Creativity. What is it? Do we all possess it, can it be taught, and how do we nurture it? Simply put, creativity is a person’s “ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas” – and yes, we are all born with it. The creative economy (including film, media, music and the performing arts, computer programming, crafts, marketing, and design) is “among the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, generating nearly 30-million jobs worldwide”, explains a UNESCO report. However, the creative industry can be a challenging space to work in, and creative employees experience a great deal of pressure: deadlines, high intensity, competitiveness, and resource shortages. Creativity is fundamental to companies who rely on their employees to help solve problems, generate revenue, and create opportunity… but how do employers sustain creativity, and motivate their creative teams to be, well, creative?
While creativity can’t be forced, bosses can encourage their teams by focusing on intrinsic motivation. Here are some ideas.
1. Be Transparent and Trusting
Trust is a two-way street – you need to trust your employees, and they need to trust you. Lead your team in an honest and transparent manner, and let your team know that you trust them. Transparency allows your employees to feel included and valued, and trust in your team encourages confidence. According to Martina Welke of Zealyst, this helps to sustain motivation – and increase loyalty and pride in employees.
2. Encourage Work-Life Balance
If there’s anything we’ve learnt in the past year, it’s that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is necessary for avoiding burnout – and increases productivity. If employees feel too stressed, overwhelmed, or like they can’t switch off, that can kill their creativity. Have some fun in the office, encourage employees to take vacation and lunch breaks, and give them the space to “switch off” at the end of the day. We all need a break, creativity included.
3. Challenge and Inspire Your Team
Don’t let your employees become bored with the work, challenge and inspire them with engaging opportunities. Creatives, in particular, thrive on challenges. Encourage idea generation, test your employees skills and teach them new ones, set internal goals, and as Jeffrey Baumgartner puts it, “exercise their creative minds regularly and make their work environment more interesting”.
4. Teach, Learn, and Upskill
Professional development should be prioritized, especially in an industry that is dynamic and ever-changing. Encourage your creative teams to keep learning and give them the means in which to do so. External courses, conferences, team workshops, one-on-one support etc. are great ways let creative employees explore new ideas and upskill themselves. With the right tools and skills, employees will feel empowered to create meaningful work.
5. Reward Smartly
When giving your employees rewards for a job well done, go the extra mile and make them more relevant to that specific employee. Everyone is different and motivated by different things, so it makes sense that your rewards should be too. Perhaps one team member would prefer to work from home to save on transport costs, perhaps another needs some childcare support – by personalizing top performing employees’ rewards, you show compassion as a leader and that you’ve taken the time to get to know them.
6. Create Safe Spaces for Creativity
Create an environment where creative employees feel safe to think, experiment, collaborate – and fail. Whether it’s physical spaces or not, employees need a space where they can let their creativity run free, and understand that failure is an opportunity to learn.
7. Give Meaningful Recognition
Employees are often motivated by simply taking pride in their own work. Producing work that is valuable, meaningful, and of a high standard, that is appreciated and recognized by others takes that motivation to the next level. As a leader of creative teams, give your employees public recognition for their efforts, and give them the space to praise others as well. A little bit of confidence, and appreciation can go a long way.