If your employees are like most of the respondents to an international survey conducted by Gallup, twice as many of them are unhappy than happy in their jobs. Not only does workplace satisfaction have a direct impact on expenses for recruiting, hiring and retention, unhappy employees can derail productivity, workplace culture and customer experience.
One way to thwart the likelihood that your employees loathe each day on the job? Give them the freedom to be creative in their roles.
Giving Employees Flexibility to Be Creative
Here are a few reasons why giving employees the flexibility to be creative can transform your workplace — and how to do it.
Set the stage.
Sitting at a desk doesn’t necessarily induce a feeling that “the sky’s the limit,” but you can give employees a mental refuge by taking a cue from Google, which has common areas sprinkled throughout its campus to provide employees with a place to change gears and their perspectives.
Whether they use the rooms to think, relax, brainstorm or chat, they’re physically free of the constraining environments of closed meetings rooms and conference tables. As a result, they can change their mood — and their thinking. Any business can provide a space that inspires creativity with something as basic as a room with futons, fluffy cushions, a comfy rug, interesting paint colors, games and gadgets.
Establish a time for mental recess.
Though your employees are presumably more equipped to practice mental discipline than children, who are given recess in order to burn off energy and refocus, adults also need an opportunity to think outside of their pressing “to-do” lists to start thinking about new ways of problem-solving in their jobs.
As science writer Jonah Lehrer explained in a 2012 NPR story on the science behind workplace creativity, the idea of a daily workplace recess has proven successful for 3M, which gives its engineers time out of each day to spend however they wish, as long as they later share with colleagues what they worked on for that hour. Not only does the break give employees a chance to refresh their mental batteries, it communicates a sense of trust between company and employee. As a result, they’re more likely to want to work with an employer as a partner, versus feeling like a “worker bee.”
Give employees at every level the opportunity to create.
Employees in “creative” fields like design, engineering and marketing usually have the opportunity to share their creative input, but as Lehrer also told NPR, those who aren’t in a creative role often have the most important input to share, given their exposure to the “front lines” of the business.
By establishing a norm that everyone in the organization is invited to share ideas free of judgment, you can increase the collective sense of accountability as well as the degree to which employees at all levels feel respected and appreciated by the organization.
Honor results more than face time.
It’s easy to spot the employees who have a “clock in, clock out” mentality, but if your organization places high importance on arriving and leaving the office at defined start and end times, these employees are behaving in the exact way your organization has implicitly stated, or indirectly implied, is required.
To inspire a culture of creativity, focus your organizational emphasis on results, not basic task completion.
Though you don’t have to go for a total “results-only work environment” (which allows employees to come and go whenever they want, as long as they’re producing results), the ideology is an important shift in growing a culture of employees who feel empowered, important and fulfilled in their work.
In addition to ensuring that managers behave in a way that reinforces the idea that true engagement is more important than simply being present, performance reviews should reflect a similar ideology.
Freedom to Create
Giving employees the freedom to create may represent a shift in your current operations, but given the payoff that it can provide in reduced human resources overhead and a competitive advantage in innovation and customer service, it’s likely a risk worth taking.
So how are you doing as a leader to give your employees the freedom and flexibility to be creative? What are some steps you can take now to insure a better bottom-line by have more people doing the things they love? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay
She serves in the Bankcard Industry in Direct Sales, Sales Management and Marketing
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More and more, it seems like it is the supervisor who is so bogged down with tasks and meetings and measures and reports and all that junk that they see the RISK of allowing any innovation or creativity as a workplace reality.
Until we encourage and engage the supervisors, they will operate as effective roadblocks to organizational improvement.
I play with this theme of engagement all the time. See my posters and quips at http://www.poemsontheworkplace.com, for example.