Despite HR leaders prioritising innovations, a May 2022 Gartner survey of more than 3,500 employees found that only 46% of employees agree that their organisation encourages creative thinking.
Emily Rose McRae, Senior Director in the Gartner HR practice said: “The survey results show that an organisation’s actions directly impact the ability of employees to be creative by 25%. In fact, an organisation’s actions have more than double the impact of an individual’s personality when it comes to driving employee creativity.”
The analysis found that effective creativity – producing a high volume of relevant and novel ideas – requires three things:
- Knowledge and expertise
- Ability to overcome “stickiness” of prior knowledge
According to the survey results, there are three actions organisations can take to increase employee creativity in general:
Broaden participation to increase knowledge and expertise
In today’s dispersed workforce, individuals seamlessly toggle between asynchronous and synchronous work environments. As such, leaders and teams must create space for idea generation to occur across all modes of work, while simultaneously facilitating participation.
Leaders should also intentionally include employees from all levels. Executives are more likely to spend their time thinking strategically, while managers are more likely to focus on change management, and those more junior may have the clearest understanding of where potential quick wins lie.
McRae continued: “Bringing together employees who reside in various parts of the organisation, both physically and figuratively, will enable the business to harness the diversity of perspective as a knowledge base for creative activities.”
Lower stress to reduce stickiness of prior knowledge
The pressure to respond as work, and the workplace, evolved during the pandemic affected every industry and all leaders and employees. HR has had to exercise creativity in many forms – from developing a hybrid/return-to-office strategy, designing a pandemic talent strategy, to finding flexibility for frontline workers and establishing mechanisms for employee activism.
Finding creative, innovative solutions requires mental and temporal space. At a base level, managers must reduce tasks that crowd out creativity, while ensuring employees have time to decompress and recharge between tasks. At the broadest level, senior leaders should consider if their organisation has a culture that rewards idea generation, regardless of the ultimate success of ideas.
Increase novelty to drive imagination
The shift to hybrid work has limited employee interactions. When work consists primarily of similar days interacting – or not interacting – with the same people, creativity is particularly challenging.
HR should work with managers to bring together people who haven’t worked together before, or who have very different perspectives. Progressive organizations are going a step further and intentionally create shared new experiences among employees. One method is to offer individuals and teams, both remote and onsite, daily or weekly challenges, such as: work from a different location, take a walk in a new neighborhood, or try a new food.
“Adding novelty to the everyday – and sharing it with colleagues – can spark people to see problems differently and thus develop new solutions,” concluded McRae.