When you think ‘employee engagement + creativity’ do you immediately picture a super awkward team-building exercise that requires the use of construction paper, Pritt and a ‘catchy slogan that describes your team spirit’. No? Whoops, sorry - only us then.
Suffice it to say, this article is not about that kind of creativity. Although, if you enjoy a nice bit of scrapbooking in your down time, more power to you - we hear it’s lekker relaxing.
Back to the matter at hand...
If you’ve been looking for a way to boost your team’s creativity, upping your employee engagement may very well be the silver bullet you need. We’re not just spitballing here either; there is plenty of evidence to back it up. Like this study that links empowering leadership and employee creativity, touching on the influence of psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation and creative process management. Or this report, which found that employee wellbeing increases performance and can be a source of growth, competitive advantage and innovation.
If you want to read up a bit more on the matter, we also suggest taking a look at this great article that details the relationship between innovation and strategy, and points out that managers can influence innovation culture by placing an emphasis on their employees.
Righto, if this were a tiny thesis, that would be our literature review all done and dusted. Let’s move on to the fun stuff, shall we? Here are a few ways you can improve your company culture to boost employee engagement and get those creative juices flowing to reinvigorate your team in real time:
How you can boost creativity by improving employee engagement:
Stop focussing on limitations
Highly engaged employees are high performing dynamos who go out of their way to get the job done, but even the most dynamo-y dynamoes are halted in their tracks when you start talking about a project by laying out the limitations in which they need to operate. While it may seem prudent from a business standpoint to draw certain lines in the sand, you don't want to stifle the creative flow even before you open things up for discussion.
Allow them to stretch their wings
One thing that increases engagement and boosts creativity like you would not believe, is giving your workforce the opportunity to stretch their wings. You may think that a given employee is overextending themselves when they propose to run with a new idea, but this is the time to let them have at it. It’s this kind of leadership that inspires discretionary effort.
Put the 'how' aside at first
When it comes to managing people as ‘human resources’ we often forget that we are dealing with individual employees who need the opportunity to grow together as a team. This is why creative endeavours in the workplace are so important - it gives them the chance to buddy up and work on something cool. To make room for this kind of behaviour, managers and team leaders need to let go of the word ‘how’ at first. Focussing on implementation and tactical applications are all good and well, but at the outset of a project you want to leave room for their imaginations to run wild.
Look at the results of almost any employee satisfaction survey and you will notice that one of the drivers of engagement that crops up consistently is diversity of scenery. People like to get out. No matter how stimulating your office or work environment may be, a change of scenery is always a nice way to blow out the cobwebs and get everyone a little excited. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive brainstorming weekend in the country either - you can simply head out to a nearby green space and park off under the trees on a sunny day. Go on - see what a difference it makes.
Shuffle the deck
When teams function synergistically, employers and employees are happy, customer satisfaction skyrockets and business outcomes are generally shiny and happy. This is why it is so important to ensure that the teams within your enterprise are varied and well-balanced in equal measure. Sometimes you may want to take the time to shuffle the deck a little for special projects, to see if new combinations of people could spark new-found creativity.
You can read more here 👉5 Ways employee engagement can create teams of operational excellence
Remove 'but' from your vocab for a while
If you truly want to drive employee engagement and boost employee satisfaction throughout your business, you may want to try removing the word ‘but’ from your vocabulary for a while. This may not seem like a ground-breaking employee engagement strategy, but you’d be surprised at how effective it can be! This doesn't mean you have to agree with everything an employee proposes, but it forces you to affirm instead. E.g. instead of going 'but, we can't, or 'but it's very expensive', you'd go 'yes, and' while still making your point. It's a small shift in ideation, but this keeps the conversation flowing without stopping an idea in its tracks.
Ease up on the micromanagement
Give your people room to breathe and do their jobs without you hovering around them like a super angsty helicopter. When you allow your team the opportunity to find their own groove and streamline their processes in accordance with their own strengths, you’d be amazed at how creative they can be.
Make failure less scary
Focus on recognising and rewarding the wins, rather than denouncing the losses. When employees are scared to fail, they are scared to try. This is a recipe for stagnation if there ever was one. When people are unwilling to shake up the status quo because they are afraid of a public lambasting, or heaven forbid losing their job, they will always, always play it safe by colouring inside the lines. This is the very opposite of what you need when you’re trying to drive innovation.
You can read more here 👉 5 Reasons why social recognition is a powerful engagement strategy
Be ready to provide direction
Yup, we’re going to contradict ourselves. Now that you’re ready to back off and provide your team with the space to do their thing, we’re also going to request that you hang out in the wings to provide some guidance should they ask for it. It’s a little like taking your toddler to the park - you’ve got to let them run around and develop those gross motor skills while they interact with their peers, but you also have to be on hand if they should fall flat on their face off the monkey bars. In cases like these, metaphorical and otherwise, it is also not the done thing to say ‘I told you so’. This is the time to patch up whatever needs patching up, give them a little pep talk and send the back out there to play some more.
Tread carefully around those dreams
When an employee comes to you with a new idea or direction, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ve spent plenty of time polishing it. It’s their baby. Even if you don’t see room for it to be implemented straight away, go gently; don’t shoot it down out of hand. Take the time to listen to their proposal, find out exactly how they envision it all fitting together and truly listen. You might well end up using a component of the idea, or reworking it into something more applicable. In short - be nice.
So, to sum it all up - if you want to promote creativity in the workplace at the hand of improved employee engagement you'll need to walk a fine line between providing direction and allowing for experimentation. Remove limitations, allow your employees to experiment without fear of failure, change scenery when you can, don't focus on the 'how' straight off the bat, shuffle the deck and, above all, be nice. It's a lot to keep straight, but we know you can do it!
Did this resource blow your hair back? Excellent! We’re planning on sharing more of the good stuff right here.
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