How and Why to Include Creative Employees

“People don’t become leaders because they have charisma; people get charisma because they’re leaders,” Seth Godin, author of Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

According to a recent study of more than 12,000 U.S. and Canadian workers by global staffing firm Robert Half and Happiness Works, those in the creative and marketing occupations reported the highest levels of on-the-job satisfaction and interest in their work, compared to employees in the accounting and finance, administrative, legal, and technology fields.

“Company culture is a key contributor to employee happiness and a top consideration for job seekers,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “To attract and retain top talent, companies need to take a close look at what makes their corporate culture unique and enjoyable, and then promote it to potential employees.”

Here are four tips for managers to foster an attractive, authentic company culture with their creative employees:


Spoil Them & Let Them Fail

Like parents who celebrate their children’s mess: show your Creatives unconditional support by encouraging them to do the ridiculous and fail. Innovation comes from uncertainty, risk, and experimentation — if you know it will work, it isn’t creative. Creative people are natural experimenters, so let them try and test and play. Of course, there are costs associated with experimentation — but these are lower than the cost of NOT innovating.


Don’t Pressure Them

Giving people more freedom and flexibility at work typically enhances creativity. If you like structure, order, and predictability, you are probably not creative. However, we are all more likely to perform more creatively in spontaneous, unpredictable environments. Don’t constrain your creative employees; don’t force them to follow processes or structure. Let them work remotely and outside normal hours; don’t ask where they are, what they are doing, or how they do it. Take a cue from TV’s hit series Mad Men: the secret to managing Don Draper, and why he never went to work for a bigger competitor, is because he wasn’t restrained or limited. This is also why so many top athletes fail to make the transition from a small to a big team, and why business founders are usually unhappy to remain in charge of their business once a bigger company acquires it.


Surprise Them

Few things are as aggravating to Creatives as boredom. Indeed, creative people are prewired to seek constant change, even when it’s counterproductive. They take a different route to work every day, even if it gets them lost, and never repeat an order at a restaurant, even if they really liked it.

Creativity is linked to higher tolerance of ambiguity. Creatives love complexity and enjoy making simple things complex rather than vice-versa. Instead of looking for the answer to a problem, they prefer to find a million answers or a million problems. It is therefore essential that you keep surprising your creative employees; failing that, you should at least let them create enough chaos to make their own lives less predictable.


Make Them Feel Important 

As T.S. Eliot wrote, “most of the trouble in this world is caused by people wanting to be important.” The reason is that others often fail to recognize them. Fairness is not treating everyone the same, but treating everyone like they deserve to be treated. Every organization has high and low potential employees, but only competent managers can identify them. If you fail to recognize your employees’ creative potential, they will go somewhere where they feel more valued.

Remember, managing creative people can be challenging because Creatives are very independently-minded, and most don’t like being told what to do, so they’re not excited about being managed. As Dan Pink has pointed out, autonomy is highly correlated with creativity. If you micromanage creativity, you kill it.

Don’t forget that creativity is inherently unpredictable and risky, and to succeed, you will need to find a way of allowing people a certain amount of creative freedom while still maintaining control of the outcome, and of tolerating risk without letting it get out of control. Contact Peoplescape today to develop your strategy for managing the Creatives in your business.