enough in San Francisco.


So, she decided to learn how to become a programmer and decided to postpone her dream of becoming the worlds best pâtissier until she was financially stable. After all, it's not like she'd get used to a steady salary, worry-free weekends and having the nights off to meet up with her friends every time she wanted to. She eventually met the love of her life, and now she's well into her thirties with two daughters, a husband and a very cute Labrador named Zumbo.

Now, this is an opportunity. A big one. Not only should Hannah's employer support her to take classes in dessert making, but they should encourage her co-workers to go with her, or better yet pay for them to go. This policy ticks several boxes.

  1. Hannah becomes less distant and much happier at work.
  2. It broadens everyone's horizon, resulting in employees with more empathy.
  3. Shared experiences are a great way to get people talking and getting to know each other.
  4. By encouraging co-workers to take part in each other's interests, you are embracing a culture where friendly bonding matters.
  5. It shows Hannah and other coworkers that the company cares about creating a culture around nurturing passions, desires, and life fulfillment.

Gallup's been a leading force in researching employee engagement for the past decades. One of Gallup's cornerstones in increasing employee engagement is having a best friend at work.

Retaining employees is just as important as recruiting new ones, and designing a great employee experience is rapidly becoming the number one topic for HR professionals around the world. Shared experiences and increasing the feeling of belonging is a huge part of that.

We created Watchbox to help HR professionals foster a friendly work environment, where positive shared experiences among coworkers are highly valued. We see Hannahs every day! :)