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How business leaders can cultivate creative employees

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In today’s disruptive era, embracing creativity is important for every industry, and in all aspects of the economy, not just in the creative businesses sector. Companies are increasingly looking for new ways to stimulate a culture of creativity and innovation amongst their employees in order to gain a competitive edge.

So here are some best practice methods on how to hire creatively, incentivise creativity in the workforce, why it’s important to consider office surroundings and why employers should factor in flexibility to foster creativity.

Hire creativity

According to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: “The real competitive advantage in any business is found in one word only, which is ‘people’.” It is usually successful businesses that actively recruit creative, industrious and entrepreneurial employees. The creatives amongst us are able to think innovatively to solve problems, spot new opportunities and come up with fresh ideas.

To attract creative people, bosses should think of themselves as offering not just a job but a challenge and an opportunity too. Creative people love to unravel a puzzle and put it back together in new ways. They are also drawn to roles that foster personal growth and development.

Perhaps the best way to appeal to creative minds is at the hiring stage. Rather than a formal setting with an intimidating panel of judges, interviews should be thought of as a conversation, albeit a structured one, leaving both parties feeling at ease.

A structured conversation, as opposed to a structured interview, provides a broader picture of their interests and allows their real personality to shine through. Obviously, it’s really important that candidates have the relevant experience and key competencies, but as far as possible, this should be identified before an interview takes place.

Office Space in Town co-founders Giles and Niki Fuchs, personally meet each potential hire. It was refreshing to sit in my interview which felt more like a conversation than an interrogation, talking about my favourite subject, me! A delightful change from feeling like a candidate on The Apprentice! It was refreshing that these two highly professional and successful leaders were so friendly and approachable.

It helped sell the company to me, and demonstrate a genuine opportunity to use my creative skills.

Incentivise creativity

Encouraging a culture of creativity and collaboration is essential to business success. A recent report by Adobe and Forrester Consulting found that companies actively fostering creative thinking outperform rivals in revenue growth, market share and competitive leadership. Managers need to give employees the time and space to think creatively and collaboratively, including staff off-sites, team building activities and staff socials.

Some of the companies best known for a creative approach are Google, LinkedIn and Facebook, which actively encourage employees to try new methods, even if they might not be winners. The philosophy behind this being that if a project is a failure, it can still challenge incorrect assumptions and expose underlying issues.

We creativity at the core of the business. Senior management actively encourages staff at all levels to try new approaches and welcomes ideas from across the business. The rationale behind this is that someone from the finance team might have an excellent idea for marketing (or vice versa!), and cross-company meetings and brainstorms are used to stimulate creative cross-fertilisation.

Provide a range of workspaces

Research shows creative and innovative employees are those with a greater choice of work spaces. That’s why the major tech giants invest huge sums of money in office spaces to include plenty of breakout spaces, garden areas, large kitchens and hot desking options. Employees tend to be more creative when they can collaborate or be in spaces that best suit their working style.

We implement a similar philosophy. We actively encourage clients to use not only the break out spaces, meeting rooms and rooftop terraces in their own building but also those in our other locations. We call it the “access all areas” policy.

Make your office comfortable

Feeling comfortable in a workplace is key to fuelling creativity, according to Ruth Sacks, a lecturer at Westminster Business School. She believes being relaxed helps encourage creativity, due, in part, because, “many creative thoughts are triggered unconsciously. This is why being able to step away from everyday activities helps open the mind to new ideas.”

At Google, employees are encouraged to work wherever they feel most comfortable. Technology has liberated us to be able to work from any space – whether that’s a rooftop café with an inspiring view, or a cosy corner.

Be flexible: flexibility fosters creativity

It’s important for managers to become more aware that people have different working styles not just different working lives. Some are most productive early in the morning, others prefer to work in a noisy environment and some prefer to hotdesk. Google, for example, has experimented with working patterns linked to an individual’s biorhythms in an attempt to maximise both productivity and creativity.

To attract and retain creative thinkers, companies must be flexible and adaptive. As Gen Z begins to enter the workplace looking for choice and challenge, the employers that actively foster creativity will be the ones that win in the future

Matthew Wright is marketing specialist at Office Space in Town

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