Finding ways to foster workplace creativity and innovation isn’t easy. But, if you want your company to thrive, you must empower employees to achieve great things. In doing so, they will likely take on responsibilities and roles that extend beyond their job description. This cycle of creativity and innovation is one you want to foster and maintain in order to see your company prosper.
If you’d like to see more of this in your workplace, here are some effective ways to amp up creativity and innovation in any office environment:
Be the leader they need
No one has a more important role than the leader when it comes to cultivating innovation and creativity. As a leader, if you show that you are invested in your team and their contributions, they will stay motivated.
On the flip side, if your employees continually come to you with new ideas that get pushed aside or forgotten about, they will stop bringing them altogether. Always set aside time to talk through everything and figure out how and if new ideas can be implemented. If they can’t, make sure they know new ideas are still appreciated — even just a simple thank you will do!
To take it one step further, you may also consider offering incentives or rewards. This could be gift cards, bonuses, or public/private recognition to make your team feel like you appreciate their ideas and that it pays off to share them.
Look at the bigger picture
If you’re just beginning to foster a more creative an innovative workplace, you may need to spur some ideas at first. One way to do this may be to identify company goals and outline tasks that employees can do to help the company achieve those goals.
These goals may be tied to increasing productivity and efficiency, profits, or team collaboration. By putting your employees in charge of a clear directive that will directly impact the company’s bottom line, you can empower them to make a difference.
Make sure you’re not just assigning extra responsibilities to your team, though. Clearly explain all of the goals and tasks, and then let your employees willingly raise their hands to take leadership of something. This way they will be able to choose something they are personally passionate about, leading to much better results.
Provide a workspace conducive to creativity
Google has slides, a fireman’s pole and napping rooms. Real estate investment firm Fundrise has an office dog, Zappa. Student hub, Chegg, has a lifesize chess set. Discovery commerce platform Birchbox hosts in-office concerts. The possibilities for making your workplace more conducive to creativity and innovation are endless!
Add bright colors, out-of-the-ordinary office furniture, and fun office activities to help employees get the creative juices flowing. If a slide or dog isn’t realistic, consider a ping pong table, a mini fridge stocked with beer, or a simple paint job to bring color to the office.
Encourage new ideas from everyone
You may think that all of your employees with good ideas are vying for your attention and making their new ideas known to the entire office. But it is possible that there are a few people with great ideas that feel they have no way to share them.
For your less outspoken employees, offer a suggestion box in which employees can submit their ideas quietly. Also, try to make a point to connect with the more quiet team members by taking them out to lunch or meeting with them so they feel they can share their ideas privately.
When someone mentions workplace diversity, we tend to think quotas and politics. However, diversity can have a significant and positive impact on creativity and innovation in your workplace.
If you’ve cultivated an environment in which everyone thinks the same way and tends to agree with the same things, it is going to be very difficult to get a well-rounded pool of ideas. Plus, where’s the fun in that?!
During the hiring process, consider the background and experience you already have on your team and make sure you are focused on bringing in talent with something new and fresh to offer.
Extend beyond expectations
To cultivate an innovative environment in which employees are driven to go beyond their job descriptions, cross-training can be very useful. Cross-training involves teaching an employee who was hired to perform one job function the skills required to perform other job functions.
Remember: There is a fine line between empowering your employees to learn additional job duties, and overwhelming them. When you find a healthy balance that empowers rather than overwhelms, you can formally organize a process to get employees prepared to do more than just one single job. This not only helps the company run more efficiently, but it also keeps them interested and engaged.
There are a number of ways you can spur healthy competition within the workplace. It generally comes about in two ways: organized or organically.
Organized competition can be something like an idea board. This is where all of the great ideas presented to leadership and gives recognition to each person that came up with the idea. Organic competition, on the other hand, will come about naturally between employees in similar roles.
Keep an eye on your team and see that these friendly competitions don’t get too out of control. It’s natural and fun to have a little competition among co-workers, but if it becomes malicious or is at the expense of others, it will require intervention by leadership.
Amping up creativity and innovation in an office environment can be a challenge, but simply encouraging feedback and competition, providing an inspiring workplace, and embracing your role as a leader can make a world of difference.
Weigh in! What kinds of things have you found to foster creativity in your workplace?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.