We have all received the message that in order to compete in today’s economy we need to be more innovative. Innovative hiring means bringing on “creative” employees, but exactly what sort of “creative” people do we need to attract, hire, and retain?
Creative does not necessarily refer to “idea people” who sometimes overlook practicality and relevant execution processes. With innovative people we need to find, not just the merely creative, but rather people who are creative, yet practical: the doers, not just thinkers, who understand that creating real value in the marketplace, and capturing some of that value, are crucial business objectives.
With innovative employees in place, the question becomes how can management foster an innovative environment? Consider these points:
Provide a connection
A personal connection to the company’s mission statement and values is a much bigger deal than most executives realize. Creative employees do not work solely to earn a paycheck. Being a part of something bigger than ourselves and belief that what we do matters, creates fulfillment and intrinsic satisfaction.
Be challenging yet flexible
Do your employees have time to consider better ways of doing what they do? If everything is nailed down and carefully monitored, you’re squeezing out everyone’s creative impulses. My dad, who owned and operated a semi dealership and transportation company told me, “Surround yourself with smart people and never stop learning…that’s the key to leadership.” Creative people crave challenging opportunities to live in the “fear zone” and stretch.
Don’t cook in a messy kitchen
Have you been avoiding certain personnel or relationship issues? There is no room for hidden agendas in an innovative team environment. In this new economy, the so-called “soft” skills are the new “hard” skills. Trust and transparency will never be attained if employees are flying solo. Cut your losses or prevent conflict by addressing things immediately. Don’t let things fester or avoid handling conflict.
Being too serious can impede productivity. The Harvard Business Review cites research showing that highly effective managers use twice as much humor as their average counterparts. Laughter is contagious.
Creativity and innovation are about trying new things that haven’t been done before. Inevitably, not all attempts will succeed, so you have to allow people to fail. If you respond to a failure with, “Don’t do that again!” the result will be no more thinking outside the box. You can’t eliminate all risk from new ideas, so focus on managing that risk by setting appropriate boundaries and implementing them thoughtfully, leaving some room to experiment and even play a little.
Do these things and word will get out. I have seen companies change cultures and enhance its ability to attract, retain, and develop a talented work-force. These strategies will also re-energize the employees you already have. What is especially reassuring is that none of these ideas compromise business objectives and can ultimately enhance your success.